Melaleuca quinquenervia



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Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

Melaleuca leaf weevils, Oxyops vitiosa, have 

been released in the Florida Everglades as 

a biological control agent of melaleuca 

trees. Control of this alein invasive species 

has been encouraging with this weevil. 

(Gary Buckingham, ARS, USDA)

Habit at Wahinepee, Maui, Hawaii (Forest 

and Kim Starr)

LOCAL NAMES

 English (five-veined paperback,tea-tree,broad-leaved tea-tree,paperbark 

tea-tree,melaleuca,cajeput-tree,white bottlebrush,broad-leaved 

paperback); French (niaouli); Hindi (cajaputi); Indonesian (kajuputih,kaya 

putih); Malay (kayuputeh); Spanish (cayeputi,cayeput,corcho); Thai 

(samed); Trade name (broad-leaved tea-tree)

BOTANIC DESCRIPTION

Melaleuca quinquenervia is a small to medium-sized tree, commonly 8-12 

m tall but ranging from 4 to 25 m, depending on local growing conditions. 

The stem is moderately straight to crooked, crown narrow and open, or 

fairly dense; thick, pale-coloured bark is made up of many papery layers 

that split and peel, and on large trunks it becomes rough and shaggy. 

The leaves are dark green, stiff, narrowed at each end, 4-9 x 2-3.5 cm, 

with entire margins, and 5 (rarely 3 or 7) more prominent parallel veins 

from base to tip, on a petiole 6-24 mm. They have a resinous odour and 

taste when crushed.

Flowers are produced in thick, fluffy spikes 4-8.5 x 2.5-3.5 cm, usually 

white or creamy-white, rarely greenish or reddish. The conspicuous part of 

each flower consists of 5 bundles of stamens 10-20 mm long. The spike 

grows out into a leafy twig beyond the fruit.

Each inflorescence results in 30-70 densely packed woody stalked 

capsules. They are short, cylindrical, 3-4 x 4-5 mm, grey-brown, hard and 

persistent, opening by 3-4 slits at the end. Seed pale brown, very small, 

about 1 x 0.3 mm tapering from the dorsal end.

Melaleuca, from the Greek words for ‘black’ and ‘white’, refers to the dark 

trunk and white branches of 1 species. The specific name is from the Latin 

‘quinque’ and ‘nervis’ meaning ‘5-nerved’, and refers to the common 

number of longitudinal veins in the leaves.

BIOLOGY

The species is monoecious, flowers are complete, and pollination is by 



insects. The usual flowering time in Australia is March to July but may 

occur at other times or throughout the year. Seed ripens in spring and 

summer. The minute seeds begin to be produced when the trees are 3-4 

years old and are released from the fruit when the branches die after fire 

or frost.

Papery trunk at Wahinepee, Maui, Hawaii 

(Forest and Kim Starr)

Page 1 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

ECOLOGY

In the south of its natural range, M. quinquenervia occurs in the warm subhumid and humid climatic zones and in the 



north is found in the hot humid zone. It can tolerate a dry season of 0-7 months a year. 

In Australia and Papua New Guinea, this species is generally confined to the lowlands below 100 m, but in New 

Caledonia it forms extensive stands in the uplands up to an altitude of 900-1000 m. 

The best-developed stands occur as open forest and woodland on favourable sites, but elsewhere they are reduced to 

low woodland or tall shrubland. It is usually the dominant species and frequently occurs in more or less pure stands. In 

Australia, it grows along streams, fringes tidal estuaries, and frequently forms pure stands in freshwater swamps. It often 

grows close to the beach and will tolerate wind-blown salt. It will tolerate prolonged flooding and a fluctuating water table. 

In waterlogged and flooded areas it forms adventitious aerial roots.

The species seeds profusely and can become a weed, especially where periodic fires provide a suitable seedbed. Trees 

are highly fire tolerant during all but the early seedling stages. 

Severe frosts will defoliate and kill the branches, but the tree generally recovers by epicormic sprouting.

BIOPHYSICAL LIMITS

Altitude: 0-1000 m, Mean annual temperature: 17-26 deg. C, Mean annual rainfall: 800-3440 mm

Soil type: Grows on most soil types varying from wet clays to saline and dry.

DOCUMENTED SPECIES DISTRIBUTION

The map above shows countries where the species has been planted. It does neither 

suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country

nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since 

some tree species are invasive, you need to follow  biosafety procedures that apply to 

your planting site. 



Exotic range

Native range

Australia, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea

Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, 

Guadeloupe, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, 

Philippines, Puerto Rico, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Thailand, 

Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Virgin Islands (US)

Native:

Exotic:


Page 2 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

The map above shows countries where the species has been planted. It does neither 

suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country, 

nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since 

some tree species are invasive, you need to follow  biosafety procedures that apply to 

your planting site. 

Page 3 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

The map above shows countries where the species has been planted. It does neither 

suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country, 

nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since 

some tree species are invasive, you need to follow  biosafety procedures that apply to 

your planting site. 

PRODUCTS


Apiculture: A good source of nectar and pollen for bees, made more valuable by its extended flowering period. The 

honey has a strong flavour and low density.

Fuel: Exuding resin as it burns, the wood is excellent fuel and makes good-quality charcoal. Also, the papery bark is 

easily ignited and has high heating value. Reported calorific value for the wood is 4400 kcal/kg and for bark 6160 

kcal/kg, but there is great variability in these values between trees.

Fibre: The wood has been widely used as a source of pulp.

Timber: The sapwood is pale yellow to pink. Heartwood is pink to reddish-brown with light and dark rippled figuring, 

hard, fine textured, porous, tough, tending to warp and difficult to season. Wood contains silica that rapidly blunts saws 

and planes. The specific gravity is generally within the range 0.49-0.55, and it has an air-dry density of 700-750 

kg/cubic m. The wood is used for a wide range of purposes, including mine timber, fence posts and rails, flooring and 

house timbers.

Essential oil: Cajeput oil obtained from leaves and twigs of this and related species by steam distillation is used in 

medicine and local remedies. The foliar leaf oils of M. quinquenervia fall into 2 classes, based on their chemical 

composition. One chemotype is rich in nerolidol (90%); the other is 1,8-cineole (30-70%) and sometimes viridiflorol (0-

60%). It is the cineole-rich chemotype that is the source of niaouli oil, which is produced in New Caledonia. Niaouli oil is 

similar to cajuput oil in composition and medicinal use.

SERVICES

Erosion control: Suitable for beach planting and erosion control on degraded and poor soils.

Shade or shelter: The trees can be used for windbreaks.

Reclamation: M. quinquenervia is an ideal species for revegetating denuded soils.

Ornamental: Common as an ornamental, a red-flowering form is becoming popular for use in landscaping. To many 

people, the species is undesirable because of its reputation for causing respiratory problems.



Page 4 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

TREE MANAGEMENT

Growth is relatively fast on sites where water is abundant and soils are deep but is not impressive under marginal 

conditions. The species can successfully compete with weeds, but early weed control will improve growth rates. M. 

quinquenervia has the ability to coppice readily, but root suckers are not commonly produced.

GERMPLASM MANAGEMENT

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox; no loss in viability after 4 years of storage at 30% and up to 75% rh at 10 deg. C. 

There are about 2 661 400 viable seeds/kg.

PESTS AND DISEASES

As an exotic, M. quinquenervia is relatively free of pests and diseases. A large number of insects feed on this species 

in Australia, but damage is localized. The heartwood lacks resistance to damage by termites, fungi and marine borers.



Page 5 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Myrtaceae

(Cav.) S.T. Blake

 broad-leaved tea-tree

Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. 2009 Agroforestree Database:a tree reference and selection guide 

version 4.0 (http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/treedbs/treedatabases.asp)

SUGGESTED CITATION

FURTHER READNG

Boland DJ. et. al. 1985. Forest trees of Australia. CSIRO. Australia

Brophy JJ, Doran JC. 1996. Essential oils of tropical Asteromyrtus, Callistemon and Melaleuca species. ACIAR 

Monograph No. 40.

Doran CJ, Turnbull JW (eds.). 1997. Australian trees and shrubs: species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the 

tropics. ACIAR monograph No. 24, 384 p.

Hong TD, Linington S, Ellis RH. 1996. Seed storage behaviour: a compendium. Handbooks for Genebanks: No. 4. 

IPGRI.

Little EL. 1983. Common fuelwood crops. Communi-Tech Association, Morgantown, West Virginia.



North American Forestry Commission. 1988. Useful Trees of Tropical North America. Publication No 3.

Turnbull JW. 1986. Multipurpose Australian trees and shrubs: lesser-known species for fuelwood and agroforestry. 



ACIAR Monograph No. 1.

Page 6 of 6

Agroforestry Database 4.0 (Orwa et al.2009)


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