Plants of
South Australia
Melaleuca cuticularis
Western Swamp-paperbark
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Common names

Western Swamp-paperbark


Melaleuca, from the Greek 'melas', meaning black and 'leucon', meaning white, alluding to the contrasting colours of the bark of the first species described, which is said to have had white branches against a black trunk. Cuticularis 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.

Distribution and status

Found only in the eastern side of Kangaroo Island in South Australia growing in sand or clay in winter-wet depressions, salt lakes, coastal areas and watercourses. Also found in Western Australia. Native. Very rare in South Australia. Common in Western Australia.
Herbarium region: Kangaroo Island
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tall shrub or tree to 12 m high with trunk covered in a pale papery bark, on rigid and twisted branches. Leaves linear to oblong, grey-green to dark green to 12 mm long and 3 mm wide. Inflorescence in clusters of 3, with white or cream flowers located on the ends of the branches and surrounded by overlapping brown bracts. Flowering between September and January. Fruits are grey-brown star-shaped woody capsule to 11 mm long, persisting on the branches. Seeds are tiny brown rectangular or pyramidal seed to 1.2 mm long and 0.5 mm wide. Seed embryo type is folded.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between January and December.

Collect capsules that are large and hard, with closed valves.

In 2016 a seed collection was made from the single known roadside population on Kangaroo island with the support of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership Place the capsules in a tray and leave to dry for at least two weeks or until all the valves are open. Then place all the capsules into a bucket with a lid if possible and shake hard to dislodge the seeds from the capsules. Use a sieve to separate the seeds from the capsules. The fine material will contain the seeds and other flowering material. It is very difficult to separate the seeds from this other material as the size, shape and weight are very similar. However the seeds will be a darker brown. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. From one collection, the seed viability was high, at 100%. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
412,500 (26.1 g)
412,500 (26.1 g)
Kangaroo Island
1-Sep-2004 +5°C, -18°C
BGA6,100 (2.28 g)1015-Dec-2016DJD3553
Kangaroo Island
1-Nov-2017100%+5°C, -18°C, -80°C
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.
Germination table: