Singapore Government Logo

A Singapore Government Agency Website

Melaleuca cajuputi


Melaleuca cajuputi Powell

Family Name: Myrtaceae
Synonyms: Melaleuca leucadendron, Melaleuca quinquenervia, Melaleuca leucadendra
Common Name: Gelam, Paper Bark Tree, Kayu Puteh, Tea Tree, Paper-bark, Cajeput, Cajeput Oil Tree, White Tree, White Wood, 白千层


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree (Big (>30m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular


Native Distribution Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, south-western Papua New Guinea, and northern Australia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Coastal Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Presumed Nationally Extinct (NEx))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is an evergreen tree up to 40 m tall.
Trunk The trunk is spongy to the touch. Bark is white and flaky.
Foliage Its alternate, stalked leaves have leathery leaf blades that are elliptic to lance-shaped, greyish-green, and 3-12.5 by 1.1-3.75 cm, with distinct longitudinal veins.
Flowers Its flowering shoot is a densely-flowered single spike, or 2-3 together, with each being 3.5-9 by 2-2.5 cm. Its tiny flowers have white, greenish-white or cream petals.
Fruit Its fruits are cup-shaped to round, 3-3.5 by 3.5-4 mm, and contain many tiny seeds.
Habitat Mainly found in low swampy and regularly flooded coastal plains, often behind the true mangrove zone where it may form pure stands or mixed stands.
Associated Fauna It is a known food plant for the caterpillars of the atlas moth (Attacus atlas), Clethrogyna turbata, and Strepsicrates rhothia. The flowers are often visited by the olive-backed sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) and crimson sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja).
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed.
Etymology Greek "melas", black. Greek "leukos", white, referring to the colours on the bark of the trunk and branches. Malay "kayu", wood. Malay "putih" white, referring to the white papery bark of the species.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb or Spice)
Medicinal: The leaves are used to distill 'cajeputi oil' or 'tea tree oil' which has medicinal and antiseptic uses such as medical ointments. It is used to treat gout by the Burmese. in Southeast Asia, it is used for relieving rheumatism and joint pains, as well as pain killer. In Malaysia, it is used in the treatment of colic and cholera. In Indonesia, the oil is used externally for burns, colic, cramps, earache, headache, skin diseases, toothache and wounds. Internally, it is used to induce sweating as a stimulant and as an antispasmodic. In Philippines, the leaves are used to treat asthma.
Timber & Products: The timber is hard and has a uniform texture and is popular for use in caving, cabinet work, boat building and fire wood. The bark flakes are used for insulation and for stuffing pillows.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Landscape Uses Suitable for Roadsides, Parks & Gardens, Small Gardens, Coastal, Riverine, Pond / Lake / River

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bee-Attracting, Bird-Attracting (Flowers), Caterpillar Moth Food Plant (Leaves, Associated with (Attacus atlas, Clethrogyna turbata, and Strepsicrates rhothia.)
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Waterlogged Soils
Propagation Method Seed


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Silver / Grey
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Lanceolate, Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Parallel
Foliar Margin Entire
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody, Twisted, Single
Bark Colour(s) White
Mature Bark Texture Peeling / Flaking / Papery
Stem Type & Modification Woody

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) White, Cream / Off-White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flowering Period A Few Times Yearly

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule
Mature Seed Colour(s) Brown
Seed Description Very small and round. About 2mill/kg


References Tan, P.Y., R.T. Corlett and H.T.W. Tan (Editors). 2010. A Field Guide to the Native Garden @ HortPark: an Urban Oasis of the Native Flora and Fauna of Singapore. Singapore: Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (National Parks Board) and National University of Singapore. 124pp

Image Repository



Master ID 1726
Species ID 3019
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 14 October 2021.