Biodiversity in Belize
Biological Diversity in Belize
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Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize


Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake.


Melaleuca quinquenervia (Syn.: M. leucadendron L.) Is a native from eastern Australia through Malaysia and Burma. Currently it is widely introduced throughout the tropics including the Caribbean and Central America. The species has become a major pest in Florida (Read more at this fact sheet).

Commonly forms forest communities on swampy ground, even under brackish conditions. Its thick flaky bark makes it fire resistant.

Its wordlwide distribution is partly due to the fact that once, the tree was recommended for salt swamps to subdue "malarial vapors." Also it would "dry up" swamps. But important also are the many other uses the tree has. The tree is the source of oil of Cajeput or Tea Tree Oil, amongst other things is used as a mosquito repellent, and effective also against lice and fleas. The wood, durable under ground and water, is valued for many uses.

Melaleuca quinquenervia

In Belize the tree is widespread and probably was introduced because of one or more of its many uses. Not surprisingly it is usually found near human settlements.

The species has not (yet) become the pest as in the Florida Everglades. But the tree is well established and dispersing. There is certainly a need to monitor the species.

Up to today (2003), I am familiar with 4 main (and oftern very dense) stands of the species:

  • Monkey River (Toledo district); in swamp forest just behind the beach on an old homestead.
  • All Pines (Stann Creek district); in swamp forest just behind the beach on an old homestead.
  • Gales point (Belize District); in swamp forest between Southern Lagoon and the Sea.
  • Ladyville (Belize District); in swamp forest next to the Belize River.

Elsewhere the tree occurs as individual specimens. Noticeable in savanna along the Western Highway. Planted in Belize City and possibly elswhere.


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Last modified: September 19, 2003