Over 200; see List of Melaleuca species
Melaleuca (pronounced /ˌmɛləˈljuːkə/) is a genus of plants in the myrtle family Myrtaceae. There are well over 200 recognised species, most of which are endemic to Australia. A few species occur in Malesia and 7 species are endemic to New Caledonia. The species are shrubs and trees growing (depending on species) to 2–30 m (6.6–98 ft) tall, often with flaky, exfoliating bark. The leaves are evergreen, alternately arranged, ovate to lanceolate, 1–25 cm (0.39–9.8 in) long and 0.5–7 cm (0.20–2.8 in) broad, with an entire margin, dark green to grey-green in colour. The flowers are produced in dense clusters along the stems, each flower with fine small petals and a tight bundle of stamens; flower colour varies from white to pink, red, pale yellow or greenish. The fruit is a small capsule containing numerous minute seeds.
Melaleuca is closely related to Callistemon, the main difference between the genera being that the stamens are generally free in Callistemon but grouped into bundles in Melaleuca.
In the wild, Melaleuca plants are generally found in open forest, woodland or shrubland, particularly along watercourses and the edges of swamps.
The best-accepted common name for Melaleuca is simply melaleuca; however most of the larger species are also known as paperbarks, and the smaller types as honey myrtles. They are also sometimes referred to as punk trees.
One well-known melaleuca, the Ti tree (aka tea tree), Melaleuca alternifolia, is notable for its essential oil which is both anti-fungal, and antibiotic, while safely usable for topical applications. This is produced on a commercial scale, and marketed as Tea Tree Oil. The Ti tree is presumably named for the brown colouration of many water courses caused by leaves shed from trees of this and similar species (for a famous example see Brown Lake (Stradbroke Island)). The name "tea tree" is also used for a related genus, Leptospermum. Both Leptospermum and Melaleuca are myrtles of the family, Myrtaceae.
In Australia, Melaleuca species are sometimes used as food plants by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genus Aenetus including A. ligniveren. These burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down.
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