Analysis of five microsatellite loci in 500 Melaleuca alternifolia individuals produced 98 alleles that were useful for population genetic studies. Considerable levels of observed heterozygosity were recorded (HO = 0.724), with ≈ 90% of the variability being detected within populations. A low level of selfing (14%) was suggested to be the principal cause of excess homozygosity in a number of populations (overall FIS = 0.073). This study showed low levels of inbreeding in certain populations as well as a significant isolation-by-distance model. Only two groups of populations (Queensland and New South Wales) constituted different genetic provenances as a result of geographical isolation. The M. alternifolia data suggest that microsatellite loci did not always arise by a stepwise mutation process but that larger jumps in allele size may be involved in their evolution.