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Melaleuca linariifolia

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Easily unnoticeable but offers so much more when looking at the details, we should be seeing more of Melaleuca linariifolia in public landscapes. Locally, they can be seen on the West Valley College campus, in medians along Allendale Avenue (a main entry point to the college) and as street trees in downtown Los Gatos. Generally, M. linariifolia are unassuming, trees too easily missed without giving much thought to their appearance. We can look to the common name, flaxleaf paperbark, for its first interesting feature. At any time of the year, the bark has a shredded paper appearance, highly textural on the trunk and main limbs. Up lit, the contrasting white, tan and gray highlight this tree's structure. Winter gardens will benefit too from this textural display contrasting to the fine leaves of its canopy.

That canopy offers several other benefits. Being a dense evergreen, M. linariifolia provides deep shade in summer and rainfall capture in the winter, slowing rains from becoming runoff. Its fern-like fine texture suggests delicacy, but there really is not anything fragile about this tree: drought, heat, sun, and urban conditions contribute to its tolerances. In summer, drifts of puffy blooms turn these trees from green to white in a short amount of time, like waking up to the first snowfall in winter. As with most if not all species within the Myrtaceae family, bees love the blooms, lending themselves to pollinator gardens.

West Valley College Campus Location: Melaleuca linariifolia

Student Services, Campus Center Walk

Lat: 37°15'51.38"N

Long: 122° 0'43.46"W

Bay Area specimen with great close up footage of bark, inflorescence, and fruit.



Botanical Name: Melaleuca linariifolia


Linariifolia: Narrow leaves

Common Name: Flaxleaf paperbark; snow-in-summer

Family Name: Myrtaceae

Origin: Australia

design considerations

Positioning: Background

Garden Themes: Urban, winter interest, parks, commercial, rain

Uses: Street tree, screen, windbreak, large hedge, border, green stormwater infrastructure, under powerlines

identifying characteristics

Type: Evergreen tree

Form: Round; may have weeping limbs at their tips

Texture: Fine

Size: 30' tall by 30' wide

Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, bark

Bark: Cream to gray, exfoliating


  • Type: Simple

  • Arrangement: Opposite

  • Shape: Linear

  • Margin: Entire

  • Color: Light green when new turning blue-green to gray-green

  • Surface: Glabrous, slightly dull

Flower: Summer. Showy, fragrant, and white inflorescence primarily of stamens

Fruit: Autumn. Small, cylindrical, woody, gray capsules persist on limbs.

cultural requirements, tolerances & problems

Sunset Zones: 9, 13-24; H1

USDA Zones: 10

Light: Full sun

WUCOLS SF Bay Area Hydro Zone: Low


  • Texture: Sand, loam, clay

  • Moisture Retention: Well-drained. Accepts periods of dryness

  • pH: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline

Tolerances: Drought, heat, salt

Problems: Persistent soil moisture may induce rot; may be messy with flower, foliage, and bark drop

  • Branch Strength: Medium

  • Insects: Not recorded at time of posting

  • Disease: Chlorosis, phytophthora, root rot

citations & attributions

Bayton, R. (2019). The Royal Horticultural Society's the Gardener's Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Norris Brenzel, K. (Ed.). (2012). The New Sunset Western Garden Book. New York: Time Home Entertainment, Inc.

PlantNET. "Melaleuca linariifolia Sm. Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Sydney. Accessed on October 22, 2021 from

SelecTree. UFEI. "Melaleuca linariifolia Tree Record." 1995-2021. Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. Accessed on October 22, 2021, from

Water Use Classification of Landscape Species. "WUCOLS IV Plant List." University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Davis. Accessed on October 22, 2021, from

Wunderlin, R. P., B. F. Hansen, A. R. Franck, and F. B. Essig. (2021). "Melaleuca linariifolia." Institute of Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.


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