Melaleuca has over 300 varieties. Melaleuca alternifolia is most common and thrives in the northeastern region of New South Wales, Australia. It is a small scrub-like tree that is part of the Myrtaceae family. It can grow to about 20 feet (7 m) with a bushy crown and whitish, papery bark. This is one of many trees that are commonly referred to as paperbark trees due to the appearance of their outer layer.

Melaleuca is a combination of two Greek words: melas ("black") and leukos ("white"), in reference to the contrasting black trunk and young white stems or branches that are characteristic of many species in this genus. The species name alternifolia is derived from Latin and means "having alternate leaves" (i.e., leaves on one side of a stem, joining the stem at nodes between the leaf nodes on the other side).

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