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Melaleuca quinquenervia
Melaleuca quinquenervia

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Zone
Zones 9, 12, 13, 15-17, 20-28, H1, H2
Full Sun
Full
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Cajeput Tree, Paperbark Tree
Myrtaceae
Evergreen, Trees

MELALEUCA

Australia is home to 140 or more species of melaleucas, and many of these show up in Western gardens. All have narrow, sometimes needlelike leaves and bear clustered flowers with prominent stamens; the blossoms attract birds. Since each flower cluster resembles a bottlebrush, some melaleucas are called bottlebrushes, though that name is more generally applied to members of the genus Callistemon.

Tight clusters of woody seed capsules are attached directly to branches; these hang on for several years, forming odd, decorative cylinders around twigs and branches. Many melaleucas have interestingly contorted branches and bark that peels off in thick, papery layers.

All melaleucas are easy to grow. Most withstand heat, wind, seacoast conditions, poor soil, and limited moisture. Most are vigorous and fast growing; for a natural appearance, control by cutting back selected branches to a well-placed side branch. Almost all melaleucas make good screens; some of the larger ones are useful as flowering or shade trees.

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Upright, open growth to 20–40 ft. tall and 15–25 ft. wide; can become twice as large in the tropics. Pendulous young branches. Thick, spongy, light brown to whitish bark peels off in sheets (you can use these sheets to line wire hanging baskets). Stiff, narrowly oval, 2–4-in.-long leaves are shiny pale green, covered with silky hairs when young. The foliage turns purple with light frosts. Yellowish white (sometimes pink or purple) flowers bloom in 2–3-in. spikes in summer and fall. Good street tree. Trees planted 8–10 ft. apart and thinned occasionally make a pleasant grove. Little to regular water. In Hawaii, cajeput tree has escaped cultivation to become an invasive pest.

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