Melaleuca and Fire a growing menace

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Melaleuca and Fire

  • A growing menace . . .

  • Michael Weston

  • Senior Forester

  • Florida Division of Forestry


  • Reasons Melaleuca is fire adapted

  • Problems with Melaleuca fires

  • Effects of Melaleuca fires

  • Strategies to mitigate dangers

Run of the mill streets . . .

Is this your home or project?

Melaleuca is Fire Adapted

  • Thick, papery bark (2-3 inches thick)

    • Protects tree
    • Conducts fire to crown
  • Volatile oils in crown

    • Supports crown fire in
    • dense stands
  • Spotting

    • Airborne pieces of burning bark, debris
    • 2 mile maximum, 1 mile normal
    • Ignition source for more fuel/buildings
    • Big problem with damaged buildings

Melaleuca compacts with fire

  • Epicormic sprouts

    • Dormant buds-weeks
  • Growth from roots/root collar

  • Prolific seeding

  • Seed germination on mineral soil

Melaleuca is now additional carrier of fire

The problem with Melaleuca

  • Thick, black smoke

    • Respiratory problems
    • Low visibility
  • Low mortality after intense fire allows stands to grow again quickly, and increase density.

    • Other plants destroyed or heavily set back.
    • Epicormic branches (flowers)
    • Use of existing roots
  • Suppression is difficult and dangerous.

    • Dense stands limit equipment movement
      • FF’s stay on side of caution
    • Melaleuca fuels require little pre-heating time.
    • Moves with the wind (speed).

Post Hurricane Charley

The Impact of Melaleuca Stand Fires (FGCU)


The aftermath: 6 months later

Mitigating risks

  • Remove melaleuca from around your house/complex to a distance of atleast 30 feet.

    • Monitor and manage regrowth
  • Thin melaleuca to reduce probability of crown fires, amount of spots.

  • Repair holes in siding/roof.

Mitigating risks

  • Screen exposed areas that may trap floating embers.

  • Trim branches at least 10 feet from house.

  • Clean debris off roof/out of gutters.

  • Clearly mark your address.

  • Plus many, many more . . . for more information


  • Melaleuca is fire adapted in many ways.

  • Fires in Melaleuca present difficult suppression problems.

  • Melaleuca fires can be destructive.

  • You can help safeguard the safety of your family, home, and property.

Additional Information and Resources

  • Florida Division of Forestry

    • (239) 690-3500
    • Lee, Collier, Hendry
    • Counties
    • Mitigation specialist
    • Forester
  • Firewise communities



  • Bryson, John. Interview on 2/5/05. Florida Division of Forestry Firefighter.

  • Ewel, J. J. 1986. Invasibility: Lessons from south Florida. In: Mooney, Harold A.; Drake, James A., eds. Ecology of biological invasions of North America and Hawaii. Ecological Studies 58. New York: Springer-Verlag: 214-230.

  • Flowers, J.D. 1991. Subtropical fire suppression in Melaleuca quinquenervia . Pp. 151- 158. In: Center, T.D., R.F. Doren, R.L. Hofstetter, R.L. Myers, and L.D. Whiteaker, (eds.). Proc. Symp. Exotic Pest Plants, Nov. 2-4, 1988, Miami, Fl. NPS/NREVER/NRTR-91/06 Tech. Rept. , US Dept. Int., Nat. Park Serv., Denver, CO.

  • LaCavera, Gerry. Interview on 2/5/05. Florida Division of Forestry Mitigation Specialist.

  • Myers, R. L. 1983. Site susceptibility to invasion by the exotic tree Melaleuca quinquenervia in southern Florida. . Journal of Applied Ecology. 20: 645-658.

  • Myers, R.L. 2000. Fire in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Pages 161-173. in Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. 2000. Wildland fire in ecosystems: effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol. 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

  • Wade, D.D. 1981. Some melaleuca-fire relationships including recommendations for homesite protection. Pp. 29-35 In: R.K. Geiger, (ed) . Proc. Melaleuca Symp. Sept. 23-24,1980, Edison Comm. Coll., Ft. Myers. Fla. Dept. Agric. & Cons. Serv., Div. Forestry, Tallahassee.

  • Wade, Dale; Ewel, John; Hofstetter, Ronald. 1980. Fire in south Florida ecosystems.

  • Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-17. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 125 p.

  • Weston, Michael. Senior Forester, Florida Division of Forestry Personal Observations 2005.

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