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An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

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Broad-leaved Paperbark

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Description

Size: small to medium sized tree, usually grows to 8–15 metres high (sometimes as tall 25 metres), a spread of 5–10 metre.

Leaves: Grey-green leaves are egg-shaped. Young growth hairy with long and short, soft hairs. Leaves arranged alternately; flat, leathery, 55–120 mm long,10–31 mm wide.

Flowers: Flowers cream or white bottlebrush-like, arranged in spikes on ends of branches which continue to grow after flowering. Spikes contain 5 to 18 groups of flowers in threes, up to 40 mm in diameter and 20–50 mm long. Petals 3 mm long and fall off as flower ages. Stamens (male organ of a flower, consisting of a stalk and a pollen-bearing portion) white, cream-coloured or greenish and arranged in 5 bundles around the flower, 5 to 10 stamens per bundle.

Fruit/Seeds: Flowering is followed by fruit which are woody, broadly cylindrical capsules, 2.5–4 mm long and clustered, spike-like along branches.

Appearance

Tree: spreading tree with trunk covered by white, beige and grey thick papery bark. 

Size: small to medium sized tree, usually grows to 8–15 metres high (sometimes as tall 25 metres), a spread of 5–10 metre.

Leaves: Grey-green leaves are egg-shaped. Young growth hairy with long and short, soft hairs. Leaves arranged alternately; flat, leathery, 55–120 mm long,10–31 mm wide.

Flowers: Flowers cream or white bottlebrush-like, arranged in spikes on ends of branches which continue to grow after flowering. Spikes contain 5 to 18 groups of flowers in threes, up to 40 mm in diameter and 20–50 mm long. Petals 3 mm long and fall off as flower ages. Stamens (male organ of a flower, consisting of a stalk and a pollen-bearing portion) white, cream-coloured or greenish and arranged in 5 bundles around the flower, 5 to 10 stamens per bundle.

Fruit/Seeds: Flowering is followed by fruit which are woody, broadly cylindrical capsules, 2.5–4 mm long and clustered, spike-like along branches.

What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower
  • Full flowering (record all days)
  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)
  • No flowering
  • Fruiting

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth.  They may start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in new environments that were previously too cold for them.  Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?"

When To Look

Flowering occurs from late spring to early autumn (September to March in Australia). Flowering is followed by fruit; each capsule contains many tiny seeds which are released annually.

Where To Look

estern Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria.

It grows in swamps, on floodplains and near rivers and estuaries, often on silty soil. 

Melaleuca quinquenervia is often used as a street tree or planted in public parks and gardens.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout beyond these regions too!

 

Broad-leaved Paperbark distribution map - ALA

Sightings

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  1. What Else?

    Looks similar to M. viridiflora (Flowers cream to pink or red), M. viminalea (red flowers and cup-shaped capsules), M. decora (white flowers solitary or in threes and M. armillaris (flowers borne low on branchlets as opposed to the ends).

    M. viridiflora is commonly found in woodlands and in monsoonal areas, mostly in northern Australia. This species flowers at any time, but more prolifically in Winter. The flowers come in cream, yellow, green or red.

    M. viminalea is endemic (natural distribution restricted to a region) to Western Australia. It flowers from July to November, smell described as 'sickly'.

    M. decora is found in Queensland and New South Wales. It flowers from November through to January. The fruit are well-spaced along the stems.

    M. armillaris is found in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. This species flowers spring to early summer, ranging from white to pink. It usually forms a large shrub or small weeping tree that grows to a max of 8 metres. 

  1. Did You Know?

    M. quinquenervia resprouts vigorously from epicormic shoots (a previously dormant bud on the trunk or a limb of a tree) after bushfire; has been recorded flowering within weeks of being burnt.

     

    These trees can live for over 100 years.

     

    The flowers serve as a rich source of nectar for other organisms, including fruit bats, a wide range of insect and bird species, such as the scaly-breasted lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus). The grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and little red flying-fox (P. scapulatus) consume the flowers. You can find out more information and report sightings of the grey-headed flying fox in our species list under mammals.

     

    The leaves are extremely oily and smell strongly when crushed.