This new 190 XPF stamp issue features a tree familiar to all New Caledonians. The paperbark tea tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), known locally as niaouli, is a member of the Myrtaceae family and flourishes in Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, Madagascar and Africa.
Niaoulis have a very distinctive flaking, whitish papery bark and are mainly found on the flatlands stretching along the west coast of the Main Island, on Belep, the Isle of Pines and Maré.
Trees can reach a height of 25-30 metres and grow happily in both wetland and savanna environments. Their thick, spongy, multi-layered bark can hold considerable moisture, making them highly resistant to both drought and bushfires.
The scented white or cream (more rarely red or yellow) flowers grow in bottlebrush-like spikes; they are loaded with nectar and highly attractive to birds and bees. The cup-shaped, woody fruit are borne in dense clusters along the branches, and the leaves are evergreen and very fragrant. Niaouli bark is often used as a covering for the walls and roofs of traditional Kanak huts and as a lining for ground ovens.
Niaouli essential oil, distilled from the leaves, is known for its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can be used to make an inhalation to treat colds and bronchitis, as a rub to ease muscle and joint pain or as a spray or diffuser to freshen and scent the air; a few drops added to hot bath water ensures a fragrant, relaxing soak.