Mel_altern.JPG (28573 bytes)Melaleuca alternifolia: is a member of the Myrtaceae family in company with Callistemons (Bottlebrushes), Eucalypts and Leptospermums (Tea Trees). There are about 220 Melaleuca species with 215 native to Australia and the others scattered through New Guinea, Indonesia and South-east Asia. As with many native plants, Western Australia has the lionís share of Melaleucas. Many of these western species are outstanding plants with great horticultural potential.
Melaleuca alternifolia is an eastern species and occurs on the North Coast and adjacent ranges of New South Wales. It develops into a tall shrub with papery bark and white spring and summer flowers. The common name, Snow-in-Summer refers to the flowers. Melaleuca alternifolia shares this name with Melaleuca linariifolia another eastern species.
Melaleuca alternifolia has aromatic foliage and valuable oil is extracted from the leaves. Tea Tree Oil has great germicidal properties and is used in a range of products. Antiseptics, deodorants, shampoos (for dogs and humans) and soaps are some of the products incorporating Tea Tree Oil. Large Melaleuca alternifolia plantations have been established on the North Coast of New South Wales. We are not sure why it is called Tea Tree Oil, as this is the common name of Leptospermums.
Horticulturally speaking, Melaleuca alternifolia will cope with dry and wet situations. It develops into a tall upright shrub and is covered in white flowers in the warmer months. A wide range of native insects visits the flowers. The papery bark is another feature.
Propagate from seed of cuttings.