The broad-leaved paperbark is a medium to tall tree. It is the only local Melaleuca species which belongs to a mostly tropical group with larger leaves. As with many (but not all) other Melaleuca species it has whitish papery bark, rather like many fine sheets of tissue paper stuck together, hence the common name.
Melaleuca belongs in the large family Myrtaceae, which is a major plant family in Australia represented by such other significant groups of Australian plants as eucalypts, bloodwoods and lilly pillys, among others. All members of this family have aromatic oils in their leaves, which in some cases are used commercially (for example, eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil).
The specific name “quinquenervia” is derived from Latin meaning “five-veined” and refers to the veins on the leaves.
Spikes of small cream coloured flowers with conspicuous stamens, which give the spikes a “bottle-brush” appearance, appear predominantly throughout autumn and winter. These are utilised by nectar-feeding birds such as various Honeyeaters and Lorikeets.
Paperbarks occur naturally in swamps and love moist, sandy conditions, such as those in Centennial Parklands. Sir Joseph Maiden, Director Royal Botanic Gardens from 1896 to 1924, considered paperbarks to be “shapely, shading objects of sylvan beauty.” He introduced paperbarks into Centennial Parklands, possibly his most visibly powerful planting contribution.
Where can the Broad-leaved Paperbark be seen in the Parklands?
Paperbark Grove on Parkes Drive, between Grand Drive and Paddington Gates. Planted in 1899. Centennial Parklands is the only place in Australia where paperbarks have been planted as an avenue. The planting follows a natural watercourse and has matured to form a grand archway.
Below Snake Bank, between Busbys Pond and the Mission fields. Planted in 1902 as a wind break in an informal four-row planting.
Lily Pond. Mass planting dating back to 1896.
Lachlan Swamp. Although only 30 years old, these paperbarks are just as big as those planted around Lily Pond as they were planted in ideal swampy conditions.
Maidens Row behind Kensington Pond. Planted in 1999 as a tribute to Joseph Maiden.