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Melaleuca linariifolia Sm. 1797
pronounced: mel-luh-LOO-kuh lin-air-ee-uh-FOW-lee-uh
(Myrtaceae – the gum family)
common names: Snow-in-Summer, Narrow-leafed Paperbark
Melaleuca is derived from the Greek μελας (melas), black, and λευκος (leukos), white, referring to black marks on the white bark, caused by fire; linariifolia is from the name of the Linaria genus (from the Latin linum, flax) and folium, a leaf; leaves like Linaria.
This Australian native occurs naturally south from Maryborough in Queensland to the Ulladulla district of NSW. There is another, distinct, population in the Bllacktown Tableland National Park. It is found in heathland, and in dry sclerophyll forests, usually near watercourses. It is a fairly small round-headed tree that grows up to about 9 m, and to a similar width. The attractive trunk grows to be quite thick after a willowy start. The spongy bark is a light beige in colour, and peels in papery flakes.
The stiff, needle-like leaves are narrow lanceolate in shape, and a bright silvery to bluish green in colour. They are decussate, glabrous except when very young. They are up to about 3 – 4 cm long by 6 mm or so wide, on very fine branchlets, and there is a distinct midrib.
The small snowy white flowers occur in fluffy spikes, and densely cover the crown, usually from May to June. They are perfumed, and the stamens are in 5 bundles, each containing many stamens. The fruits are small woody capsules of a distinctive shape, 3 – 4 mm long and 4 – 5 mm wide, with valves that do not project beyond the rim of the capsule; the capsules persist on the stems.
This makes a good street tree, suitable for planting near power lines or in median strips. Its placing near buildings should be avoided, as its roots can be invasive. Plantings of the tree can make good wind breaks. The willowy nature of young trees makes staking necessary for the first few years of the tree’s growth, and careful pruning is needed to avoid its becoming a sprawling shrub. The tree very easily catches fire, so it should not be grown in fire-prone areas. It is attractive to bees, and serves as a food or habitat source for many insects and small animals.
There are several shrubby forms, and some of these are in general cultivation: “Snowstorm” grows to about 1.5 m, and “Sea Foam” to about 2.5 m. Propagation is easy from both seed and cuttings; but seed should not be used if the parent form is to be preserved.
Photographs taken in Arcadia 2009-2012
Page last updated 27th December 2016