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Melaleuca quinquenervia

Broad-leaved Paperbark

Family: Myrtaceae

Melaleuca quinquernervia, Broad-leaved Paperbark, is a medium to tall tree. The bark is papery and peels off in strips.

Leaves are alternate, lanceolate to elliptical, 30-70 millimetres long, usually with five prominent veins and with a stiff, leathery texture.

Flowers are held in bottlebrush-like spikes up to five centimetres long, white or cream and make an appearance in autumn and winter. Flowers attract nectar feeding birds and flying foxes.

Aboriginal people used the bark for wrapping and cooking food. They also used an infusion of the leaves as a treatment for coughs and colds.

The wood may be used for light construction but saws and planes are blunted because timber contains silica. Timber in the round is used for house stumps and fence posts.

The Broad-leaved Paperbark will tolerate both dry and very wet conditions. The species often grows in pure stands in wetlands along coastal Queensland and NSW, north from Botany Bay. Melaleuca quinquernervia also occurs in New Guinea and New Caledonia.

In the garden

The Broad-leaved Paperbark has been used as a street tree and would be at home as a specimen tree or as a component of shelterbelts and windbreaks.

It is a hardy tree and usually grows well in a variety of situations with very little maintenance. Early pruning might encourage a dense bushy habit. It can grow into a large-ish tree, so some space is required. Flowers are very attractive to birds and bees. Papery bark is also an attraction. 

Tolerates a range of soils. 

Propagation

Propagate from seed and possibly cuttings.

Other information

Melaleuca quinquernervia is a serious environmental weed in Florida, USA. It is given the name there of “Punk Tree”.

The Editor has seen this species used in landscapes in Singapore. 

This species grows mainly in swampy environments so not overly prone to fires. However, it can regenerate from branch buds and suckering as well as from the seed bank. 

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.

quinquenervia – Latin quinque meaning “five” and nervia meaning the leaf “veins” or “nerves” – referring to the five conspicuous veins in the leaves. 

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Melaleuca quinquenervia profile page    https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Melaleuca~quinquenervia

Gardening with Angus – Melaleuca quinquenervia profile page https://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/melaleuca-quinquenervia/

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather