Melaleuca (family Myrtaceae) A genus of woody shrubs or small trees that have opposite, entire leaves. The flowers are regular, bisexual, cymose or solitary, with 4 or 5 sepals and a similar number of petals. There are numerous stamens in tufts opposite the petals. The ovary is inferior, with several locules and a long, simple style. The fruit is a fleshy berry or dry capsule, and the seeds have little endosperm. The plants exhibit xerophytic (see XEROPHYTE) characters (e.g. thickened leaves and sub-epidermal oil glands). Many are halophytic (salt tolerant) but they are typically present in tropical areas that experience heavy summer rainfall, and occur in many Eucalyptus forests in areas of low fertility. Some species are importan for aromatic oils (e.g. M. cajuputi gives cajeput oil). There are about 150 species, of which most occur only in Australia, although they are cultivated elsewhere for their flowers. Melaleuca and the related Callistemon are commonly known as bottle-brushes.
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