Common Plant Communities of the Region
Over 1,600 individual plant and fungi species have been recorded on the Sunshine Coast, several of which are found nowhere else in the world.
Within the Moreton Bay Region, over 1,900 plant species that have been recorded.
This diversity of vegetation provides a range of ecological niches for feeding, sheltering, breeding and resting opportunities for our local native wildlife.
When describing native plants and vegetation in the region, plant species are commonly described as and arranged into more generally recognised plant communities that contain relatively distinct characteristics.
Open Forests and Woodlands
Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus racemosa)
Rainforests and Closed Forests
Heathland / Wallum
Melaleuca Wetlands / Paperbark Forests
Coastal Plant Communities
Mangroves and Salt marshes
Open Forests and WoodlandsThe “open” in the term “open forests and woodlands” refers to the cover provided by the canopy. The crowns of trees in open forests and woodlands generally do not touch or overlap. Forests are generally taller than woodlands, this is often a reflection of the fertility of the soil.
Open forests are usually described in terms of the most common canopy trees. On the Sunshine Coast, they are usually eucalypts, but can also include Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) and trees from the Corymbia genus.
Open forests and woodlands are characterised by sclerophyll vegetation. Sclerophyll is the term used to describe plants that have generally small leathery to hard evergreen leaves and short internodes (the distance between leaves along the stem). The word comes from the Greek sclero (hard) and phyllon (leaf).
Dry sclerophyllOpen forests typically have several layers of vegetation, consisting of trees, shrubs and groundcovers. Tree species vary, depending on the ecosystem type. Dry sclerophyll forests are dominated by gum trees. Gum trees include the true Gums (Eucalyptus), Bloodwoods (Corymbia), Boxes (Lophostemon) and Apples (Angophora).
The shrub species in an open forest vary with the ecosystem type and species can occur in clumps locally. Shrubs such as Pointed-leaf Hovea (Hovea acutifolia) flower in brilliant purple. Yellows come from Native Gorse (Daviesia species), Bush Peas (Pultenaea species) and Dogwood (Jacksonia scoparia).
Clumps of reed-like plants such as Mat Rush (Lomandra species) and Flax Lillies (Dianella species) combine with native grasses in the ground layer. Small groundcovers such as Star Goodenia (Goodenia rotundifolia) combine with creepers such as False Sarsparilla (Hardenbergia violacea) to provide splashes of yellow and purple, respectively. Ground orchids come up between other plants when conditions are right.
Open forests are given other levels of classifications to help distinguish between forest types. Tall forests have trees 12 to 20 metres high. Very tall forests have trees 20 35 metres high.
Wet sclerophyllSimilar to dry sclerophyll forests, wet sclerophyll forests typically support layers of vegetation consisting of trees, shrubs and groundcovers. However, open forest / wet sclerophyll forests have gum trees in the canopy plus rainforest species in the understorey. The number of rainforest species compared to the gums depends on the forest type and the fire regime.
A variety of tall shrubs and trees can occur alongside the gums. They include Foambark (Jagera pseudorhus), Soap Tree/Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa), Red Kamala (Mallotus philippensis) and Cheese Tree (Glochidion ferdinandi).
Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus racemosa)Open forest and woodland is commonly found on sandy soils and remnant tertiary surfaces (e.g. deep red soils on the eastern side of the Blackall Range). Other trees that often grow in this vegetation community include Ironbark (Eucalyptus siderophloia) and Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia). An understorey of ‘dry heath’ plants is not unusual in these systems.
Tall open Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis) forest is dominant in the canopy of this forest, but is often found in association with Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys), Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera) and Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia).
Tall open Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys) and Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia) forest. Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) and Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera) are often found in these plant associations. This vegetation is common on slopes and towards gullies. The understorey of this vegetation type is usually quite thick, including plants like the Hovea (Hovea acutifolia), Tree Heath (Trochocarpa laurina), Scrub Turpentine (Rhodamnia rubescens), Macaranga (Macaranga tanarius), Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa), Cheese Tree (Glochidion ferdinandi), Poison Peach (Trema tomentosa) and Celery Wood (Polyscias elegans). This vegetation community often grades into closed forest, (especially along drainage lines), that has flooded gums (Eucalyptus grandis) emerging through the canopy.
Tall open Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) forest. This vegetation type is often referred to as ‘ecotonal’ forest as it usually occurs at the transition or ‘ecotone’ from wetter closed rainforest vegetation to open forest communities. The understorey of this sort of vegetation is usually dense and contains a number of plants typical of rainforests. It is common to find Tallowwood and Brush Box forming the canopy of this forest with the flooded gums.
Open Blue Gum (also known as Forest Red Gum) – (Eucalyptus tereticornis) forest and woodland on floodplains. Once common on the fertile floodplains near watercourses, it is estimated that only 10% of this kind of forest remains in SEQ – its status is presently endangered. Other trees found in these areas include the Swamp Box (Lophostemon suaveolens), Ironbarks (Eucalyptus crebra and E. siderophloia) and Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia). This vegetation type can be found along creeks and major watercourses and is often found with patches of paperbarks, sedgelands and rainforest amongst or adjoining it.
Rainforests and Closed ForestsIn general terms, closed forests on the Sunshine Coast are rainforests and have touching and/or overlapping branches between trees.
Rainforest fringes major creeks and watercourses in the area, being characterised by trees like the Weeping Lilly Pilly (Waterhousea floribunda), Blue Quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis), Black Bean (Castanospermum australe), Figs (such as Ficus macrophylla), Silky Oaks (Grevillea robusta) and Picabeen Palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana). It is not uncommon to find flooded gums protruding through this form of closed forest.
Midstorey plants include Sandpaper Figs (Ficus coronata and Ficus fraseri), Bolwarra (Eupomatia laurina), Cinnamon Myrtle (Backhousia myrtifolia), Small Leaved Plum Myrtle (Pilidiostigma rhytispermum), and native Laurels like Neolitsea dealbata, Cryptocarya laevigata and Cryptocarya obovata.
Understorey plants include Native Mat Rush (Lomandra hystrix) and Flax Lilly (Dianella caerulea).
A variety of threatened plants and animals may be found in this forest, including native Macadamias (Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia ternifolia), the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia) and the Coxen’s Fig Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni).
Rainforest is also found on the Blackall Range and it includes most of those plants listed above for the creek rainforests, as well as a huge variety of other rainforest plants, including White Booyong (Argyrodendron trifoliolatum), Common Tamarind (Diploglottis australis), Native Olive (Olea paniculata) and Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus). This type of rainforest occurs on basalt and is common on slopes with a southern aspect.
Much of these forests have been cleared or disturbed, mostly for agriculture. Weeds are a major threat to these forests.
A “drier” kind of rainforest can be found on the Sunshine Coast which is characterised by Bunya (Araucaria bidwillii) and Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii). Silky Oaks (Grevillia robusta), White Beech (Gmelina leichhardtii) and Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) help distinguish this forest system. Dry rainforests are generally characterised by their lower canopy height and the prevalence of vine thickets.
Rainforests are home to many different animals. Ringtail possums are attracted to the dense leaves of trees and vines that they need to build their nests (dreys). The great variety of fruiting trees in rainforests support many bird species. Fruit-eating birds such as Figbirds, Orioles, Lewins Honeyeaters and fruit pigeons also frequent rainforest habitats. The shrubby margins of rainforest invite Eastern Whipbirds, and leaf litter and mulch allow Noisy Pittas to search for food.
Heathland / WallumHeathland is often referred to as “wallum” in this region, after an aboriginal word for what is now most commonly known as the Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula), which is characteristic of coastal heathland. Heathlands grow on infertile, acidic soil. The spectacular displays of heathland wildflowers towards the end of the dry season (July–October) are well known. Plants like Wallum Boronia (Boronia falcifolia), Wallum Heath (Epacris pulchella), Prickly Moses (Acacia ulicifolia), Wedding Bush (Ricinocarpus pinifolius), the Native Iris (Patersonia sericea) and Common Bearded Heath (Leucopogon virgatus) produce masses of colourful flowers at this time. Insect- digesting sundews (Drosera sp), Christmas bells, lilies and ground orchids can be spotted growing on the ground in heathland areas.
A variety of banksias can be found in these areas, including the Swamp Banksia (Banksia robur) and Dwarf Banksia (Banksia oblongifolia). The flowering spikes of Grass Trees (Xanthorrhoea fulva) can easily be spotted above the low vegetation. Tea trees (Leptospermum ssp.) and paperbarks (Melaleuca ssp.) flower at other times of the year.
Scribbly Gums (Eucalyptus racemosa) sometimes exist as a woodland overstorey in heathlands. Growing along adjacent watercourses, Blue gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis) and Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia) can be found in these areas, sometimes forming an open woodland canopy with a shrubby understorey. Swamp Box (Lophostemon suaveolens) is also common in these areas. In wetter depressions or swampy areas Melaleuca quinquenervia can dominate the overstorey and form paperbark forest.
Melaleuca Wetlands / Paperbark Forests
Paperbark forests are often known as swamps or melaleuca wetlands. These forests are distinguished by the fact that the dominant trees species are melaleuca spp.(often referred to as paperbarks) and that they occur on poorly-drained low lying areas.
The understorey of melaleuca wetlands or paperbark forests, includes a mix of Bungwal Fern (Blechnum indicum) and Sword Grass (Gahnia spp.). Cabbage Palms (Livistonia australis), Blue Berry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus), the native Lassiandra (Melastoma affine) and Hop Bush (Dodonea triquetra) growing on the edges of these swampy areas. Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) is also found in these areas. Reeds and rushes like Frogsmouth (Philydrum lanuginosum) and Juncus usitatus and sedges will grow in these wet areas. These sorts of plants, as well as plants like Spiny Headed Mat Rush (Lomandra longifolia) can be useful for planting around ponds and dams.
Melaleuca forests occur where freshwater accumulates during periods of high rainfall. The forests are highly productive ecosystems. Swamp Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) flowers from February to July. The flowers produce copious amounts of nectar and pollen for honeyeaters, lorikeets and fruit bats. Insects attracted to the flowers become food for insectivorous birds such as whistlers, fantails and flycatchers. The ephemeral (short-lived) ponds of melaleuca wetlands are important breeding sites for native frogs and waterbirds. The forests act as wetlands - drying up in times of drought as well as absorbing water and mitigating the effects of floods in wet times.
Melaleuca forests have suffered from extensive clearing in South East Queensland. The location of these forests along creeks and on coastal plains has resulted in their extensive clearing and draining of the land to make way for grazing, agriculture, industrial and residential developments.
Coastal Plant CommunitiesCoastal plant communities are usually characterised by low-growing vegetation. On the beach dunes, spinifex, native creepers like Beach Morning Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae), Beach Bean (Canavalia rosea), and Coastal Pigface (Carpobrotus glaucescens) help stabilise and trap wind-blown sand.
Salt resistant thickets of Sheoak stands (Casuarina equisetifolia) and Pandanus (Pandanus tectorius) line the primary dune withstanding strong salt and sand laden winds. Other coastal vegetation including Banksias (Banksia integrifolia), Coastal Boobialla (Myoporum ellipticum) and wattles (Acacia concurrens, Acacia sophorae for example) can be found forming low wind-swept thickets. High dunes provide protection from salt-laden winds and allow the development of taller vegetation that can contain littoral rainforest plants like Beach Aspen (Acronychia imperforata), Cheese Tree (Glochidion ferdinandi), Tuckeroos (Cupaniopsis anacardioides), and Beach Alectryon (Alectryon coriaceus).
In depressions, or swales between dunes, Paperbark forests (Melaleuca quinquenervia) are found, sometimes with an understorey of Bungwal Fern (Blechnum indicum). On headlands, Coastal Boobialla (Myoporum ellipticum) grows, along with more banksias, Pandanus, sheoaks and kangaroo grass.
Mangroves and Salt marshesMangrove is a term used to describe a type of ecosystem as well as a type of plant. Mangroves and salt marshes grow in saline mud and areas subject to tidal inundation, around the lower reaches of rivers and estuary systems.
Along the landward side of these systems, fine sediments settle in the sheltered shores, providing the opportunity for mangroves and salt marshes to develop. Mangroves are productive ecosystems and recognised as a critical part of the food web for many fish and seafood species that form an important part of our economy.
They also play a critical role in the protection and bank stabilisation of tidal watercourses and the coastline by absorbing the energy of storm driven waves and wind. Mangrove root systems also anchor the plant and hold the sediment in place. Sediments trapped by roots of the mangroves prevent silting of adjacent marine habitats.
Some mangrove species which exist along the Sunshine Coast include grey mangrove (Avicennia marina), orange mangrove (Bruguiera gymnorhiza), red mangrove (Rhizophera stylosa), river mangrove (Aegiceras corniculatum), milky mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha) Avicennia marina, Bruguiera gymnorhiza, and Rhizophora stylosa.
Salt marshes occur as a band at the landward edge of the mangrove zone. Saltwater Couch (Sporobolus virginicus) is common in salt marshes.
challenges, tools and games.
Useful Tips and Facts
- Create urban wildlife corridors and stepping stones to larger local bushland or parkland areas.
- In nature there is no such thing as waste everything is linked and contributes to the cycle. As a plant reaches the end of its life cycle it is not discarded by nature, instead it provides habitat for animals and food for micro-organisms as it lies on the ground, the waste from the micro-organisms, bacteria and fungi feeding on it replace nutrients and organic material to the soil for new plants to grow.
- Plant local native species
- The best way to attract native wildlife to your backyard is to provide a variety of healthy natural foods in the form of seeds, leaves, flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits and nuts throughout the year.
- The use of pesticides and herbicides can damage your soils and kill non target species. The poisoning of insects with chemicals can also cause larger species relying on those insects as a food source to become sick or even die from eating poisoned insects.
- To create habitat for smaller native birds you can grow shrubs close together to create dense corners or pockets in your garden which will provide protection and refuge from larger aggressive birds such as noisy miners
- Wattles (Acacias). While most wattles only live between 6 - 10 years, they are an important pioneer species which colonise disturbed areas, where other plants find it hard to grow. They improve soil conditions enough to allow other species to germinate and thrive by fixing nitrogen into the soil through their roots and adding high levels of organic leaf litter.