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The preferred common name for the larger species with the appropriate bark character


The preferred common name for the larger

species with the appropriate bark character 

is “paperbark” with some qualifying adjective

(Boland et al., 1994).

The northern Australian melaleucas are dominated 



by the broad-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca 

viridiflora), weeping paperbark (M. leucadendra),

silver paperbark (M. argentea), blue paperbark 

(M. dealbata) and yellow-barked paperbark 

(M. nervosa) with forb and grassy understoreys. 

Other species in the Northern Territory include 

M. citrolens, M. cajuputi, M. stenostachya, 

M. minutifolia, M. acacioides and in Queensland,

s

M. tamariscina, M. bracteata, M. stenostachya,

M. saligna, M. arcana, M. clarksonii, M. citrolens, 

M. foliolosa and M. fluviatilis.

In southern and eastern Australia the melaleucas 



are confined mainly to the wetter watercourses

and swamps with the paperbarked tea-tree 

(M. quinquenervia), the most widespread coastal

species. In New South Wales additional coastal

woodland and forest species include M. decora, 

M. sieberi, M. nodosa and 

a

M.linariifolia.

MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS



P

hoto: M. F

agg

Melaleuca sp. low open forest, 30 km north of Grafton, NSW

1


MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS

In Western Australia, Melaleuca Forests and 



Woodlands are restricted to pockets in specific

sites, such as the swamp paperbark (M. preissiana)

on subcoastal swamp areas and (M. rhaphiophylla)

on creek lines and watercourses.

Very small coastal areas in South Australia 



and Victoria include M. lanceolata (moonah), 

a

M. halmaturorum ssp. halmaturorum,

M. brevifolia, M. lanceolata ssp. lanceolata.

Associated species vary throughout Australia,



depending on the underlying site conditions.

In drier areas of Australia, emu bushes

(Eremophila spp.) and other shrubs dominate 

the understorey, whilst in damper and wetter 

areas in the east and south the understorey 

is dominated by sedges and aquatics.



Facts and figures



Major Vegetation Group  

MVG 9—Melaleuca Forests and Woodlands 



Major Vegetation Subgroups 



(number of NVIS descriptions)

Melaleuca open forests and woodlands (299)



Typical NVIS structural 



formations

Closed forest (low, mid)

Open forest (tall, mid, low)

Woodland (tall, mid, low)

Open woodland (mid, low)

Number of IBRA regions

50

Most extensive in IBRA region

Est. pre–1750 and present: Gulf Plains (Qld)

Estimated pre–1750 extent (km



2



)

106 057


Present extent (km



2



)

99 561


Area protected (km



2



)

10 023


Geography

While Australia is the home of most melaleucas, 



some tropical species extend beyond Australia 

to New Guinea, New Caledonia, Malaysia,

India and Indonesia (Boland et al., 1994).

Primarily in the coastal and subcoastal areas



of monsoonal northern Australia in the Northern 

Territory and in far north Queensland on the 

areas adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria and 

on the Cape York Peninsula.

Largest area occurs in Queensland (70 657 km



2

).



Small pockets along the subtropical and temperate 

coasts of Queensland, New South Wales and 

Western Australia, and around fringes of rivers

and coastal wetlands.

Some of the better known species have a marked 



preference for damp or wet sites which dry out

seasonally, particularly on or near the 

coast including brackish and saline areas

(Boland et al., 1994).



Change

Approximately 6% of the estimated pre–1750



extent cleared accounting for 0.6% of total

clearing in Australia.

Approximately 6 500 km



2

cleared since

European settlement.

The remoteness of the extensive monsoonal



Melaleuca Forests and Woodlands and their

2


MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS

comparatively harsh site conditions, particularly 

during periods of seasonal inundation, has 

protected them from major changes.

In less remote coastal areas the wetlands have



been extensively cleared and in-filled for

development or urban expansion. Historically 

some of the swamp areas have also been developed

for intensive agriculture (cropping and grazing), 

particularly where the soils have been high 

in peat.


Many of the early settlers grew potatoes in the 

seasonally drier parts of melaleuca swamps to

sustain their small settlements. Selected swamps

have also been mined for peat and other materials 

used in horticulture. Drainage of these systems

also has a high likelihood of disturbing acid

sulphate soils. 

Areas have been cleared for grazing and cropping 



(e.g. for sugar cane on the Herbert floodplain).

3


MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS

Many melaleuca wetlands in coastal northern New 

South Wales and Queensland have been altered 

by changes to natural drainage patterns and 

waterway flows (e.g. construction of floodgates

as part of floodplain management programs of 



Key values

Biodiversity including understorey grasses and 



shrubs, coastal and estuarine systems.

Flood retention basins and nutrient sinks—a key 



part of floodplain systems.

Honey and florist products—flowers and foliage.



Management considerations

Maintenance of local site conditions that 



support these communities (e.g. hydrological 

and tidal regimes).

Clearing and edge effects.



Isolation of fauna populations by barriers such

as roads or powerlines.

Weed control (e.g. aggressive weeds such 



as arum lily).

Rehabilitation as part of improved 



floodplain management.

Management of melaleuca stands along watercourses

and wetlands provides challenges in many parts of 

Australia, particularly as part of integrated floodplain

management. Melaleuca species exposed to dryland 

salinity are also under threat, resulting in changes to 

the floristic composition of wetland communities, for 

example in many of the freshwater lakes of south-west 

Western Australia.

References

Australian Surveying and Land Information Group 

(1990) Atlas of Australian Resources. Volume 6 

Vegetation. AUSMAP, Department of Administrative 

Services, Canberra, 64pp. & 2 maps.

Beadle N.C.W. (1981) The Vegetation of Australia.

Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 690pp.

Boland D.J., Brooker M.I.H., Chippendale G.M.,

Hall N., Hyland B.P.M., Johnston R.D., Kleinig 

D.A., and Turner J.D. (1994) Forest Trees of Australia.

CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.

National Land & Water Resources Audit (2001)

Australian Native Vegetation Assessment 2001. National

Land & Water Resources Audit, Canberra, 332pp.

the 1970s and 1980s). In dryland salinity areas,

melaleuca communities along watercourses have

been impacted by increased waterlogging and 

salinity.



Tenure

Melaleuca Forests and Woodlands occur across a range of land tenures.



Northern Territory:

largely leasehold land, some in protected areas 

and on freehold land

Queensland:

largely leasehold land, then freehold land and protected areas, some 

state forest and reserved crown land 

South Australia:

protected areas, leasehold land



Victoria:

largely in protected areas, some freehold land



Western Australia:

protected areas, some on freehold land 

and in state forest

4


MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS

Litchfield National Park, NT



P

hoto: NT P & 

W

C

Data sources

Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia 

(IBRA), Version 6.1.

Land Tenure in Australia’s Rangelands (1955 to

2000), National Land and Water Resources Audit.

National Vegetation Information System, Version 3.0.

1996/97 Land Use of Australia, Version 2.

Collaborative Australian Protected Areas Database

—CAPAD 2004—Terrestrial.

Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database

Australian Government Department of the

Environment and Water Resources, <

http://www.

environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/sprat.pl

>.

5


Paperbark swamp, Nourlangie, Kakadu National Park, NT

P

hoto: M. F

ag

g

Notes

Additional areas of this group were identified



in the Northern Territory arising from improved 

NVIS data.

See the


Introduction to the MVG fact sheets

for further background on this series.



MVG 9—MELALEUCA FORESTS AND WOODLANDS



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