Queenslandian Tropical Rain Forest

These are found in patches along the wetter parts of the northeastern coast of Queensland although they only reach their maximum floristic diversity in stands between Cooktown and Ingham. However, because of the complexity of these forests it is difficult to assign broadly recognizable forest types and there is a tendency for certain species, such as Lindsayomyrtus brachyandrus or the endemic Backhousia bancroftii (Myrtaceae) to monopolize the upper canopy of small stands. Nevertheless, these forest support a multitude of other canopy trees including many endemic taxa such as Aceratium doggrellii (Elaeocarpaceae), Agathis atropurpurea (Araucariaceae), Alphitonia whitei (Rhamnaceae), Argyrodendron peralatum (Sterculiaceae), Austromuellera trinervia (Proteaceae), Balanops australiana (Balanopaceae), Beilschmiedia bancroftii (Lauraceae), Blepharocarya involucrigera (Blepharocaryaceae), Canarium muelleri (Burseraceae), Doryphora aromatica (Monimiaceae), Ficus destruens (Moraceae), Flindersia acuminata (Rutaceae), Geissois biagiana (Cunoniaceae), Idiospermum australiense (Idiospermaceae), Sphenostemon lobosporus (Sphenostemonaceae), Toechima daemeliana (Sapindaceae) and Xanthostemon chrystanthus (Myrtaceae). Several tree species, such as Dysoxylum schiffneri, are caulicarpous. At mid canopy level the endemic palm Licuala ramsayi (Arecaceae) is often the main component but other palms such as the endemic Archontophoenix alexandrae or Oraniopsis appendiculata may be present together with tree ferns (mainly species of Cyathea). The ground flora is largely dominated by regenerating trees and shrubs such as the endemic Hodgkinsonia frutescens (Rubiaceae). Vines are also conspicuous with species such as Bambusa moreheadiana, Rhaphidophora australasica and the endemic Austrobaileya scandens (Austrobaileyaceae). Equally, epiphytes are also prolific particularly ferns such as Asplenium australasicum, with fronds up to 50 cm long, the endemic Platycerium superbum (Polypodiaceae) and orchids such as Bulbophyllum and Dendrobium species.

Queenslandian ‘Dry’ Rain Forests

Evidence of former extensive rain forest in northern Australia comes from the relict occurrences of various rain forest species in semi-arid zones. These can be found in various inland areas of Queensland such as near Injune. Cadellia pentastylis is often the sole dominant but endemic trees such as Brachychiton australis, B. grandiflorus, B. rupestris (Sterculiaceae) and Macropteranthes leichardtii (Combretaceae) may be present in some stands. Shrub layer species, which range in height from 1-3 m, include Alectryon subdentatus, Canthium odoratum, Elaeodendron australis, Geijera parviflora, Heterodendron diversofolium, Notelaea microcarpa, Pittosporum phylliraeoides, Spartothamnella juncea and the endemic Backhousia angustifolia (Myrtaceae) and Hovea longipes (Fabaceae). Lianas are common with species such as Cassus opaca, Jasminum simplicifolium, Parsonia eucalyptophyllum and the endemic Marsdenia microlepis (Apocynaceae), but epiphytes are less so as compared with more typical rainforest but may include the orchid Cymbidium canaliculatum. The herbaceous layer contains grasses such as Ancistrachne uncinulatum, Stipa ramossissima and the sedges Carex inversa and Cyperus gracilis.

Queenslandian Ironbark Forest

Ironbarks are Eucalyptus species of the sub-genus Symphyomyrtus and distinguished by their deeply furrowed, dark-coloured bark. They usually occupy soils of low fertility and cover large tracts of eastern Queensland from the coast and across the Grand Divide. They are mainly dominated by either the endemic Eucalyptus cullenii or the endemic E. drepanophyllum (Myrtaceae), but factors that delimit these species is not clearly understood and there is considerable overlap in their distributions. Eucalyptus drepanophyllum is the most common species in eastern Queensland extending over vast areas, and in favourable areas it can reach height of 30 m or so. Other associated eucalypts include the endemic E. decorticans and E. whitei. In the under story small trees or shrubs are rare but may include Erythrophleum chlorostachys, Grevillea striata, Hakea lorea, Petalostigma pubescens and the endemic Acacia longispicata (Fabaceae) and Lysicarpus angustifolius (Myrtaceae). At ground level the grass is always dense with species of Bothriocloa ewartiana, Heteropogon contortus and Themeda austalisEucalyptus cullenii is less extensive and only dominates small patches on the Cape York Peninsula mainly on the Great Divide. It can reach heights of 12 m. Associate species include other eucalypts such as E. dichromophloia, E. tetrodonta and the endemic E. staigeriana (Myrtaceae). In central Queensland, forest dominated by Angophora costata often forms mosaics and ecotonal associations with ironbark communities. These include various other trees particularly the endemic eucalypts Eucalyptus cloëziana and E. tenuipes and can form a closed canopy up to 30 m high. A small tree or large shrub layer is usually present with species such as Acacia complanata, Grevillea longistyla, Leptospermum attenuatum, Notelaea longifolia and the endemic Acacia flavescens (Fabaceae), Boronia bipinnata (Rutaceae) and Dodonaea vestita. The herbaceous layer, on the other hand, is usually poorly developed with just scattered plants of Cymbopogon refractus and Triodia mitchellii.

Queenslandian Box Woodlands

These, like ironbark forests, are also dominated by eucalypts of the sub-genus Symphyomyrtus, but box trees are usually distinguished by their small boles. They also tend to occur in dryer areas and occupy a zone, which separates the wetter coastal areas from the arid interior. Some woodland extends to the coast but here they are mainly confined to rain shadow areas. In Queensland they are typically dominated by either Eucalyptus normantonensis or one of the endemic species: E. brownii, E. leptophlebia, E. microneura or E. orgadophila (Myrtaceae). However, these species are all closely related and although they tend to occur in latitudinal sequence there are some overlaps which lead to the intergradation of species and the development of ecotonal associations. In addition to levels of rainfall, soil type also plays a part in their distribution. Eucalyptus leptophlebia and E. microneura, which can reach heights of 15 m, occur on Red and Yellow Earths and have Erythrophleum chlorostachys as a regular associate. Eucalyptus orgadophila forms woodlands up to 16 m high and can be found on either basalt outcrops or Black Earth. Eucalyptus normantonensis forms smaller woodlands up to about 13 m high and are mainly found on alluvial flats, while E. brownii typically occupies lower slopes adjacent to watercourses or in depressions on fine-textured solondized-solonetz soils, but these woodlands are mainly open with trees reaching about 16 m tall.

Queenslandian Acacia shirleyi Woodland

Woodlands dominated by Acacia shirleyi are characteristic of rocky outcrops and steep slopes mainly in the tropics. Associated trees may include various eucalypts, which in Queensland comprise species such as Eucalyptus citriodora, E. crebra, E. exserta and the endemic E. howittiana (Myrtaceae). Shrubs are usually absent and the herbaceous layer mostly comprises grasses. These include Aristida caputmedusae, Cympopogon refractus and the endemic Cleistochloa subjuncea (Poaceae).

Queenslandian Acacia harpophylla Woodland

These woodlands are largely restricted to Queensland and mainly confined to clay soils on flat or undulating terrain. Acacia harpophylla may occur in pure stands with a few under story shrubs such as Carissa ovata. However, it is usually found in association with other trees such as Eucalyptus microtheca, E. populnea, E. thozetiana, Terminalia oblongata or the endemic Eucalyptus cambageana (Myrtaceae). Typical under storey species in the north include the endemic Brachychiton rupestris (Sterculiaceae) and Macroteranthes leichhardtii (Combretaceae). Grasses of the genera Chloris, Paspalidium and Sporobolos usually dominate the ground layer.

Queenslandian Cape York Heath and Scrub

Sometimes referred to as ‘wet desert’ because of the low stature of this vegetation but occurring in a climate where you would normally expect to find rain forest. However, the soils are nutrient poor and have particularly low levels of phosphorus. The vegetation forms a mosaic of open and closed communities. In open areas there are patches of scrub mainly dominated by Banksia dentata and the endemic Melaleuca saligna (Myrtaceae) and Thryptomene oligandra (Myrtaceae). In other areas they comprise a form of closed heath no more than about 2 m tall dominated by Fenzlia obtusa and Leptospermum fabricia, but also including shrubs like Choriceras tricorne, Jacksonia thesioides, Sinoga lysicephala and the endemic Acacia calyculata (Fabaceae), Boronia bowmanii (Rutaceae), Morinda reticulata (Rubiaceae) and Neoroepera banksii (Picrodendraceae). In the herbaceous layer Schoenus sparteus and Xanthorrhoea johnsonii are the most common species, but also noteworthy is the presence of the three insectivorous plants Byblis liniflora, Nepenthes mirabilis and Utricularia chrysantha. Heath and scrub also replaces rain forest on mountains such as Mount Bellenden-Kev and Mount Finnegan. Here the characteristic species include Agapetes meiniana, the endemic Dracophyllum sayeri (Epacridaceae), Leptospermum wooroonooran (Myrtaceae) and Rhododendron lochae (Ericaceae), together with species of Austromyrtus, Balanops, Bubbia, Drimys, Orites and Quintinia. The two members of Ericaceae (Agapetes and Rhododendron) provide affinities with the floras of New Guinea and Asia, while Dracophyllum provides links with southeastern Australia and New Zealand. Banksia dentata is the only species of Banksia to occur in the tropics and extends into New Guinea.

Queenslandian Heaths of Rocky Outcrops (Glasshouse Mountains)

Heaths can be found in many rocky situations where the soil is too thin to support trees. The Glasshouse Mountains in southeastern Queensland are largely composed of volcanic plugs of trachyte. On the steep slopes a number of herbaceous communities have developed. The most important plant species are the two ferns Cheilanthes tenuifolia and Culcita dubia, and two endemic angiosperms Borya septentrionalis (Boryaceae) and Micraira subulifolia (Poaceae). Shrubs, particularly Calytrix tetragona and Leptospermum brackyandrum, become establised in the herbaceous patches, while other common species include Acacia pravissima, Jacksonia scoparia and the endemic Keraudrenia lanceolata (Malvaceae).

Queenslandian Dichanthium (bluegrass) Grassland

These grasslands can be dominated by several species of Dichanthium and are usually found in tropical or sub-tropical zones. In Queensland the main species are D. sericeum and D. tenuiculum. Grasslands dominated by D. sericeum occur mainly in southeastern Queensland extending from Darling Downs inland to about the 500 mm isohyet. They differ from more northerly grasslands in the presence of winter growing species such as Stipa aristiglumis and many annual forbs. Other grasses may include Aristida latifolia, Bothriochloa erianthioides, Heteropogon contortus and in the dryer areas species of the Australian generic endemic Astrebla such as A. lappacea (Poaceae). There are also a number of rare Queensland endemics such as the grass Dichanthium queenslandicum (Poaceae) and the composites Picris evae, Stemmacantha australis and Trioncinia retroflexa (Asteraceae). Dichanthium tenuiculum grasslands occur in wetter areas in the north from the Carpentaria Plains eastwards. They often include a second tier of smaller grasses such as Bothriochloa ewartiana, Brachyachne convergens and Panicum decomposition. A third layer may also be present containing small forbs like Alysicarpus indica, Crotalaria crassipes and Rhynchosia minima.

Fraser Island Coastal Sand Dunes

Located on the southern coast of Queensland, Fraser Island represents the largest sand island in the world, and in addition to the typical sand dune vegetation, the more stable areas support rainforest, eucalyptus forest, mangrove forests, wallum (a type of Australian shrubland), peat swamps and coastal heaths.

The open dunes supported the following vegetation types:

Pioneer Zone
Here the common pioneer species included Canavalia obtusifolia, Carpobrotus glaucescens, Ipomoea pes-caprae, Ischaemum triticeum, Scaevola calendulacea and Spinifex hirsutus. These were followed by a semi-stable zone comprising Eragrostis interrupta, Scirpus nodosus, Stackhousia spathulata and Zoysia macrantha.

Mobile Dunes
On parts of the island there are (or were) stretches of rounded, mobile dunes supporting sparse patches of the sand binding succulent Sesuvium portulacastrum.

Semi-Stable Dunes
Where a degree of stability has developed trees of Casuarina equisetifolia become established together with various species of Pandanus but the blow-outs are mainly colonised by Scirpus nodosus. Other species included Oenothera drummondii.

Stable Dunes
Further from the shore where the dunes can reach heights of up to 30 m a much more varied vegetation occurs. Here stunted bushes and trees dominate the vegetation with common species including Alphitonia excelsa, Austromyrtus dulcis, Canthium coprosmoides and Persoonia virgata.

Freshwater Seepage Zones
In the pools and wet sand between the foredunes an interesting vegetation comprising Casuarina equisetifolia (coast she oak) together with various sedges and grasses such as Carex pumila, Cladium junceum, Cyperus laevigatus, Cyperus polystachyos, Eleocharis equsetina, Ischaemum triticeum, Paspalum orbiculare, Schoenus nitens, Scirpus nodosus and Triglochin striata have developed. The attractive Hibiscus diversifolius occurs here scrambling over the vegetation. Growing in the pools the ‘water lilies’ Nymphaea capensis and Villarsia reniformis occurred and in the damp patches surrounding the pools small plants of Bacopa monniera were abundant. 

In more established areas the following vegetation types have been described:

Dune Heathlands
These attractive heaths produce prodigious displays of colourful flowers with shrubs like Phebalium woombye and Ricinocarpus pinifolius producing clouds of flowers in August and September. Other species include Acacia ulicifolia, Boronia falcifolia, Boronia rosmarinifolia, Daviesia latifolia, Epacris pulchella, Gompholobium latifolium, Hovea longifolia, Jacksonia scoparia, Patersonia servicea, Persoonia virgata, Pultenaea villosa and Sowerbea juncea.

Lophostemon confertus - Syncarpia hillii Vine Forest.
Interior zones support so-called vine forests dominated by Lophostemon confertus and Syncarpia hillii.  The latter species (Syncarpia hillii) is virtually endemic to Fraser Island and the nearby Cooloola Sandmass. It is of considerable interest in being a very primitive member of the Myrtaceae family which many species including the eucalypts are thought to have evolved.  Other trees include Agathis robusta and Araucauria cunninghamii, while in the under storey typical ‘scrub’ trees include Archontophoenix cunninghamiana and Backhousia myrtifolia. Another interesting feature is the presence of Angiopteris evecta (king fern). This ancient tree fern once had global distribution and has a fossil record in coal seams dating back over 350 million years.

Eucalyptus pilularis (blackbutt) Forest
Usually found surrounding the vine scrub these forests support several important timber trees including the valuable Eucalyptus microcorys (tallowwoods). These have provided more than half the timber harvested from Fraser Island.

Eucalyptus racemosa (scribbly gum) Forest
These non-commercial but attractive forests occur on the edges of blackbutt forest in better drained areas.  Other species include Angophora leiocarpa, Eucalyptus tereticornis and Eucalyptus paniculata. One of the more common under-storey shrubs is Monotoca scoparia. Also covering much of the forest is the parasitic air vines (Cassytha spp.).


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