Melaleuca, paper-bark, cajeput, punk tree, white bottlebrush tree
Australia, New Guinea, and Solomon Islands
soft, whitish, many-layered, peeling bark. Leaves alternate, simple, grayish green, nar-
rowly lance shaped, to 10 cm (4 in) long and 2 cm (3/4 in) wide, with a smell of cam-
phor 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.
Scattered aerially over the Everglades in the 1930s to create forests (Austin 1978). Widely
planted, and recommended as late as 1970 as “one of Florida’s best landscape trees”
(Watkins 1970). Now recognized internationally as a threat to the Florida Everglades, a
World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve (D. C. Schmitz, 1994 Congres-
sional testimony). 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). By 1994, estimated to infest nearly 200,000 ha (490,000 acres) in
south Florida, with extensive stands in the Everglades, Big Cypress, and Loxahatchee
Slough (Laroche 1994b). Infested acreage since reduced by an estimated 40,470 ha
(100,000 acres) through regional control efforts (F. Laroche, South Florida Water Man-
agement District, 1998 personal communication). First insect biological control agent
released in Everglades by U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1997 (Cox News Service).
counties (Wunderlin et al. 1995, Mason 1997). Reported from natural areas in 16 central
and south Florida counties (EPPC 1996).
drained uplands (Laroche 1994b). Saplings often killed by fire, but not mature trees. Can
survive severe frost damage (Woodall 1981). Grows 1-2 m (3-6 ft) per year; resprouts
easily from stumps and roots; capable of flowering within 2 years from seed (Laroche
1994b). Flowers and fruits all year, producing up to 20 million windborne seeds per year
per tree, and able to hold viable seed for massive all-at-once release when stressed
(Woodall 1983). Releases volatile oils into air, especially when blooming, that cause
respiratory irritation, asthma attacks, headaches, and/or rashes in some people (Morton
In Big Cypress National Preserve