Melaleuca cuticularis

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Saltwater paperbark
Melaleuca cuticularis-IMG 0332.jpg
M. cuticularis foliage and flowers in the Stockholm Botanic Garden, Sweden.
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Melaleuca
M. cuticularis
Binomial name
Melaleuca cuticularis

Melaleuca cuticularis, commonly known as the saltwater paperbark is a tree in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae and is native to the south-west of Western Australia. There is also a disjunct population on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. It is distinguished from other melaleucas by its unusual fruits and very white, papery bark.


Melaleuca cuticularis is usually a shrub growing to a height of 1–7 m (3–20 ft) high but sometimes develops into a tree as high as 12 m (40 ft). The leaves are linear to oblong, grey-green to dark green in colour and 4–12 mm (0.2–0.5 in) long and 1.5–3 mm (0.06–0.1 in) wide. The trunk of M. cuticularis is covered in a pale papery bark and connects to rigid and torturous branches.[1][2]

The flowers are in groups of three, white or cream in colour, located on the ends of the branches and surrounded by overlapping brown bracts. M. cuticularis flowers between the months of September and January[3] and the fruit which follow are woody capsules appearing star-shaped when viewed end-on. The fruits are generally solitary and 6–11 mm (0.2–0.4 in) long.[1][4]

M. cuticularis growing near Ravensthorpe
M. cuticularis fruit
M. cuticularis bark

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

This species was first formally described in 1806 by Jacques Labillardière in Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen from a specimen he collected during the 1791 d'Entrecasteux expedition.[5][6] The specific epithet (cuticulata) is from the Latin cuticula, meaning "pertaining to the cuticle", referring to the numerous strips of skin-like bark coming away from the trunk and branches.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Melaleuca cuticularis is able to grow in saline wetlands such as swamps and estuaries. It is common in coastal regions south of Perth stretching to Israelite Bay, in the Avon Wheatbelt, Esperance Plains, Jarrah Forest, Swan Coastal Plain and Warren biogeographic regions.[7] It also occurs, although uncommonly, on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.[8]


Melaleuca cuticularis is listed as "not threatened" by the Government of Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife.[7]

Use in horticulture[edit]

This species is ideal for sandy clay, loamy clay and clay soils and is commonly used for soil stabilisation and revegetation. It is also shade and drought tolerant so can be used in hedges or windbreaks.[4] It can be used as a specimen plant featuring its attractive bark contrasting with light green foliage.[9]


  1. ^ a b Brophy, Joseph J.; Craven, Lyndley A.; Doran, John C. (2013). Melaleucas : their botany, essential oils and uses. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. p. 136. ISBN 9781922137517.
  2. ^ "Florabase - Melaleuca cuticularis Labill". 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  3. ^ a b "Australian National Botanic Gardens - Growing Native Plants - Melaleuca cuticularis". 2008. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b Holliday, Ivan (2004). Melaleucas : a field and garden guide (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Reed New Holland Publishers. pp. 78–79. ISBN 1876334983.
  5. ^ "Melaleuca cuticularis". APNI. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  6. ^ Labillardière, Jacques Julien (1806). Novae Hollandiae plantarum specimen: volume 2. Paris. p. 30. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Melaleuca cuticularis". FloraBase. Western Australian Government Department of Parks and Wildlife.
  8. ^ Paczkowska, Grazyna; Chapman, Alex R. (2000). The Western Australian flora : a descriptive catalogue. Perth: Wildflower Society of Western Australia. p. 393. ISBN 0646402439.
  9. ^ Wrigley, John W.; Fagg, Murray (1983). Australian native plants : a manual for their propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping (2nd ed.). Sydney: Collins. p. 262. ISBN 0002165759.