It is a member of the Myrtaceae family in company with Callistemons
(Bottlebrushes), Eucalypts and Leptospermums. There are about 220
Melaleuca species with 215 native to Australia and the others scattered
through New Guinea, Indonesia and South-east Asia.
Melaleuca alternifolia (used by Gelair) is an eastern Australian species and
occurs in the north coast and adjacent ranges of New South Wales, Australia.
It develops into a tall shrub with papery bark and white flowers. The common
name, Snow-in-Summer, refers to the white fluffy flowers that develop in the
spring and summer months. Melaleuca alternifolia develops into a tall upright
shrub and a wide range of native insects visit the flowers.
Melaleuca alternifolia has aromatic foliage and the valuable “tea tree oil” is
extracted from the leaves by steam distillation and refining. Tea tree oil has
great germicidal properties and is used in a range of products - antiseptics,
deodorants, shampoos (for dogs and humans) and soaps being just some of
the products incorporating tea tree oil. Large commercial Melaleuca
alternifolia plantations have been established on the north coast of New South
Three main chemical varieties (chemotypes) of M. alternifolia, rich in either
1,8-cineole, terpinolene or terpinen-4-ol, are recognised. The terpinene-4-ol
rich chemotype of low 1,8-cineole content (<5%) has the most antimicrobial
components of tea tree oil and is the source of Gelair tea tree oil.