The plant species found in the Australian rainforest manifest the rich diversity of plant life in the continent. For starters, more than 2,500 species have been recorded including a huge number of endemic species found only in Australia. It’s quite hard to keep track of all the species because every year, they find a new one and have to find a name for it. Many plants that are cultivated by hobbyists come from Australia’s tropical rainforests. Cultivating exotic plants can be a rewarding hobby.
Rainforests in Australia are a valuable resource
There are many types of rainforests and Australia has all sorts, extending from Western Australia in Kimberly to the Northern Territory and through New South Wales and Victoria. Tasmania has viable rainforests as well. These areas are protected and many acres are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These rainforests thrive across many different climatic conditions and have the most interesting collection of flora and fauna in the planet.
Australia’s tropical rainforest is pristine and measure approximately 900,000 hectares extending along the coastline of North Queensland. More than 10% of the plants found in Australia are from the tropical rainforest. The richest concentration of plant species can be found in the Wet Tropics within the northeastern region of Queensland.
Exotic plants for collectors
There are a number of families of plants that are available for gardening enthusiasts, collectors and hobbyists from Australian rainforests. These include Costus, Cycads, Gingers, Heliconias, Marantacae, and Palms. For people with more exotic tastes, there are plants that would definitely pique their interests such as Aroids, Cordylines, Crotons, Water Lillies, and White Bat Plants.
There is also a huge number of fern species in the Wet Tropics of Queensland. People who are partial to ferns should know that this is where 65% of all Australia ferns are found. The Wet Tropics have 40 endemic fern species found nowhere else in the world. Many fern species in Australia have been around for millions of years. They have adapted to the changes in their environment very successfully. People who are just starting out with cultivation of plants from Australia’s rainforests might do well to start with ferns.
A primer on ferns
Ferns are some of the most visible plants in rainforest ecosystems. Visitors who explore Australian rainforests are likely to spot ferns on tree trunks and branches. They are also quite common features of the rainforest floor. Some visitors sometimes mistake ferns for bird’s nests of tree parts. There are small ferns but there are ferns that outsize other plants around them. Some ferns even bigger than the tree they’re growing on.
Ferns grow best where conditions are warm and moist throughout the year. They thrive in rainforests in particular because the area receives a significant amount of rainfall especially during the summer months in the southern hemisphere (December to March). They’re not that tedious to grow because they only need ample water and nutrients. There was a time when the world’s rainforests were dominated by giant ferns and other species. Most of these plants are now extinct, but they have numerous relatives that have evolved to their current forms.
Australian Tree Fern photo by Starr Environmental