Multiple trunks of melaleuca | Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida
Melaleuca is an invasive, exotic plant that is originally from Australia. It is sometimes called punk tree, white bottle-brush tree, or paper-bark tree.
This member of the Eucalyptus family has a characteristic camphor-like scent when the leaves are crushed. The flowers produce chemical compounds that cause respiratory problems for some people. Others think the blossoms - which resemble bottle-brushes - have a scent similar to mashed potatoes and gravy.
The trees spread rapidly by producing and storing many seeds. In fact, one tree is capable of producing as many as one million seeds per year. When the trees are stressed - such as by fire or frost - they release even more seeds. In some locations, Melaleuca can out-compete and replace as much as 50 acres of native vegetation per day. The seeds are dispersed by both wind and water, and quickly establish new stands.