Everglades National Park Service U. S. Department of the Interior Everglades National Park



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Everglades 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

 

Everglades National Park 

 

 

Melaleuca,

 

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Native Range: 

Australia, New Guinea, and Solomon 

Islands 

 

Description: 

Melaleuca, also known as the paperbark or 

punk tree, is a subtropical tree in the 

eucalyptus family with spongy, white, 

paper-like, peeling bark that can grow to 80 

feet in height. Leaves are dull green, 2-6 

inches long. Flowers are white, brush-like 

spikes and the fruits are small, woody, 

button-like seed capsules. 



Background: 

Introduced into southern Florida in the 

early 1900s, melaleuca was widely planted 

for landscaping and for "swamp drying."   

 

Ecological Threat:

 

Melaleuca is an aggressive invader that 

spreads rapidly, converting native plant 

communities like sawgrass marshes, wet 

prairies, and aquatic sloughs into impenetrable 

thickets. About three years after germination

melaleuca begins to produce and store large 

numbers of seeds in closed woody capsules. A 

mature tree can produce more than a million 

seeds per year and store an estimated 20 

million. The seeds are stored until some 

physical disturbance like fire, frost, felling, or 

even herbicide application causes the capsules 

to open and millions of seeds are released

 

from 


a single tree. Its greatest threat is to the Florida 

Everglades ecosystem, which faces extreme 

and possibly irreversible alteration as a result 

of intrusion by exotic plants like melaleuca.

 

Management Options: 

Restoration of areas infested with melaleuca 

requires a well-planned, long term 

commitment to the elimination of all trees 

from the site and prevention of reinfestation. 

The age and extent of an infestation, the 

availability of people and other resources, and 

the proximity to open water or wetlands will 

dictate the type of management best suited for 

each site. Seedlings can be pulled by hand, 

especially when the soil is somewhat dry, 

small to medium-sized trees can be pushed 

over, and larger trees may be cut. Resprouting 

will likely occur after cutting or hand- pulling

requiring follow-up removals or treatment with 

herbicide. 



 

Biological 

Biological control may offer some help in 

management of this aggressive invader. 

Several species of Australian snout beetles are 

being evaluated by the U.S. Department of 

Agriculture. The beetles are specific to 

melaleuca and feed on its shoots, reducing the 

plant's ability to reproduce.  

 

Chemical 

Herbicides are usually needed for extensive 

infestations and mature trees and may be 

applied to freshly cut stumps or to girdled 

trunks. However, as noted previously, 

herbicide use will cause the tree to release 

large caches of stored seeds



 



E X P E R I E N C E   Y O U R   A M E R I C A




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