Melaleuca deanei

Deane's Melaleuca / Deane’s Paperbark

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca deanei is a shrub to 3 metres high by up to 2 metres wide with fibrous, flaky bark.

It is highly restricted in NSW, growing in the Greater Sydney Basin, occurring from near Gosford, through Berowra and Hornsby, with some records to the west around Springwood, then with records around Holsworthy, Lucas Heights, Menai, Campbelltown, Appin and Bargo.

It is confined to sandstone-ridgetop woodland (often influenced by laterite) and sandstone heath, sometimes on sandstone-shale transitional soils.

It is listed as threatened with extinction in the wild.

New stems are furry with white hairs.

Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this species, leaves are alternate, to 30 mm long and to 10 mm wide, narrow elliptic to oblanceolate, with a pointed apex and with distinct oil glands.

In Melaleuca species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes or heads. Within the head or spike, the flowers are often in groups of two or three, Flowers have five sepals (sometimes fused into a ring of tissue) and five petals which are typically small and do not persist on the flower for long.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically fused into five separate bundles (staminal claws) which each bundle sitting opposite a petal (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Callistemon). Melaleuca flowers do not have pedicels (sessile).

In this species, the flowers are white and arranged in spikes at the ends of branches which continue to grow after flowering. Each spike is up to 60 mm long and 40 mm in diameter, containing up to 25 individual flowers.

The capsules are barrel-shaped, to 7 mm diameter with petals not present.

In the garden

This species is not common in cultivation, due to its threatened status.

It may become available for cultivation in the future.

It is naturally found on sandy-lateritic to transitional soils and so may require such soil in a garden.

Melaleucas are mostly pollinated by insects, including the introduced honey bee (Apis mellifera), flies, beetles, wasps and thrips. Birds such as lorikeets and honeyeaters, as well as, flying foxes often visit the flowers and are probably also pollinators. Hence, they are important plants to create diversity in a suburban garden.

Most species respond well to pruning. It is advised to undertake a light annual trim to promote bushy growth. Some will withstand severe pruning as they can produce coppicing growth (epicormic shoots etc).

Melaleucas are typically healthy plants and can usually defend against pests and diseases. The most serious pest is probably webbing caterpillar. These grubs will encase themselves in a web-like structure of foliage and droppings, causing severe defoliation.

Melaleucas can be fertilised if done responsibly. The use of a slow-release fertiliser after flowering is recommended.


Melaleucas can be propagated by either seed or cuttings. However, to maintain desirable characteristics of a particular plant, vegetative propagation (eg. cuttings) must be used. This also applies to propagation of named cultivars.

Other information

This species easily regenerates after fire, producing coppicing basal and branch shoots. Regeneration by seed is rare.

M. deanei is known to sucker and produce clones (ramets) from the one root stock and so it is difficult to count numbers of plants.

The genus Melelauca has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to expand the genus to include all Callistemon spp. and others.

Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features.

Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used.

Melaleuca is a genus of about 220 species, occurring mostly in Australia, but also Malesia and New Guinea. Australia has about 215 species with 210 reported endemic, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 30 species.

Melaleuca – is derived from the Ancient Greek mélas (μέλας) meaning “dark” or “black” and leukós (λευκός) meaning “white”, apparently because one of the first specimens described had fire-blackened white bark.

deanei – named in honour of Henry Deane (1847-1924), a railway engineer, whose major project was electrifying the Sydney tramway system. Deane was a collector of bushland species and became proficient in the study of eucalypts and botanical fossils.

This species is listed as threatened with the category of vulnerable at both the State and Commonwealth level.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Melaleuca deanei Threatened Species Profile Page

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Melaleuca deanei profile page

Wikipedia – Melaleuca and Melaleuca deanei profile page

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Melaleuca profile page https://anpsa.org.au/genera/melaleuca

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke