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FLIP

FLIP: Florida Invasive Plants

Melaleuca quinquenervia

Common Name(s): Punktree, paper-bark, cajeput, white bottlebrush tree

Origin

Australia, New Guinea, and Solomon Islands.

Ecological Impact

Grows extremely fast, producing dense stands that displace native plants, diminish animal habitat, and provide little food for wildlife (Laroche 1994b). Has become abundant in pine flatwoods, sawgrass marshes, and cypress swamps of south Florida (Nelson 1994). Now recognized internationally as a threat to the Florida Everglades, a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve (D. C. Schmitz, 1994 Congressional testimony)

Description

Evergreen tree to 33 m (100 ft) tall, with a slender crown and soft, whitish, many-layered, peeling bark. Leaves alternate, simple, grayish green, narrowly lance shaped, to 10 cm (4 in) long and 2 cm (3/4 in) wide, with a smell of camphor when crushed. Flowers in creamy white “bottle brush” spikes to 16 cm (6 in) long. Fruit a round, woody capsule, about 3 mm (3/8 in) wide, in clusters surrounding young stems, each capsule holding 200-300 tiny seeds. 

Identification Tips

Soft, light colored, peeling bark. Leaves, fruit capsules, and flower form are very similar to the punktree's red-flowered relative the bottlebrush tree, M. viminalis (syn. Callistemon viminalis), which is a Category 2 FLEPPC invasive in south Florida.

History

Introduced to Florida for ornament in 1906 (Laroche 1994b).

Range

All of central and south Florida.

Management Strategies

Seedlings and saplings can be pulled out by hand, removed and placed in a pile so they do not re-root. Girdle larger trees and apply herbicide.  Cut the tree down before seed production and treat stump with herbicide. 

In 1997 the Melaleuca snout beetle (Oxyops vitiosa) was released in Florida after Australian field studies and laboratory testing demonstrated the insect would reproduce only on melaleuca. 

Photos

Most photos courtesy of the Atlas of Florida Plants; click for additional plant details.

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Florida Invasive Plants