Robert Powell: Tree Pictures, South-Western Australia

Freshwater paperbark (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla

This is Perth’s commonest paperbark, typically associated with rivers and permanent lakes. It is often, however, confused with modong (Melaleuca preissiana), another common species more typical of shallow, winter-wet depressions.  Freshwater paperbark can be recognized by its leaves, which are 2-4 cm long and round in cross-section.  Those of modong are shorter and flat.

Freshwater paperbark tends to grow in damper spots than modong. In places where both species are present, freshwater paperbark grows nearer the water, or the wetland’s centre, often where the ground is seasonally flooded.  (It cannot, however, survive permanent flooding — as sometimes happens where water-levels are artificially raised by damming.)

Freshwater paperbark is well used by waterbirds, which nest in its horizontally forking branches or in the hollows that develop in older specimens. It is particularly favoured because, as previously mentioned, it often stands in water during winter and spring.

© Text and photographs: Robert Powell