1. It is a genus of plants that belong to the myrtle family Myrtaceae.
2. It has over 200 recognized species. Most of these are endemic to Australia.
3. The species are shrubs and trees growing (depending on species) to 2–30 m (6.6–98 ft) tall, often with flaky, exfoliating bark.
4. The leaves are evergreen, alternately arranged, ovate to lanceolate and broad, with an entire margin, dark green to grey-green in colour.
5. The flowers are produced in dense clusters along the stems.
6. The fruit is a small capsule containing numerous minute seeds.
7. Melaleuca plants are generally found in open forest, woodland or shrubland, particularly along watercourses and the edges of swamps.
8. One well-known melaleuca, Melaleuca alternifolia, is notable for its essential oil which is both anti-fungal, and antibiotic, while safely usable for topical applications. This is produced on a commercial scale, and marketed as Tea Tree Oil.
9. Scientific studies have shown that tea tree oil made from Melaleuca alternifolia is a highly effective topical antibacterial and antifungal, although it may be toxic when ingested internally in large doses or by children.
10. Australian Aborigines used the leaves traditionally for many medicinal purposes, including chewing the young leaves to alleviate headache and for other ailments.
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