Habitat 8. Melaleuca / Pandanus
Habitat 9. Melaleuca / Scrub
The genus Melaleuca is commonly recognised in Australia as the paperbark, to species with the appropriate ‘paper’ characteristic. The name ‘melaleuca’ is derived from the Greek melas, meaning black / dark and leucon, meaning white. The first trees described were of the species M. leucadendron and had white paper like bark with a stocking of black bark. From this it has been suggested that the ‘black’ stocking was due to the effects of fire.
The genus Melaleuca contains approximately 150 described species. Melaleuca is predominantly endemic to Australia, although some of its closely allied species have a wider distribution reaching India, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea and some Pacific Islands such as New Caledonia.
The M. leucadendron group of species are mostly large shrubs or trees, with measurements up to 43m, occurring around north and north-eastern Australia. Western Australia had the most species, around 100, mostly endemic and many measuring around 1-4m.
Melaleucas may occur on a wide range of site types, however some species such as M. leucadendron have a preference for damp, wet sites that experience seasonal drying, particularly on or near the coast in both brackish and saline areas.
Of the larger paperbark group many species often grow in forests, sometimes a few trees wide fringing the edges of streams or wet swamps. Seasonal swamps may encourage pure stands of species and on flat land with good subsoil moisture close to streams the Melaleucas may occur with eucalypts in mixed tall open forests. The general topography Melaleucas are found includes mainly level or gently undulating soil, and for some species on creek banks and at low plateaux at low altitudes.
The Melaleucas may grow on a range of soil conditions, depending on the species, from predominantly silty to loamy clays along the edge of swamps and river banks for species such as M. leucadendron and M quinquenervia.
Due to the beauty displayed by the Melaleuca, many are planted from amenity reasons throughout varying conditions from 1200mm monsoonal rainfall conditions, to areas displaying semi-arid conditions of 250mm of rainfall.