Common Name: Cajeput Tree; Punk Tree; Broadleaved Paperbark

Scientific Name: Melaleuca quinquenervia

Family: Myrtaceae (Eucalyptus)

Identification
Distinguishing characteristics
Habit: Grows to a height of 25-50 ft (8-15 m), and spreads out to 16-32 ft (5-10 m), taller than wide.Paperbark Tree (SelecTree, 2017)

Leaves: Leaves are evergreen, oblong, and light green in color, around 2-5 (5-12 cm) long, 0.4-1.2 in (1-3 cm) wide, and arranged alternately.

Leaf.jpgPaperbark Leaf (SelecTree, 2017)

Twigs & Bark: Young twigs are covered with soft hairs. Has fruit spikes on branches. Older stems have spongy white to cream bark that peels off in layers. Sap is an irritant.

bark.jpgPaperbark Bark (Wikipedia, 2017)


Flowers & Fruits:
Has clusters of white, pink, purple or yellow flowers that appear in the Summer or Fall. Flowers contain both male and female parts. Fruit is a small woody capsule and not edible.

flower.jpgPaperbark Flowers (Wikipedia, 2017)
fruit.jpgPaperbark Fruits (SelecTree, 2017)

Where it’s from
Native Range: Eastern Australia and surrounding islands, including Papua New Guinea. (Also grown in portions of Africa, Asia and throughout the southern United States.) Grows in plains, swamps, and estuary margins (can tolerate some salt). Typically grows best in silty or swampy soil, and has a place in the savannah biome.

range.jpgPaperbark Native Range
By Min B. Rayamajhi, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org - http://www.invasive.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=0002122, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15515037

Ecological Notes: It is susceptible to fungal infection and root rot. Fruit releases tiny, wind-dispersed seeds annually. Seeds of the plant sprout rapidly following instances of fire. Flowers produce nectar consumed by insects, birds, and bats. Is a highly invasive species in Florida.

What we use it for

  • Fossil leaves of the plant can be used to analyze past rainfall in places like Australia via carbon isotope ratios. 
  • Leaves and stems have been used traditionally in medicine to treat cold symptoms.
  • Was introduced into Florida to drain swamps.
  • The essential oil is used in a variety of natural medicines as an antibacterial and antiseptic component.
  • Is used in landscaping to attract wildlife.
  • Honey can be produced from the flower nectar and is widely eaten.

References

  1. Rodd, T., & Stackhouse, J. (2008). Trees: a visual guide. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  2. SelecTree. "Melaleuca quinquenervia Tree Record." 1995-2017. Nov 29, 2017.
    < https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/melaleuca-quinquenervia >
  3. Tibby, J., Barr, C., Mcinerney, F. A., Henderson, A. C., Leng, M. J., Greenway, M., . . . Mcneil, V. (2016). Carbon isotope discrimination in leaves of the broad-leaved paperbark tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia, as a tool for quantifying past tropical and subtropical rainfall. Global Change Biology,22(10), 3474-3486. doi:10.1111/gcb.13277
  4. Melaleuca quinquenervia. (2017, October 22). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melaleuca_quinquenervia

BiographerMadison Dunlap `21, FYS 20: Plants in Our World, Fall 2017