Gardening Articles by Russell Fransham

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Swamp Paperbark, Melaleuca quinquenervia
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Swamp Paperbark, Melaleuca quinquenervia

From the same habitat comes the Swamp Paperbark, Melaleuca quinquenervia. You see it everywhere in Australia around billabongs and rivers. This is a more chunky, dramatic tree with thick, soft, creamy bark like sponge rubber that peels off in sheets. It is related to pohutukawa, tea tree and bottlebrushes, with creamy white fluffy flowers and leathery Eucalyptus-scented leaves.

It will grow in water, boggy ground or dry soil and is very wind-hardy. The spongy bark is water-proof and carries oxygen to the entire root system like a snorkel, so it can grow anywhere regardless of soil conditions.

It seldom grows taller than about five metres in NZ conditions but in the tropics can be enormous.

The billowing heavy foliage is greyish-green but older leaves turn rich red in cold weather. The swamp paperbark is always an interesting gnarly shape. It makes a wonderfully sculptured specimen tree and its white branches can look very spooky and atmospheric by moonlight.

Because it will thrive in the most appalling soils it's a very useful one for roadside screening and blends in well with native trees. It flowers off and on all year long and our native birds feed on the abundant nectar.

So if you are struggling with boggy ground, these two strikingly attractive bird-tucker trees could solve the problem.

A couple of tough all-rounders with no bad habits.

(Copyright Russell Fransham 2004)