Melaleuca alternifolia

Accession Count: 0
Common Name: Tea Tree
Family Name: Myrtaceae
Botanical Name: Melaleuca alternifolia
Synonyms:
Botanical Synonyms: Melaleuca linariifolia
Sub Species:
Variety: alternifolia maiden & betche
Forma:
Cultivar:
Characteristics:
Compound: Mel alt
Geographic Origin: Australia
Ecozone Origin: Australsia
Biome Origin:
Natural History: Maleleuca alternifolia is native to the eastern half of Australia, known as New South Wales and Queensland (2). Captain James Cook recorded its first use in the 18th century, where he used the leaves to brew an accented tea (2). Thus, the name “Tea Tree” was created, but the Aboriginal people of Australia had alternative uses for the plant (3). Native inhabitants utilized the elasticity and softness of the bark to create sleeping mats and cradles (1). In addition, they would use the bark to seal canoe holes, preserve food, and block rainfall (1). Perhaps the most critical use, which is still pertinent in today’s society, is the use of its oil (1,2,4). The Aboriginal people used the oil on the leaves to cure various skin and health disorders (2).  
Cultivation Notes: The Tea Tree thrives best in well-drained soil, but can be grown in alternative soils in sub-tropical climates (2). Since it semi-hardy, it can tolerate floods and fires; however, the tea tree cannot survive in freezing conditions. (2) Despite its minor disadvantage, it can withstand heavy pruning, where humans can utilize its leaves without harming the tree (2). For commercial cultivation, the growers cut the plant extremely close to the ground level every 6-18 months to extract the oil through steam distillation (2). After the tree has been cut, they will allow it to grow for another 6-18 months and repeat the coppicing process (2).   
Ethnobotany: Australian Aborigines were the first to use Tea Tree oils to treat skin infections over three hundred years ago (4). Since then, the oils from the tree have served humans and pets tremendously in the skincare industry with its wide range of uses (3). The two active ingredients, erpinen and cineole, contain healing and disinfectant properties which are used to treat various health issues (1). The oil has been proven to treat topical bacterial (acne), fungal (athletes foot), and viral infections in humans (2,4). In addition, it has been effective in curing respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma (2). When converted into mouthwash or toothpaste, it can kill canker sores, bad breath, and gum disease (1). For pets, the use of a topical solution can reduce and cure skin issues such as bug bites and ringworm (1). Although its medical uses are its dominant purpose, the abundant aroma from the tea tree oil is used in the perfume industry as soaps and fragrances with its earthy, pungent smell (3). Overall, the tea tree is truly versatile and provides society with a natural alternative for skincare products.

Height: 16 - 20 feet
Width: 11 - 15 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate Growing
Grow Season: Spring
Flower Season: ForeSummer
Color: White
Function: Screen
Spread: Non-spreading
Allergen: Non-allergenic
Invasive: Benign
Toxicity: Benign
Hardy: Semi-hardy
Water Use: Moderate Water Use

Citations:
2          Plants & Fungi: Melaleuca alternifolia
3.         Melaleuca Oil Report
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Melaleuca alternifolia