Melaleuca species occur throughout Australia, with a few species extending into Malesia and a few endemic species in New Caledonia. In Australia they are important elements of the monsoon woodlands, southern and eastern heathlands, and mallee shrublands in the southern arid zone. Species have potential for forestry, essential oil production, degraded-land reclamation, farm tree/windbreak plantings, and ornamental horticulture, among other applications.
To set the genus in context, putatively related genera have been studied also (i.e. Callistemon, Conothamnus, Phymatocarpus and Regelia). This has indicated that some generic re-alignments are required. The research will be delivering a contemporary view on one of the larger complexes of Australian plants (about 300 species are involved) and will provide a sound foundation for further studies. Studies of the essential oils are being undertaken in collaboration with Joe Brophy, University of New South Wales. Phylogenetic studies of the generic group to which Melaleuca belongs are being made by Pauline Ladiges, University of Melbourne, with whom contact is being maintained.
The taxonomic treatment of all the species of Melaleuca in a single work will be of real value to the scientific and general communities; currently the only such work is Bentham's 1867 account that covers 90-odd species whereas current work indicates that there are about 230 species in the genus as presently circumscribed (260+ species with the inclusion of Callistemon). The production of a handbook giving basic information on the botany, distribution, chemistry, etc of the genus will stimulate research on this fascinatingly diverse group of plants. It is envisaged that the text of the handbook will be available in an accompanying CD-ROM version that will include an interactive identification system.
Cowley, K.J., Quinn, F.C., Barlow, B.A. and Craven, L.A. (1990) - Contributions to a revision of Melaleuca (Myrtaceae): 7-10. Aust. Syst. Bot. 3: 165-202.
Craven, L.A. and Barlow, B.A. (1997) - New taxa and new combinations in Melaleuca (Myrtaceae). Novon 7: 113-119.
Brophy, J.J., Goldsack, R.J., Forster, P.I., Craven, L.A. and Lepschi, B.J. (in press) - The leaf essential oils of the Australian members of the genus Callistemon (Myrtaceae). J. Essential Oil Research
Craven, L.A. (in press) - Behind the names: the botany of Tea tree, Cajuput and Niaouli. [book chapter in work on Tea tree oil]
Craven, L.A. (in press) - A result of the 1996 Mueller Commemorative Expedition to northwestern Australia: Melaleuca triumphalis, sp. nov. (Myrtaceae). Muelleria
Craven, L.A. and Dawson, J.W. (in press) - Callistemon of New Caledonia transferred to Melaleuca (Myrtaceae). Adansonia