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
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
Garden Themes: Urban, winter interest, parks, commercial, rain
Uses: Street tree, screen, windbreak, large hedge, border, green stormwater infrastructure, under powerlines
Type: Evergreen tree
Form: Round; may have weeping limbs at their tips
Size: 30' tall by 30' wide
Outstanding Feature(s): Flower, bark
Bark: Cream to gray, exfoliating
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 https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Melaleuca~linariifolia.
SelecTree. UFEI. "Melaleuca linariifolia Tree Record." 1995-2021. Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. Accessed on October 22, 2021, from https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/931.
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 https://ucanr.edu/sites/WUCOLS/Download_WUCOLS_IV_List/.
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.
Bark feature photo: "Melaleuca linariifolia bark" by Ethel Aardvark is licensed under Creative CommonsAttribution 3.0 Unported.
Flower detail: "Melaleuca linariifolia - Leaning Pine Arboretum - DSC05482" by Daderot is licensed under Creative CommonsCC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
Foliage detail: "Melaleuca linariifolia 2c" by Consultaplantas is licensed under Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
Street tree: "J20150602-0025—Melaleuca linariifolia—Albany (17846363604)" by John Rusk is licensed under Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic.
All other photos by TELCS.