Melaleuca quinquenervia, commonly known as the paper bark tea tree and punk tree is a small to medium sized tree of the family Mytaceae. The tree commonly stands at around 8 to 12 m but could reach an average of 18 m in height on good vegetation. The trunks of paper barks “are moderately straight to crooked” and its “white bark is white and spongy and peels in layers” (Geary, 1998). The narrow and serrated leaves measure between 5 to 12 cm long, have short stalks, are evergreen, alternately arranged, and simple in form (Centre for Aquatic and invasive plants, 2008).
The small, white flowers of the M. quinquenervia tend to crowd at the tips of the branches in a spiky form. According to the Centre for aquatic and Invasive Plants of the University of Florida, efforts have been made to conserve the tree in some parts of Australia. When the Europeans first arrived, there were dense forests that consisted of the punk trees, but today, though the forests still exist, they are not as dense as they used to be then. The species however remains unlisted in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List.
IFAS also states that melaleuca trees were introduced in the US in the early 1900s, specifically in Florida in order to help drain low-lying swampy areas. However, the unchecked expansion has made it a serious threat to the integrity of the native ecosystem of the Florida Everglades. The trees grow as a pest in the Everglades and the parts that surround it, into huge and dense forests, eventually outgrowing any other vegetation on its path. It has been said to be a threat to the Everglades, an eco-treasure known worldwide. In the US, researchers are looking for ways in which they can reduce the tree’s growth rate.
The seeds grow into many small trees to form dense vegetation which is very hard to pass through. Herbicides are being used to control the spread of the vegetation. In an attempt to control its spread, biologists have gone as far as releasing biological control insects against the species, but the results have not yet been seen as it the activity takes some time. ( Centre for Aquatic and invasive plants, 2008) The habitat and niche for the punk tree. M. quinquenervia is native from 8? to 34? S latitude including on the east Coast of Australia, New Caledonia, Iran Jaya and Papua New Guinea.
In North America, it grows in the Southern part of Florida, where, as previously stated, it was introduced to drain low-lying swampy areas. In its native habitat, the punk tree grows from sea level to about 100 meters above sea level, except in New Caledonia where it can grow at the highlands at 1000 meters. The preferred mean annual rainfall is 900 to 1250 mm and temperatures of 5 to 32 degrees are the monthly mean. In exotic lands, a rainfall of 5000 mm and winter form the tree’s habitat in plantations. (Geary, 1998, pg 567). The M.
quinquenervia is native to the eastern coast of Australia from Botany Bay in New South Wales to Queensland and Northern Territory, as well as in Papua New Guinea and in New Caledonia. (map provided by google maps) The national Resources Conservation Service in its soil website states that the punk tree grows in gently undulating lands, mainly at estuaries, in permanent and seasonal swamps, along streams and at marshy areas. In Australia, it mostly grows at places with sand stone soils, while in New Caledonia, on ridges at the highlands and at well drained slopes.
(Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2009. ) Geary says that, in Papua New Guinea, the trees grow in highly organic and alluvial clays, in Florida at shallow soils that contain limestone, such as aquods, psamaquets and at saprist soils and in Hawaii, on sandy beaches containing calcium carbonate. Soils derived from lava of pH between 4. 5 to 5. 5 and from basalt ash also favor the growth of the tree. (Geary, 1998, pg 567). Reproduction M. quinquenervia flowers at the age of three years when the height is one meter, for at least two to five times a year.
Geary states that pollination of the flowers occurs trough insect pollination and the seeds are produced in small but hard capsules, which are attached tightly around the branches in clusters. He continues to state that one spike of the flowers can produce at least 30 capsules of seeds, while each capsule may be holding approximately 200 to 350 seeds. Each branch contains about 8 to12 seed clusters. A capsule may stay for up to 10 years without releasing the seeds, until it is disrupted by frost, strong winds, a fire or anything else that may cause the capsule to open, (Geary, 1998, pg 567-568).
Economic value of the tree. The tree has many uses, as discussed by Geary on page 567. He says that it produces wood, usually for making cabinets. The bark is known as an insulator and is therefore used to insulate heat and as mulch in agriculture. The capsules and the barks are used to make ornaments for sale. The logs are used together with a preservative to make fencing posts. Leaves of the tree contain leaf oil, commercially used as an essential oil and at its native countries, it has medicinal value. Due to its ability to grow in swamps and marshy areas, it is grown to improve drainage as it absorbs the water.
In Australia, the tree is planted at parks because it attracts birds and butterflies. Finally, since the tree attracts bees it has been a resource to the apiary industry especially in Florida. Farmers hang bee hives on the tree, as it acts as a home for bee colonies. (Geary, 1998, pg 567) References 1) Centre for Aquatic and invasive plants, University of Florida, 2008. Retrieved 1/29/1009 http://aquat1. ifas. ufl. ed0u/node/264 2) Geary . T . F (1998) Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav) S. T Blake, vol 2, pgs 567 to 568, Retrieved 1/30/2009, http://www. rngr. net/Publications/ttsm/Folder. 2003-07-11.
4726/PDF. 2004-03-15. 2622/file 3) Integrated Taxonomic Information System 1/8/2009, retrieved 1/31/1009 http://www. itis. gov/index. html 4) National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1/8/2009, retrieved 1/31/2009 http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/ 5) Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 2/8/2009. Retrieved 1/30/2009 http://soils. usda. gov/ 6) Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 2/8/2009. Retrived1/30/2009 http://plants. usda. gov/java/ClassificationServlet? source=profile&symbol=MEQU&display=31