Australian Plants

Many Australian plants are as unique as Australian animals.

Australia is a large continent covered by many different climatic regions, which determine the vegetation. Arid and semiarid regions in inland Australia cover the largest part – two thirds of the continent.


Northern Australia lies in the wet tropics, and east and south-east are in temperate climate. Much of southern and south-western Australia have Mediterranean climate, and in inland Victoria and Tasmania there are regions with alpine climate.
 
Snowgums at Navarre Plains, South of Lake St Clair
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Australian Plants in Arid and Semiarid Regions

Australian contient is very dry, and large parts, up to 70% of it regularly suffer from droughts. While in northern and eastern parts of Australia the climate is quite moist, in the inland and western parts of the continent huge areas are covered by deserts and semiarid grasslands and scrublands. Certain Australian plants are adapted to these areas.

The Breakaways, Painted Desert, Coober Peedy, South Australia, Australia, Pacific
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Australian Desert Plants
The arid environments  support some desert plants with amazing adaptations, like mulgas (Acacia aneuora), mallees (multistemmed eucalypts), desert wildflowers and hummock grasses, commonly known as Spinifex.

Plant Growing in Sand Dune
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Semiarid Grasslands and Woodlands
In the semiarid areas are grasslands that are dominated by Mitchell grass, tussock and blue grasses. In southern parts, where the climate is a bit cooler, the grasslands are replaced by scrublands.

The Dead-Flat Grasslands of the Barkly Tablelands, Northern Territory, Australia, Pacific
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Australian Plants in Tropical Regions

Northern Australia lies in tropics and is affected by monsoonal rains and tropical cyclones. The most famous vegetation zone in the tropical climate is of course the tropical rainforest. But in fact, tropical rainforest only grows in pockets and a lot of the area in the tropics is covered by tropical woodlands. It gets very wet during the Wet Season, but it is also very dry during the Dry Season.

Rainforest Canopy, Cape Tribulation National Park, Queensland, Australia
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Wet Tropics - Tropical Rainforest
The so-called Wet Tropics, where the tropical rainforests grow, have tropical rainforest climate - it rains a lot even during the Dry Season. This makes the conditions important for plant life - water, heat and light - the best of all biomes on the Earth, and consequently a myriad of species of tropical rainforest plants like evergreen, broad-leaved, up to 60m-tall trees, vines, epiphytes, ferns and orchids all grow literally on top of each other to reach up to the light. There is only so much space and it is dark under the canopy. The competition is high and it's all about reaching to the light.

Daintree Rainforest in Cape Tribulation National Park, Queensland, Australia, Pacific
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Dry Tropics - Tropical Woodlands
Yes, we have areas that are actually called Dry tropics such as the area around Townsville in north Queensland. Other areas in the tropics that are not covered in tropical rainforest but tropical woodlands include much of the Kimberley region in Western Australia, and Gulf Savannah and Cape York peninsula in northern Queensland. Open woodlands contain plants like eucalypts, pandanus trees, acacias, paperbark trees (Melaleuca spp), she-oaks (Casuarina spp), and sometimes boab trees (mainly in northern Western Australia and Northern Territory).

Open Woodland, Undara Lava Tubes National Park, Queensland, Australia, Pacific
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Australian Plants in Temperate Regions

Most of south-eastern, and some of south-western Australia have temperate climate. Like in the tropics, where there is enough rain, temperate rainforests grow in pockets. And where there is not enough rain, temperate forests grow.

Road Through Rainforest, Yarra Ranges National Park, Victoria, Australia, Pacific
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Australian Plants in Temperate Rainforests
There are places in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and western Tasmania, where the climate is wet enough that temperate rainforests grow in pockets. Temperate rainforest plants include different types of ferns, mosses, beech, cycads, celery-top pine, sassafras and Huon Pine.

Rainforest, Dandenong Ranges, Victoria, Australia, Pacific
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Temperate Forests and Woodlands
But like in the tropics, the rainforests are in minority and most places are covered by temperate forests. In the south-eastern forests, the most common trees are eucalypts, while the South western Western Australia is known for its sclerophyll forests with the endemic karri and jarrah trees.

Karri Forest, Warren National Park, Western Australia, Australia, Pacific
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Australian Plants in Temperate Woodlands
And like in the tropics, where the climate gets even drier, there are temperate woodlands. These are often a bit inland, and they contain species like eucalyptus trees, grass trees, casuarinas (she-oaks), acacias, and flowering plants such as waratahs, banksias and bottle brush plants. We also have the beautiful but introduced jacaranda tree and poinciana tree).

Alpine Vegetation

Alpine areas are rare in Australia but they do exist in the high altitudes in Tasmania, ACT, eastern Victoria and southern New South Wales. It is the coldest climate in Australia, and the only biome where it normally snows during the winter.

Landscape View of Mountains of High Country from Razor Back Through Snow Gum Tree
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The alpine vegetation changes with altitude. On lower slopes snow gums dominate, while higher up dwarf plants take over. Highest up, above the tree line where it gets too cold for trees to grow, mosses and low grasses take over. The alpine areas are also known for beautiful wildflower displays during the spring and summer months.

Landscape of Snow-Covered Snow Gums, Seen from Mount Buller, Victoria, Australia
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Coastal Plant Communities

Beaches and Mangrove Communities 
Australia has also got a lot of beautiful sandy beaches lined by palm trees. And it has got some muddy beaches with thick mangrove forests. These may be less attractive than the sandy beaches, however mangroves are very complex and important communities consisting of a lot of species of plants, acting as nurseries or being a habitat for a lot of animals (from tiny crabs, oysters, fish and snakes to large crocodiles and everything between), as filters for water pollution, and as preventers of coastal erosion.

Aquatic Split-Level View with Fish and Mangroves, Australia
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Many mangrove communities were cleared in the early days, before we started to understand their importance.
 


















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