Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Melaleuca quinquenervia
(paperbark tree)



Melaleuca quinquenervia (paperbark tree)


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Melaleuca quinquenervia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • paperbark tree
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. quinquenervia has been widely introduced throughout the tropics as an ornamental and has become an undesirable weed in many areas. This species seeds profusely and can become invasive, especially where periodic f...

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Macksville, New South Wales, Australia.
TitleMature tree
CaptionMacksville, New South Wales, Australia.
CopyrightDavid Lea/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Macksville, New South Wales, Australia.
Mature treeMacksville, New South Wales, Australia.David Lea/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Papua New Guinea.
TitleNatural stand
CaptionPapua New Guinea.
CopyrightMaurice McDonald/CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products
Papua New Guinea.
Natural standPapua New Guinea.Maurice McDonald/CSIRO Forestry & Forest Products
Illustrating the peeling, papery layers, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.
CaptionIllustrating the peeling, papery layers, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.
CopyrightDavid Lea/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products
Illustrating the peeling, papery layers, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.
BarkIllustrating the peeling, papery layers, Maryborough, Queensland, Australia.David Lea/CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake

Preferred Common Name

  • paperbark tree

Other Scientific Names

  • Melaleuca leucadendra var. coriacea (Pior.) Cheel
  • Melaleuca leucadendra var.angustifolia L.f.
  • Melaleuca maidenii R.T. Baker
  • Melaleuca smithii R.T. Baker
  • Melaleuca viridiflora var. rubriflora Pancher ex Brongn. & Gris
  • Metrosideros quinquenervia Cav.

International Common Names

  • English: broadleaf paperbark tree; cajeput; five-veined paperbark; malaleuca; melaleuca; niaouli; paper-bark; punk-tree; swamp tea-tree; tea tree; white bottlebrush tree
  • Spanish: aceite de cayeput; árbol de corcho; árbol de papel; balsamo de cayeput; calistemo blanco; cayeput; cayeputi; cayeputi australiano; corcho; corteza de papel
  • French: cajeputier; niaouli

Local Common Names

  • Australia: belbowrie; broadleaf paperbark; broadleaf teatree; broad-leaved paperbark; broad-leaved tea-tree; numbah; paperbark tea-tree
  • Germany: Kajeputbaum; Mao-Holzrose; Silberbaum; Weissbaum
  • India: cajaputi
  • Indonesia: kajuputih; kaya putih
  • Italy: cajeput
  • Jamaica: bottle brush
  • Malaysia: kayuputeh
  • New Caledonia: naioulia; niaouli
  • Puerto Rico: balsamo de cayeput; corcho
  • Thailand: samed
  • USA: Australian paperbark tree; Australian punk tree; punktree; white bottlebrush

EPPO code

  • MLAQU (Melaleuca quinquenervia)

Trade name

  • broad-leaved tea-tree

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page M. quinquenervia has been widely introduced throughout the tropics as an ornamental and has become an undesirable weed in many areas. This species seeds profusely and can become invasive, especially where periodic fires provide a suitable seedbed, for example in south Florida, USA. Studies have shown that to restore areas where M. quinquenervia has invaded requires both well-planned and long-term management plans. Biological control has provided help in reducing the spread in some areas and new potential agents are also being considered.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Myrtales
  •                         Family: Myrtaceae
  •                             Genus: Melaleuca
  •                                 Species: Melaleuca quinquenervia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Melaleuca is a member of the family Myrtaceae, subfamily Leptospermoideae, which contains over 220 species, the vast majority endemic to Australia. M. quinquenervia was first described as a member of Metrosideros in 1797 by Cavanilles, and only later, in 1958, was it placed by Blake in the genus Melaleuca. The generic name is from the Greek melas, meaning black, and leukos, meaning white, possibly referring to the often fire-blackened bark of the lower trunk and the white papery bark of the upper tree (Wrigley and Fagg, 1993). The species name derives from the Latin quinque, meaning five, and nervus, meaning nerve or vein, referring to the 5-veined leaves.

A synonym, M. leucadendron L., has been used in a very broad sense, being incorrectly applied to a range of closely related broadleaved melaleucas, including M. quinquenervia.


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A small to medium-sized tree, commonly 8-12 m tall, but ranging over 4-25 m depending on local growing conditions. The stem is moderately straight to crooked, the crown is narrow and open, or fairly dense. The thick, pale-coloured bark is made up of many papery layers that split and peel, and on large trunks becomes rough and shaggy. The species is described in detail by Blake (1968), and more generally with illustrations by Boland et al. (1984), Holliday (1989) and Doran and Turnbull (1997). Young shoots are densely hairy and therefore silvery in appearance, with hairs 0.25-2 mm long, which are appressed on the leaves and ascending on the twigs (Blake, 1968). Mature leaves are alternate, dull green, stiff, leathery, lanceolate to oblanceolate, 4-9 cm by 2-3.5 cm, with entire margins, and 5 (rarely 3 or 7) prominent parallel veins from base to tip, on a petiole 6-24 mm long. The white or creamy-white (rarely greenish or reddish) flowers are produced in thick, fluffy spikes. The conspicuous part of each flower consists of five bundles of stamens 10-20 mm long. Spikes are solitary or 2-3 together, terminal, sometimes solitary in the uppermost 1-3 axils, and 4-8.5 cm by 2.5-3.5 cm in length. The spike grows out into a leafy twig beyond the fruits. Each inflorescence results in 30-70 densely packed woody, stalkless capsules. The capsules are short, cylindrical 3-4 mm by 4-5 mm, grey-brown, hard and persistent. The seeds are pale brown, very small, about 1 mm by 0.3 mm, tapering from the dorsal end. The seeds are shed through 3-4 slits positioned horizontally below the capsule rim.


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In Australia, M. quinquenervia is a native of the coastal region in eastern Australia, from near Sydney (New South Wales) to Cape York (northern Queensland). It occurs mainly in a belt within 40 km of the sea. Elsewhere, the native range extends into southern Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and the tree has an extensive distribution in New Caledonia, especially on the north-west of the island (Blake, 1968; Holloway, 1979; Cherrier, 1981). In Australia and Papua New Guinea, M. quinquenervia is generally confined to the lowlands (below 100 m), but in New Caledonia it forms extensive stands in uplands to an altitude of 900-1000 m.

M. quinquenervia remains fairly common throughout its natural range and currently there are no general conservation concerns. It has been introduced to other parts of Australia (Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007) and also to many other parts of the world, and is very likely to be under-recorded in the distribution table, especially in Africa and Asia.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Hong KongPresentIntroduced1950sLee et al., 2005
IndiaPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforetry Centre, 2002
IndonesiaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2007Papua Barat
-Irian JayaPresentNative Not invasive Natural USDA-ARS, 2003
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforetry Centre, 2002
PhilippinesPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforetry Centre, 2002
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009Planted
ThailandPresentIntroduced Planted World Agroforetry Centre, 2002
VietnamRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive


BeninPresentIntroducedGbenou et al., 2007
MadagascarPresentIntroduced<1916 Planted
MalawiPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
NigeriaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
RéunionPresentIntroducedPIER, 2007
Sierra LeonePresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
-ZanzibarPresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced Planted CABI, 2005

North America

MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedlate 1800s Planted Dray et al., 2006
-FloridaWidespreadIntroduced1886 Invasive Mabberley, 1987; Dray et al., 2006; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroduced1920 Invasive Planted Dray et al., 2006; PIER, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedDray et al., 2006; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-TexasPresentIntroduced Planted Dray et al., 2006

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
BahamasPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
BarbadosPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
BelizeWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Biological Diversity in Belize, 2012
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Planted Missouri Botanical Garden, 2007
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedWorld Agroforetry Centre, 2002
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
GrenadaPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
HaitiPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
HondurasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2007Planted
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
MartiniquePresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
MontserratPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2007Planted
PanamaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2007Planted
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced Invasive Planted Kairo et al., 2003; USDA-NRCS, 2007
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
Saint LuciaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Daltry, 2009
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedKairo et al., 2003

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
ColombiaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2007
French GuianaPresentIntroduced Invasive
SurinamePresentIntroducedISSG, 2010


FrancePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedISSG, 2010
ItalyPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedISSG, 2010


AustraliaRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Mabberley, 1987
-New South WalesPresentNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalJohnston et al., 2003; Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-QueenslandPresentNative Not invasive Planted, NaturalRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007; USDA-ARS, 2007
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2007
FijiPresentIntroduced Planted PIER, 2007
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2007Society Is.
GuamPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
Micronesia, Federated states ofRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2007Yap, Pohnpei, but only recorded as invasive and cultivated on Yap
New CaledoniaWidespreadNative Not invasive Mabberley, 1987; USDA-ARS, 2007
New ZealandPresentIntroducedISSG, 2010
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2013
Papua New GuineaRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Mabberley, 1987; USDA-ARS, 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. quinquenervia has been noted to have invasive tendencies in its native range. In New South Wales, coastal floodplains have been invaded, though the process was called “extensive encroachment” by Johnston et al. (2003). In some areas of swamp since 1870, 50% is now comprised of monospecific M. quinquenervia, thought to be due to shortened hydroperiods resulting from land management changes following drainage for agriculture (Johnston et al., 2003).
The species has been recorded as widely introduced to tropical and sub-tropical lowlands around the world (Streets, 1962; Blake, 1968; Ruskins, 1983; Turnbull, 1986; Geary, 1988; von Carlowitz, 1991). The first record of introduction of M. quinquenervia in Florida was from 1886, and it appeared to have naturalised by 1920 when exponentially population expansion began to occur (Dray et al., 2006). Dray et al. (2006) provides an excellent description of the introduction of this species not only to Florida, but also around the world. It is thought to have been introduced as an agricultural windbreak, soil stabiliser and as an ornamental. In 1936, seeds were scattered from an aeroplane to forest the Everglades (Westbrooks, 1998). The species escaped cultivation on seasonally wet sites and has since assumed weed status (Ruskins, 1983). According to Cost and Craver (1982) it then covered 186,000 ha or about 6% of the land in southern Florida. Since 2000, its range has increased and it now covers over 200,000 hectares (Anon, 2003). The species was also introduced into California (as Metrosideros quinquenervia by Coronado Nurseries, San Diego) at about the same time as it was introduced in Florida, and was sold in the California landscaping trade early in the twentieth century (Dray et al., 2006). In Hawaii, it is recorded that two million trees have been planted on State Forest Reserve alone, first cultivated in 1920 with seeds from Florida, and is now naturalized in undisturbed mesic forest (altitude 30-890 m) (Binggeli, 1997). However, USDA-NRCS (2007) only records presence on mainland USA in Louisiana and Florida.

In the Bahamas, M. quinquenervia occurs in swamp forests, and around ponds and scrublands on the edges of pinelands and is an aggressive invasive in the wetlands. M. quinquenervia has recently been introduced to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam for species and provenance trials on seasonally inundated and potentially acid-sulphate sites, which are very difficult for tree establishment (Hoang Chuong et al., 1996). However, the performance of the species in these trials was unexpectedly poor, thought to be due to the use of provenances which were poorly adapted to the harsh conditions.

At the Smithsonian Herbarium, the first record of this species for Puerto Rico comes from a collection made in 1963 in the San Juan area (Smithsonian Herbarium Collection). 

Risk of Introduction

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This species has become invasive in parts of the USA, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. In mainland USA, although only present in Louisiana and Florida, it is a declared noxious weed in several other states under various classifications (USDA-NRCS, 2007). Due to the severe consequences of its invasive behaviour, which carry economic, environmental, social and biodiversity impacts, exotic plantings in other locations should be monitored for early signs of invasiveness and introductions should be subject to thorough risk assessments which take into account local environmental conditions.

Delnatte and Meyer (2012) report in French Guiana that coastal dry and wet savannas appear vulnerable to invasion by M. quinquenervia, after the species was intentionally introduced for reforestation and as an ornamental. Watt et al. (2009) modeled the risk of range expansion both under current climate and as modified by climate change to the 2080s. Projections of climatic suitability indicate considerable scope for further invasion, with the most suitable areas occurring adjacent to existing populations in south-east Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and the Gulf coast in southern USA.


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In its native range Australia, M. quinquenervia normally grows on level or gently undulating coastal lowlands. It grows along streams, fringing tidal estuaries and frequently forms pure stands in freshwater swamps. It often occurs close to the beach and will tolerate wind-blown salt. The best-developed stands of M. quinquenervia occur as open-forest or woodland on favourable sites, but elsewhere are reduced to low woodland or tall shrubland. It is usually the dominant species, and frequently occurs in more or less pure stands. Most natural vegetation in southern Florida can be invaded by M. quinquenervia, but invasion is more common on marshes and wet savannas than on forested sites (Geary, 1988).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Principal habitat Natural
Natural forests Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Coastal areas Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Coastal dunes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Mangroves Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page M. quinquenervia is generally an environmental weed though it is known to invade grasslands, cultivated land and natural forests.

Biology and Ecology

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Given the variation in natural habitats where the species is found, genetic differences in growth and adaptation are highly likely. The foliar leaf oils of M. quinquenervia are highly variable, and the occurrence of several chemotypes in both natural and planted stands has been reported (Brophy et al., 1989; Ramanoelina et al., 1994; Brophy and Doran, 1996; Valet et al., 1998). There appear to be four main oil types: (i) oil rich in 1,8-cineole (30-65%); (ii) oil low in 1,8-cineole (1-30%) with varying substantial proportions of hydrocarbons and other oxygenated compounds such as viridiflorol and globulol; (iii) oil predominantly E-nerolidol (90%); (iv) oil predominantly E-nerolidol (65%) but with substantial proportions of linalool (35%) (Weiss, 1997). Types (iii) and (iv) are readily distinguished from the others as crushed leaves release a distinctive sweetish floral odour (Weiss, 1997). Currently there do not appear to be any organised selection and breeding programmes for M. quinquenervia.

Physiology and Phenology

M. quinquenervia is a long-lived, moderately fast-growing tropical tree. As with all species in the genus, it does not develop resting buds and grows whenever conditions are favourable. In Florida, USA, seedlings may grow throughout the year, but growth is most rapid in summer (Woodall, 1981). Flowering in young trees commences as early as 3 years, and trees less than 1 m tall may bloom (Woodall, 1981; Geary, 1988). The usual peak flowering time in Australia is March-July (autumn and winter) (Blake and Roff, 1958; Clemson, 1985), but flowering may occur at any time. Flowering is influenced by the weather, particularly rainfall and soil type (Clemson, 1985; Geary, 1988). In more tropical environments the species tends to flower more often and flowering events are longer and later (Clemson, 1985). Fruits ripen in spring and summer, in Australia mature seed has been collected during November-March (Searle, 1989).

Reproductive Biology

Melaleuca spp. have hermaphrodite, protandrous flowers and are pollinated mainly by insects, but also by birds and small mammals. They appear to be obligate outcrossers, with over 90% outcrossing in M. alternifolia (Butcher et al., 1992). The fruiting capsules of M. quinquenervia contain large numbers of seeds which can be stored and released in the event of fires or other disturbances, and seeds may remain on trees for more than 10 years. Seeds remain viable in the soil for between up to 2-3 years, less on seasonally and permanently flooded sites (Van et al., 2005).

Environmental Requirements

In southern regions of its distribution, M. quinquenervia occurs in warm sub-humid and humid climates. In the northern regions it is found in the hot humid zone. The following data pertain to the species' natural range in Australia, and Booth and Jovanovic (1988), Geary (1988) and Marcar et al. (1995) provide climatic profiles for M. quinquenervia combining information from both natural and planted occurrences. The mean maximum temperature of the hottest month ranges from 26ºC in the south to about 34ºC in the north and the corresponding minimum temperatures of the coolest month are 4ºC and 20ºC. There are few days over 38ºC in coastal areas, temperatures over 32ºC vary from about 20 days in the south to 100 days or more in the north. Heavy frosts are absent in northern coastal areas, but a few kilometres inland in southern Australia, frosts occur 1-5 times a year. The 50th percentile annual rainfall is 900-1250 mm, the 10th percentile is 550-775 mm, and the lowest on record is 400-650 mm. The seasonal incidence varies from a moderate summer-autumn maximum in the south, to a strong monsoonal pattern in the north. The number of wet days is in the range 105-140.

In Australia M. quinquenervia grows often on peaty humic gleys, sandy at the surface but silty or clayey below, and with a high organic matter content. The water table is near or above the surface for most of the year. It appears to tolerate a moderate level of groundwater salinity, but this condition is suboptimal for growth. Occurrences in Papua New Guinea are on coastal, non-tidal, highly organic, alluvial clay plains with poor drainage and very low fertility. The plains may be flooded to over one metre in depth during the wet season (Bleeker, 1983). M. quinquenervia in New Caledonia occurs extensively on well-drained slopes and ridges in the uplands, as well as on marshy plains (Gillison, 1983). Here it is found on all soil types but mainly on sedimentary or metamorphic soils, and rarely on soils derived from ultrabasic rocks (Cherrier, 1981; Valet et al., 1998).


It is usually the dominant species, and frequently occurs in more or less pure stands. In mixed stands, common tree associates include Eucalyptus robusta, E. signata, E. tereticornis, M. viridiflora and Lophostemon suaveolens. There may be a sparse shrub layer or lower storey including species such as Banksia robur, M. glomerata, M. thymifolia, Dillenia alata and Barringtonia racemosa (Beadle, 1981; Tracey, 1982; Gillison, 1983). In coastal podsol soils it may be associated with ground cover species, such as Lomandra longifolia and Ghania spp., and on higher ground next to mangroves, such as Rhizophora spp. (Boland et al., 1984). Melaleuca spp. form symbiotic mycorrhizal associations between the roots and various fungi. The roots of M. quinquenervia trees growing on stream banks, in fresh or brackish waters in swamps and seepage areas of New South Wales, Australia, were found to possess both vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (VAM) and ectomycorrhiza (Khan, 1993).


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A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
-8 -34 0 1400

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -3 -1
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 17 27
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 26 34
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 4 20


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration07number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall8405080mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Armillaria tabescens
Boreioglycaspis melaleucae Herbivore Stems Florida
Botryosphaeria ribis Pathogen
Calonectria morganii
Cylindrocladium pteridus
Fergusonina turneri Herbivore Growing point Florida
Lophodiplosis trifida Herbivore Leaves/Stems Florida
Neohydronomus affinis Herbivore Growing point/Leaves
Oxyops vitiosa Herbivore Leaves Florida
Phenacoccus solenopsis
Poliopaschia lithochlora Herbivore
Pomponatius typicus
Psidium cattleianum
Puccinia psidii Pathogen Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Over 400 herbivorous insects were found in association with this tree and its close allies in Australia (Balciunas et al., 1993a, b; Burrows et al., 1994) but damage was localized, and it suffers only slight damage from sawflies (Marcar et al., 1995). The heartwood lacks resistance to damage by termites, fungi and marine borers (Bultman et al., 1983). Habeck (1981) reported 40 insects, 4 nematodes and 22 plant pathogens amongst the pests collected or isolated from M. quinquenervia in Florida, USA. However, none are serious to species survival and overall it was regarded as relatively free of pests and diseases. Surveys in Australia for potential biological control agents of M. quinquenervia for possible release in Florida, USA, revealed several promising insect species (Center, 1992; Balciunas and Burrows, 1993; Balciunas et al., 1993a, b; Purcell and Balciunas, 1994). Several fungi are also under investigation as potential biological control agents (Rayachhetry et al., 1996a, b).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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M. quinquenervia seeds are dispersed locally by wind and water. Large numbers of seeds are stored on the tree in the fruiting capsules and are released when fire or other disturbance occurs (PIER, 2007). Long-distance movement has been via international introductions throughout the tropics mainly as an ornamental, but also for windbreaks or for other agroforestry purposes.

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health Negative
Livestock production None
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism Negative
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Economic Impact

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The integrated management control efforts of M. quinquenervia in Florida cost $25 million up to 1999, but it is estimated that failing to control the species would cost $161 million annually in lost revenues, etc. (Laroche, 1999).

Environmental Impact

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M. quinquenervia has become a threat to the stability of Florida's Everglades ecosystem (Flores, 2002). In areas where M. quinquenervia has spread it has displaced native plants and animals, altered the hydrology of wetlands and created fire hazards (Anon., 2002). In Florida it has been reported as converting wetland to upland, displacing native plants in prairie marshes, and invading cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, hardwood bottomlands, and mangrove swamps (Buckingham, 2004).

Belowground effects of M. quinquenervia include reduced levels of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in the organic litter layer, and lower microbial biomass nutrient pools in soil (Martin et al., 2009). Invasion in its native range has also been observed to cause changes in soil chemistry (Johnston et al., 2003).

Impact on Biodiversity

Unmanaged weedy stands may have tree densities of 7000-20,000 stems/ha, thus crowding out native vegetation and wildlife habitats (Geiger, 1991; Loope et al., 1994). M. quinquenervia forms dense forest stands displacing native species, for example in the Everglades where it has affected the graminoid marshes (Mazzotti et al., 1998). Austin (1978) reported that species diversity decreases by 60-80% in wet prairies and marshes where M. quinquenervia invades. In French Guinea, it is forming localized but dense monotypic stands (Delnatte and Meyer, 2012).

In its native range, it has a positive benefit on biodiversity, and remnant M. quinquenervia forests near Brisbane, Australia are important habitats for the conservation of bird species (Grover and Slater, 1994).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Viola helenae (Wahiawa stream violet)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008

Social Impact

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The spread of M. quinquenervia in south Florida, USA could restrict the use of some of the parks and recreational areas (Mazzotti et al., 1998). In southern Florida, the pollen was suspected to cause serious allergic reactions and acute respiratory problems (Geary, 1988), though detailed studies proved that M. quinquenervia is not a significant source of aeroallergen and M. quinquenervia odour is not a respiratory irritant (Stablein et al., 2002). However, antigens were shown to cross-react with pollen extracts from a proven aeroallergen (Bahia grass pollen) possibly explaining a few contrasting results.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Soil accretion
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Transportation disruption
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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M. quinquenervia can be used for windbreaks and may have a role in erosion control on degraded and poor soils (Doran and Turnbull, 1997). Rates of litter fall beneath M. quinquenervia on a floodplain and riparian site were found to be high, with slow rates of litter decay, indicating that such woody wetlands act as nutrient sinks (Greenway, 1994). This species is a popular ornamental tree for damp conditions and birds are attracted to the fragrant blossoms, and a red-flowering form makes an excellent feature plant for use in landscaping (Wrigley and Fagg, 1993).

The wood has been used for a wide range of purposes including mine timbers, fence posts and rails, flooring, house timbers and pulp (Ruskins, 1983). Investigations into utilization of the wood (and bark) are detailed by Huffman (1981). The wood is an excellent fuel, and makes good quality charcoal. Durability of untreated posts in the ground is high during the first year, but replacement is necessary after about 3 years (Cherrier, 1981). Mulch is prepared from wood chips of M. quinquenervia in Florida (Anon, 1993) and has also been used successfully as a replacement for pine bark in potting media for the horticultural industry (Brown and Duke, 2001). The bark is resistant to mildew, and consequently it is used to insulate the walls of cold storage rooms and has been used to stuff pillows and its water resistance makes it useful for caulking boats (Geary, 1988).

M. quinquenervia is a good source of nectar and pollen for bees. It is a major source of honey in Australia and Florida, USA (Robinson, 1981; Clemson, 1985; Geary, 1988). The dark amber honey has a strong caramel flavour and aroma, and is often of low density (Blake and Roff, 1958; Clemson, 1985).

The natural stands of M. quinquenervia on New Caledonia are the source of Niaouli oil which is produced by hydrodistillation of leaves. Niaouli oil contains 60% 1,8-cineole, and is used mainly to treat pulmonary infections, especially colds and bronchitis. Details of the production process are provided by Valet et al. (1998). Current annual output of this oil in New Caledonia is 7-10 tonnes, of which 19% is exported (Valet et al., 1998). An additional use of Niaouli oil is as a mosquito repellent, and Amer and Mehlhorn (2006) found it was the third most effective of over 40 plant extracts tested against Aedes, Anopheles and Culex mosquitoes, being 100% effective for 8 hours. In addition, Moharram et al. (2003) isolated four polyphenolic acid derivatives and three ellagitannins from the leaves for the first time, and observed effects of some on reducing blood sugar levels in mice. It appears that further investigations into the chemical composition of M. quinquenervia extracts and their potential effects and uses is merited.

Tea tree oil, an essential oil widely and increasingly available in Europe and North America as a natural disinfectant, is produced from M. alternifolia in Australia, though studies have been undertaken to assess whether other species including M.quinquenervia may also be suitable. Of the species and chemotypes evaluated by Doran et al. (2007), M. quinquenervia showed potential for commercial production of trans-nerolidol, a compound used in perfumery. It had a very high survival rate (96%) and yields could be expected to improve dramatically from the average 100 kg/ha per harvest achieved in trials with further research into selection of seed source, control of insect damage and breeding for genetic improvement. Trials in Benin by Gbenou et al. (2007) also showed promise for year-round production of Niaouli oil.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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M. quinquenervia is distinctive through characteristics of its foliage and floral spikes. It has frequently been confused with M. viridiflora and intermediates exist between these two species, though it can usually be distinguished by its thinner and shorter leaves and shorter stamens. Callistemon salignus has very similar bark to M. quinquenervia and these two species can be confused in the field. However, they are readily distinguished as the leaves of C. salignus have only one central vein and the new foliage is bright pinkish red in contrast to the white hoary new foliage of M. quinquenervia (Boland et al., 1984).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural control

If used at appropriate times, fire and water level manipulation have been suggested to control the establishment of M. quinquenervia. Fire can be used at times when conditions are unfavourable for the seeds that are released, for example immediately after the onset of the summer rains so that the seedlings are exposed to extended flooding which many do not survive (Laroche, 1999). Weber (2003) also notes that in fire-tolerant communities, fires can be used during the dry season to control the seedlings.

Mechanical control

Hand pulling is an effective control for small seedlings, whereas mechanical cutting is used for large trees, followed by application of herbicide to the stumps to prevent resprouting, and any seed capsules must be removed and destroyed (PIER, 2007).

Chemical control

Cut stumps can be treated with a wetland-approved imazpyr mixed with 20% water, and trees can also be girdled and treated with imazpyr diluted with 50% water, though basally applied herbicides are not effective (PIER, 2007). Herbicides are used to prevent resprouting, but studies suggest that the use of herbicides can cause the tree to release a large amount of stored seeds (Swearingen, 1997). In Hawaii, with applications to drilled holes, glyphosate was very effective, dicamba and triclopyr fairly effective and 2,4-D not effective, and saplings were sensitive to foliar applications of triclopyr (PIER, 2007).

Biological control

Surveys in Australia for potential biological control agents of M. quinquenervia for possible release in Florida, USA have revealed several promising insect species (Center, 1992; Balciunas and Burrows, 1993; Balciunas et al., 1993a, b; Purcell and Balciunas, 1994) and several biological control agents have subsequently been released. The melaleuca leaf weevil, Oxyops vitiosa was first released in 1997 and has now become well established in Florida. The larvae of these beetles cause stunted growth and a reduction in foliage production. Pratt et al. (2013c), however, suggest that in permanently flooded habitats, where some populations of the weed occur, sustained weevil herbivory is dependent on repeated colonization events.

In 2002, around 100,000 sap-sucking psyllids, Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, were released in south Florida (Flores, 2002; Anon, 2003) and studies are underway to determine its establishment and impact. Recent reports (Pratt and Center, 2012) suggest that both B. melaleucae and O. vitiosa have spread well outside their intended geographic range of Florida.

Several other studies have been carried out in Australia on potential control agents, including the tube-dwelling moth, Poliopaschia lithochlora, the gall-forming cecidomyiid midges, Lophodiplosis indentata and Lophyrotoma zonalis. Lophodiplosis trifida has been released at 24 sites in Florida and has established and spread (Pratt et al., 2013b).

Field studies have also begun on a stem-boring cermabycid beetle, a bud feeding haplonyx weevil, and the bud-feeding holocola moth. The leaf-blotching mirid, Eucerocoris suspectus was eliminated as a control agent as it was found to damage guava (Anon, 2003). Fungi are also under investigation as potential biological control agents (Rayachhetry et al., 1996a, b). The gall fly, Fergusonina turneri and its obligate nematode Fergusobia quinquenervae, were also recommended for release in Florida, USA in March 2004 (Anon., 2004). Wright et al. (2013) report that the insect/nematode mutialism (the first such combination released for biocontrol of an invasive plant) causes galls to develop and mature only on the target species. However, Pratt et al. (2013a) report that releases in Florida have failed to establish in the field.

Integrated control

Control methods are complicated by the fact that if there is any death to any aerial parts of the tree there is a subsequent release of seeds and resprouting from the roots. Cronk and Fuller (1995) suggest controlling M. quinquenervia at the critical stages in its life cycle, for example by treating trees in seed with herbicide after a frost to reduce resprouting. In 1990, the Exotic Pest Plant Council and South Florida Water Management District jointly organized a task force to develop a comprehensive plan to manage M. quinquenervia in the Everglades region (Laroche, 1999), involving cultural, mechanical, chemical and biological control. The strategy of removing the mature seed-bearing tree then eliminating the trees towards the source of the infestation has been successful in reducing the area invaded so far.


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22/08/13 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

22/11/2007 Updated by:

Nick Pasiecznik, Consultant, France

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