Australia’s Floral Emblems

One of the most intriguing aspects of Australia is the flora and fauna. Celebrated pieces of Australia’s heritage, the floral emblems are represented in the flags and symbols of the commonwealth and territories. Identifying the symbols and the areas they represent promotes an appreciation of the diversity of the Land Down Under, and is a reminder of the beauty of the continent.

Commonwealth of Australia

The national flower of Australia was not technically named the national floral emblem until as recently as twenty-five years ago. A debate over the correct national flower raged and was a source of contention among some in the scientific community. In 1908, Archibald Campbell declared that the Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) should be Australia’s national flower. For several years, a Wattle Day demonstration took place – celebrating the yellow flower’s symbol of patriotism. In the meantime, R.T. Baker, a botanist, began promoting the Waratah as Australia’s national flower, and rallied people to support his cause. The confusion over which flower was actually selected as the national flower can be seen in the foundation stones of the capital – both flowers are used. 1988, Australia’s bicentennial, marked the official proclamation of the Wattle as the national emblem.

The wattle is a small shrub, and is a favourite garden plant with easy propagating and frost resistance. A beautiful plant that bears yellow fluffy flower heads and gives off a sweet scent, it is found in the temperate climates of southern Australia.

Australian Capital Territory

Another recent addition to the floral emblems is the Australian Capital Territory. In 1982, the Royal Bluebell (Wahlenbergia gloriosa) was unanimously accepted as the symbol of the territory. Voted on due to the native occurrence of the flower in the Capital Territory, this violet flower seems to nod its blue petals on the breeze of the land. Tall stems that can be grown in hanging planters, as ground cover or decorative plantings, the hearty plants can grow in semi-shady or sunny conditions. With the naming of the floral emblem, the Australian Capital Territory was finally on equal footing with the other states and territories and can proudly display its symbol on flags, postage stamps and other materials.

New South Wales

Despite being rejected as the national floral emblem, the Waratah (Telopea speciosissima) has a place of honor as the symbol of New South Wales. Championed by R.T. Baker, this native Australian plant is easily recognized by its large crimson flowers. Found along the southern coastline, the Waratah is a lovely addition to a well-drained garden. A bit temperamental, the conditions in the garden must be just right – it doesn’t like winter, or wet soil – but when in the right place, can be a source of delight. The plants can be propagated by cuttings with ease. Seedlings can be prone to fungal disease and need careful attention to be successful. The flowers are spectacular in cut arrangements. A favourite of artists, the Waratah can be seen in a variety of stylistic designs throughout Australia.

Northern Territory

Sturt’s Desert Rose (Gossypium sturtianum) was chosen as the floral emblem of the Northern Territory in 1961 by the Commonwealth. When the Northern Territory was granted self-governance in 1978, the flower took on a more symbolic meaning, and began to represent the territory. These drought resistant flowers are related to the cotton genus, and can grow with limited rainfall and dry soil. Predominantly found throughout the central part of Australia, the compact shrub blooms mauve flowers with a red centre. In the wild, it prefers to grow in rocky, stony soil and can be seen in dry creek beds. As a shrub, it does not grow well as a container plant, and the flowers are not suitable for cut arrangements. It will, however, lend a beautiful splash of colour to its dark green leaves, dotting your landscape with flashes of red. A stylized version of Sturt’s Desert Rose can be seen in the territorial flag – a flower with seven petals (instead of the usual five) represents the Australian territories.


After a territorial wide vote, the Cooktown Orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis) was selected as the floral emblem of Queensland in 1959. It met the criteria of the search committee – it was native to the area, was distinctive and beautiful. These large plants occur in northern Queensland, and are about 80 cm tall. They occur naturally in Queensland, but can be grown attached to a base – the trunk of a tree, for example. Largely sought after as part of the orchid family, they have become over-harvested in some parts of Australia. Prized for their hearty disposition, they can survive when growing on a cork base, and will remain beautiful for many weeks as part of a cut arrangement. Flowers are typically deep to pale lilac, and on occasion white.


Found in the south-eastern part of Australia in Tasmania, the Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) is a tall tree with creamy flowers. The leaves, when newly developed, are covered with a blue-grey waxy bloom which was the source of its name. Because of its large size, the Blue Gum is not suitable for growing in a home garden, but is perfect for public areas like parks and gardens. The flowers are typically high in the tree, and so are not used for any decoration although the leaves are often included in greenery. The straight trees provide a source of timber as well. Once considered to possess magical powers because it seemed to rid the area of mosquitoes, it has been denounced as superstition. The trees are effective at removing water from swampy area, eliminating a breeding area for mosquitoes, thus the lessening number. Interestingly, the tree is seldom used as a symbol of Tasmania. It is not well-known among the natives and so rarely is seen in artistic form.

South Australia

Another discovery by Captain Charles Sturt, Sturt’s Desert Pea (Swainsona Formosa) was named South Australia’s floral emblem in 1961. This creeping vine, known to grow only in Australia, is found in all the mainland states except for Victoria. The nine centimetre flowers can range in colour from white to pink but are typically scarlet with a black base. A protected plant, it is illegal to collect on Crown land, and may not be harvested on private property without the written consent of the owner. Distinctive in shape and colour, the flower is used on many types of media. Extremely hardy, the plant can withstand heavy rains, light frosts and extreme temperature changes. As a vine, it is not typically considered suitable for planters but can be used as groundcover or as splashes of colour in lawns. Once the plant is established, it does not need a lot of care, but must be protected from snails.


The slender Common Heath (Epacris impressa) shrub was announced as the floral emblem of Victoria in 1958. Growing about a meter in height, the leaves cluster around tall clusters of flowers. The flowers may be seen in colours including crimson, pink, white and scarlet, but the most common one is the pink. Individual plants tend to die off easily, so it is recommended to plant a series of the Common Heath, in a hedge for example, to ensure coverage. Found in the coastal heathlands, it is widespread through the coastal and desert regions. Easy to care for seedlings can make this an easy beginner plant for someone who is just starting out in gardening. The flowers are long-lasting making this a favourite in cut arrangements. Moderately cool weather seems to have no effect on the flowers, helping the flower to find use in Christmas arrangements and lovely indoor plants.

Western Australia

Restricted to the south-west side of Australia, the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) is a low shrub that grows from and underground stem. The unique flower resembles a paw stretching to the sky, and is covered with wooly hairs. The Red and Green Kangaroo is a protected species and may not be collected without a license. The base of the flower is a bright red which switches to green, and then splits open to show the pale smooth centre. Found in a variety of colours (green and orange, yellow and red, for example) the red and green are the most common. The flowers last a long time and can be used in cut arrangements for a whimsical touch.

The floral emblems of Australia reflect more than just beautiful plants. They represent a continent rich with diversity. From the temperamental orchids to the Sturt Desert Pea, each territory’s flower shows off an important piece of information about the area. Indicative of the area it represents, the flowers show a land that is determined to succeed in spite of adversity and regardless of location. Beautiful and strong at the same time, they remind the Australians of the tenacity it takes to survive in a desert climate, and how to develop beauty in spite of rocky surroundings. It is reminiscent of the humble beginnings of the nation and is a lesson in itself to consider how the Australian people have long regarded their plants.

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Best Australian Native Plants for Your Garden

There are so many different plants that you can use to take your flourishing garden to the next level. Keep in mind that there are so many different choices that are relatively exotic in nature from all around the world. Out of all of the different types that are currently available and growing around the world, Australian native plants are some of the very best that your money can buy. There are several different types of Australian native plants that have been applauded and praised over the years as being the very best options available.

Agonis Flexuosa

If you are interested in finding an Australian native plant that is great for coastal positions, then one of the very best that you can use is Agonis Flexuosa. It is naturally spreading, mounding and relatively low. Regardless of the inclement weather conditions that may affect your particular area or region, this particular plant has been widely known and publicly recognized for being able to outlast the salt-laden winds. It is also viewed as an effective protector when it comes to the roots of other plants that are nearby it, especially when there are drying winds that are blowing right by. 


Within the Hibiscus family, the Alyogyne plant is a great addition that you should seriously consider as well. There are many people that refer to this specific plant as Blue Hibiscus as well. Contrary to popular belief, its name actually has nothing to do with it coloring but more so with its foliage instead. Each flower is different, but these plants will thrive very well when it comes to drained soils, especially in sub-tropical regions with cool temperatures. Once they have quickly reshaped after their feathers have been ruffled and the flowering phase is finally over.

Banksia Sentinel

Banksia Sentinel plants are great choices when it comes to covering narrow areas along walls and fence lines that are otherwise relatively difficult to cover. These plants are known for growing at least two meters in height. If it becomes a little too high to the point of causing damage to your property, you can very easily trim the leaves that are getting in the way, which will also create a habit that is much denser as well. Due to its overall design and style, the Banksia Sentinel has been viewed as being one of the very best plants for landscaping purposes for quite some time.

Bauera Rubioides

The simplistic yet captivating design and pattern of this particular plant makes it one of the most appealing options when it comes to finding the best Australia native plants available today. You can use the same pattern that is found on these plants in order to liven up the fabrics of your carpet and rugs within your home in addition to the flourishing plants within your garden. When it comes to the background foliage, it is furry and green and even comes with an overlay of bronze. Throughout the year, you will even see a wide range of miniature flowers that are shaped like magenta roses. This particular plant is capable of adapting to the vast majority of different climates as long as you do your best to keep them watered. Even if you have a garden that is located directly by the sea, this plant will thrive and grow beautifully over time. Professional landscapers have mostly decided to use this Australian native plant when choosing flowers for a media strip or traffic circle as well extensive banks and broad planting layouts.

Dianella Tasmanica

There are so many different plants that have established a head start when it comes to size, color, scent and texture over time. One of the most significant features of this particular plant, however, is its overall function in addition to its reliability. This foliage has been able to reach astronomical heights of 75 centimeters that are known for forming clumps within the same width. Some of the most captivating features of these plants include the cherry red leaf bases that are very striking in appearance as well as the graceful flower stems that are also known for catching the eye.

It is basically a multi-purpose plant that looks great when it is planted along path edges and driveways as borders or even within containers. If you are interested in creating a simple yet appealing effect, these plants can be stored within large beds as well. Soils that are well drained and in cool to tropical climates are ideal locations for the Dianella Tasmanica. Even if there is a moderate level of frost, making sure that these plants remain protected from salty winds should be a top priority.

Dianella Revoluta

If you have been searching for a smaller version of the Dianella Tasmanica, then you will be greatly pleased to find out more information about the Dianella Revoluta. The Dianella Revoluta is basically a dwarf selection, so you will be able to receive the same benefits and beauty of the taller Dianella Tasmanica native plant but within a much smaller package instead. Unlike many other plants that seem to suffer when it comes to size, the Dianella Revoluta seems to thrive where many other small plants have failed.

It is the perfect plant to use for professional landscapers that are specifically searching for borders that can edge the driveways, sidewalks and media strips of their clients. It truly is one of the most flexible types of plants that can be used for a wide variety of landscaping purposes and home exterior layouts primarily because of its petite size. You will only have to worry about managing a peak height of 30 centimetres primarily because it is grown progressively by tissue culture.

Goodenia Albiflora

If you are searching for a bright Australian native plant that is guaranteed to make you smile as it brightens up your day, then you should aim directly for the Goodenia Albiflora. As one of the best Australian native plants, this particular option is known for its captivating appeal and colourful nature.

You can very easily pop this particular plant in with other tiny plants. If you currently have purple or even green foliage, then you will notice that this option presents a great choice for contrast as well. The silver foliage is also a major highlight that should be taken into consideration too. The colour and shape of this specific plant may convince you that it needs to be planted within a beautiful pot and left directly in the sunlight. This is a great idea, so you should definitely follow your gut instinct when it comes to making this type of move. It looks beautifully with other small plants, regardless of whether you have them featured inside or outside of your home or office building. In order to maximize its appeal and truly take full advantage of its beauty, then your best bet would be to bundle them together and plant them in multiple groups. Large flowers seem to always run up towards the stems between the winters and summer months.

If you are interested in attracting different types of natural beauty, then you will also love these plants because studies have confirmed that they can effectively attract butterflies as well. It truly does not matter whether you are planting them within a flourishing garden or pot; these plants can grow beautifully and bountifully within a spot that is drained well. As long as they are planted in an area that is semi-arid or cool, they will be able to handle light frosts as well as a distant and clear view of the ocean.

Goodenia Bonnie Prince Charlie

One of the most beautiful Australian native plants has to be the Goodenia Bonnie Prince Charlie. The plaid patterns that are waving directly through the different glens will truly make you think of an Irish culture or event, such as bagpipes and fabric kilts. However, you will be primarily blown away by the abundance of bright and vibrant colours for which this particular native plant has become known over the years. For instance, the bright orange, gold and scarlet clusters will truly make you feel as if you are in Paradise – especially if you have strategically planted them among a wide variety of other small plants as well. Even if you do not want to necessarily group this plant with other options, you can always just allow it to grow on its own.

Grevillea Longistyla

There are just so many different types of honey-seeking birds that seem to track down the Grevillea Longistyla throughout the year. If you are looking for a rather tall plant, then you have truly found exactly what you are looking for with this selection alone. It is basically two meters in height when it has reached its maximum point of growth and is visually stunning, especially when you are looking at this particular plant from a distance after it has been strategically planted among a diverse group of bushes and shrubs.

One of the most profound colors that seems to stand out the most from within this group is red. It does great in semi-arid and sub-tropical regions. If you want to get the best growth from these plants, then your best bet would be to make sure that they receive direct sunlight. Even though they can grow with indirect sunlight as well, you will be hampering the growth by doing so.

Grevillea Chrysophaea

If you are searching for a small plant that is featured within the Grevillea family, then your best bet would be to go with a Grevillea Chrysophaea plant. Keep in mind that it is 40 centimeters in height and can reach a maximum width of 80 centimeters. It has fine dense foliage and a wide range of flowers that blossom between winter and spring months, providing honey-eating bugs and birds with a great place to eat their next meal. Many homeowners can truly appreciate this particular plant when it is placed within a container that is placed on a patio or deck. It is notably charming when used within small gardens that have dense flowering. As long as you keep these plants in a climate that is semi-arid and sub-tropical within soil that is drained well throughout the year, you will be able to get a lot of life from these natural beauties.

Leptospermum Petersenii

One of the most popular plants that you will find strategically placed within hedges and softening the edge of rockeries is the Leptospermum Petersenii. It is one of the best Australian native plants that are dwarfs, primarily because of its astounding appearance. This plant looks cute yet tough and can truly last through a wide range of different weather conditions and natural disasters that seem to kill off many other flowers and plants rather quickly. If you are searching for a beautiful 50 centimeter plant, then your best bet would be to purchase this particular plant.


There are so many other Australian native plants that can be featured within this extensive list, but the Lomandra demands a high spot on this list. Lomandra is basically a vast collection of mat rushes that serve a wide variety of different purposes. There are some people that use this plant for its foliage while others may decide to plant it primarily because of its appealing characteristics. These plants are able to thrive in clay loans that are well drained as well as gravelly soils. Even when frost comes into the picture, there is not very much that can be done to break this particular plant.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you are searching for a plant that has beauty and appeal or function and foliage, there are just so many different options from which you can choose from these Australian native plants. The key is to make sure that you focus on caring for these plants properly when you do receive them. Otherwise, it really would not matter which one you choose because it would not live long enough to be fully enjoyed.

Useful links:

The Evolution of Flora in Australia

The evolution of Australia’s flora begins with the continental drift that divided all the continents of the world into separate land masses. As an isolated island, its flora flourished undisturbed for centuries. A flood that covered the entire continent acted to divide it and created four separate islands, which helped gave some of the soil in Australia its alkaline base.

Evidence that the flood occurred, covering the landmass with a seabed and marine life, is seen in the Outback. Fossilized sea organisms and mollusks have been found in this part of the country and the soil there is acidic. During this time, the flora of each separate island developed and flourished, with each area developing its own unique catalog of plants.

After the flooding ended, there was a demarcation between all of the islands due to limestone embedded in the soil. Since there was a difference in the soils between all of the islands, the flora that existed in each area could not migrate to another island. They could not survive the differences in soil. Also, once the waters subsided, evolution sped up and new plants began to grow in areas where new land was available.

Migrating Flora

The Ice Ages had little effort on plant life in Australia because it was warmer there than most other areas of the world. While some parts of the world had ice in excess of 3000 meters thick, the Australian continent had a fairly shallow ice coverage of 10 meters. However, a wide-spread drought that took place around 5,000 years ago and lasted for several centuries. The effects of it caused several extinctions among the country’s flora and soils also migrated during this period.

There were areas of the landmass that were mostly unaffected during this time and retained more moisture than other parts of the large island. These areas included:

  • Mount Buffalo
  • Flinder’s Ranges
  • The Grampians

The flora was able to adapt quite well to the change in climate and it was able to diversified continent-wide.


The most recognized plant in Australia, the Gum Tree or the Eucalyptus, was thought to have evolved during the dry periods on the continent and became a major part of the continent’s landscape. The drought helped to spread and diversify the Eucalyptus across the country. Today, there are over 700 species of Eucalyptus, most of which are native to Australia.

Classification of Australia’s Flora

The flora of Australia are unique and approximately 80 percent of their native species are exist only in Australia while 30 percent of the native genera exist only on the continent. With its isolation, many scientists thought of it as a desolate area with no good flora species of its own. This caused Australian flora to be classified in one of three ways:

  • Indo-Malaysian – which were the northern rainforests
  • Antarctic – the southern rainforests
  • Australian – Eucalyptus and Acacias

Most scientists thought that most vegetation in Australia either came from the northern countries of Malaysia, Indonesia or Asia and, in the south, from Antarctica.

The classifications have been changed and there are now two categories:

  • Relictual – which are the rainforests
  • Australian – which are localized flora

The flora of the continent evolved from the relictual forests.

There seems to be a common ancestry suggested by similarities that exist between Australian and Indian rainforests. The rainforests in India and Australia have 47 genera in common. Australia also shares 41 genera with Papua New Guinea. Along with this shared ancestry of the rainforests, there are also some species that migrated to the area due to seeds being transported by the wind, such as some orchids.

Flora Evolution From the Rainforests

The climate in Australia during the Tertiary period was mild and most. The entire continent was most likely covered with vegetation similar to that of a subtropical rainforest. The forests evolved from Gondwanan rainforests and they were the predecessors of the rainforests of Madagascar, India, Africa and South America. The flora of the Australian rainforests at this time is often referred to as Pan-Australian.


The proof that the entire continent was covered by rainforest comes from fossils that were found of the only holly that is native to the country. This holly, known as Ilex arnhemensis, now only grows in the lowlands forests in northern Australia, but its fossils were found all over the continent.

As the climate began to change, the vegetation evolved. While the subtropical vegetation persisted in some areas, a cooler climate rainforest grew as well. Areas with soil poor in nutrients saw the evolution of eucalyptus and acacias species. The idea that Australia was the origination of the Gondwanan rainforests is due to the number of primitive plants that still exist today in the forests, especially in Queensland.

There are approximately 19 plant families that are considered to be among the most primitive plants in the world. Of these 19, 13 of them are found in Queensland. This gives Australia the distinction of having the highest concentration of primitive plant families found throughout the world. One of the world’s oldest vascular plants, the psilotum nadum still grows in Australia today and it is a native of the Queensland area.

Sclerophyllous, or dry-country, vegetation is the most dominate type of vegetation on the continent and it was evolved from the Gondwanan forests, including Eucalyptus and Acacias. As these two species began to become more dominant throughout the landscape, the rainforests began to decline. They were able to thrive because they adapted best to the frequent fires that began to occur in Australia. There are approximately 900 species of Acacia in Australia, along with the nearly 700 species of Eucalyptus.

Human Impact on Flora

Humans have had an impact on the flora of the country as well. Aborigines, which colonized Australia about 38,000 years ago, are thought to have made a contribution to the evolution of flora on the continent. These natives of Australia were known for their habit of burning, which was noted by the increase of charcoal deposits in fossils recorded at around the time period. The burning helped to renew the bush areas of the continent.

Fire-stick farming, as it was called, by the Aborigines is thought to have destroyed the Araucarian forests and restricted Dacrydium to Tasmania. This practice, along with a dry climate, may have also have contributed to the high degree of dry-country vegetation that evolved Australia. In order to survive and thrive, many species had to become fire-resistant or fire-dependent.

European Settlement Impact on Flora

The arrival of Europeans to the continent in 1788 also contributed to the evolution of flora in Australia. Agricultural practices that were brought over by Europeans made significant changes in plant life. Despite the fact that Aborigines managed to live off the plants and animals native to the continent, the British who arrived thought the land was too barren and the climate too hostile to supply them with an adequate amount of food.

The settlers knew they couldn’t sustain themselves solely on imported goods because it took eight months to cross the ocean from England to Australia. The ships of the First Fleet, lead by Captain Arthur Phillip, brought over livestock, plants and seeds to ensure the survival of the British settlers. Among the plants were Prickly Pear and Spanish Reed.

After his arrival, to help make sure the settlers could arrange, Capt. Phillip ordered that the land surrounding Sydney Cove be cleared so they could start farming in order to raise crops. Many of the trees cleared were Eucalyptus trees. Even though they had several years were the settlers were on the verge of starvation because they were unfamiliar with the climate and land, by 1800, they were beginning to be able to be self-sufficient and grow enough crops to survive. However, this progress had a negative impact on the flora, as well as the natural resources, of the area.

The British did import several species of plants to Australia, including the Scotch thistle, the Prickly Pear and blackberry bushes. These plants often overtook the area they were planted in and impacted the native flora species of those areas. The Prickly Pear and blackberry bushes are considered noxious weeds in many areas of Australia and the Scotch thistle proved itself to be an invasive plant, growing in and taking over the south-eastern coastline of the country.

Since plant destruction and farming practices destroyed many native species, soil erosion became a problem after the British began to settle the country. Overgrazing also led to many plant species being destroyed or decimated as well. Soil compaction, the change in soil salinity and waterway pollution caused by agricultural practices introduced to the country has lead to the further evolution of the flora of Australia.

The Impact of Introduced Species

Since the migration of Europeans to Australia, over 27,000 different plant species were introduced to the continent. These introduced species outnumber the number of species that exist in the country, which is approximately 24,000. Many of the introduced species of flora have proved themselves to be invasive and have done their part to wipe out native species by overcrowding their habitat. Some of these plants are now considered weeds and approximately 10 percent of the invasive flora species have established themselves, meaning they now thrive in the wild.

It can take some time before introduced species of plants are identified as invasive or as weeds. For tree plants, it can take hundreds of years for them to cause problems after they are introduced into an area. However, with annual plants, some became problems only 10 years after their introduction onto the continent. Four known native species have were destroyed by invasive flora choking them out and another 57 are considered to be in danger of extinction.

Some plants introduced to the continent as crops, including wheat and barley, have never established themselves and need to be sown every year in order to grow successfully. However, horticulture in Australia has introduced more invasive species of plants than any other activity on the continent. Some exotic species that have been imported to decorate houses and gardens have found there way into the countryside and have depleted the soil and choked out native species.

Modern Flora in Australia

According to the Australian government, there are approximately 20,000 different types of vascular plants and 7,700 non-vascular plants growing in Australia. These plants include living fossils such as the grass tree and cycad palm. They also include a wide variety of wild-flowers, of which the kangaroo paws is one of the most prevalent throughout the country.

The most prevalent vegetation in the country are the types that have adapted to the dry climate of Australia in areas where the land has not been cleared for growing crops. The most dominant vegetation is the hummock grasslands, which accounts for 23 percent of the vegetation in the country. The hummock grasslands are present in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Conservation efforts are being made to help Australia’s native flora to survive the invasion by introduced species. Ridding the countryside of invasive species costs the country over $3.5 billion each year, not to mention the damage done to native plants. Australia has a vast array of native species that have evolved over the centuries, but imported plant species can quickly decimate those native plants.

While weather conditions and natural phenomena have had a great impact on how flora has evolved on the Australian continent, the impact of man has also greatly influenced the evolution of flora as evidenced by the evolution of plant species in Australia. Fortunately, there are many people who have begun efforts to try and lessen the impact made by man by preserving native species and fighting the impact of introduced plant species.

Over the centuries, many beautiful plants, flowers and trees have evolved on the Australian continent, giving the country a very diverse range of flora. With the efforts of the government and preservation groups, the native flora of Australia will continue to thrive.

Useful links:
Australia: The Land Where the Wild-flowers Really Grow
Planting the Seeds of a Healthy Environment

Australia: The Land Where the Wild-flowers Really Grow

Blessed with an envious abundance of varying growth environments, there are in fact about 24 000 different species of Australian native flowers and plants.

The parched desert conditions of the centre of the country may have only the sparsest and heartiest vegetation, but other areas of this majestic country are nutrient rich, lavishly hydrant and exceptionally fertile. The perfect combination of elements to bring forth wonderous plant life, vegetation and foliage. From gum trees to tomato bushes, Australia has a complete landscape of plant life to provide food, medicine and building materials.

Australia has many coastal plants and shrubs, forested areas and bush land. Different regions of the country provide unique habitats for home grown plant life. Some of the native species to Australia have often been harvested to plant in other parts of the world.

The results vary greatly when Australian plants are grown in other countries around the world. Some plant life and vegetation stubbornly refuses to grow at all outside the borders of its home and native land. No matter how well acclimatized the new environment may be to replicate familiar conditions; there are many varieties of herbs, trees, flowers and plants that will never be found in any part of the world except Australia.

Fortunately, there are just as many other plants, trees and bushes, that have discovered how to thrive away from home. Some of the most popular and well known Australian species have taken on a completely new life. These plants, trees and shrubbery are adapting to new climates, soil and water, and unusual weather conditions with such gusto that the Aussie natives have taken over the landscape, refusing to let anything else grow in the same habitat. (A regrettable example can be found in the everglades of Florida.)

Whether at home or far and away, the different species of Australian native flowers and plants are clearly among some of the most sought after flora in the world. A large number are regularly tested and studied by scientists for natural properties that promote the health and well being of other plant life, animals and even humans.

A Few of the More Well Known Species

With so many varieties of plants, it is impossible to list them all here. However, there are some very well known species that are used in different applications around the world that many people are surprised to learn are native to the soils of Australia. Names of plants, trees and flowers you hear every day may indeed be from the land down under.



When we think of eucalyptus, koalas quickly come to mind. Some varieties of eucalyptus leaves are the only food that is eaten by many types of koalas. However, the eucalyptus has a diverse amount of uses for its approximately 700 different native grown species.

Offering a humble home for a host of wildlife from birds to small animals, the eucalyptus is a variety of gum tree. The oil from the large leaves is used in many medicinal products as well as skin care and beauty products.

Vapour rub and cold remedies take advantage of this natural expectorant to bring relief to head and chest colds, to help break up nasty congestion and phlegm. Muscle creams and joint rubs also use eucalyptus because of its anti-inflammatory nature, which provides relief for both swelling and discomfort.

Eucalyptus is anti-fungal, a trait discovered by early aboriginals who used the leaves to treat wounds. It is also used as an antiseptic, or the leaves are brewed into a tea to help bring down a high fever.

As a hardwood, the eucalyptus is an icon in the Australian timber industry. As far as burning it as firewood, the fragrant aroma of eucalyptus wood on a crackling fire brings a tranquil serenity unmatched by other burnable woods. The pleasant scent of the eucalyptus can be found in many other products used around the home, unmistakable and distinct as an Australian classic.

Melaleuca Trees

Not quite that familiar with the melaleuca tree? It comes in a variety of sizes from the very large 80 foot trees to smaller ones that are merely a few feet off the ground. Quite likely everyone in Australia is familiar with this densely populated native tree, but in other parts of the world, this tree is known by different aliases.

Sometimes called the paperbark tree, the smaller melaleucas are best known throughout the world as tea trees. The oil from the tea tree is among the most widely used natural essential oils in the world. Now have you heard of it?

Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and antiseptic, the medicinal uses of tea tree oil are still being discovered and expanded upon practically every day. The natural healing properties can be found in skin care products, antiseptic washes, shampoos, body washes, skin creams and even toothpaste and mouthwash.

In recent years, tea tree oil has been singled out as a natural, non-pesticide treatment to get rid of head lice. Although there has not been enough scientific research conducted to verify how and why this appears to work, parents around the world swear by it.


While many of Australia’s native plant life is often cultivated to grow in other parts of the world, the eremophila is quite loyal to its homeland. There are perhaps 214 different varieties of the eremophila, all of which can be found exclusively in Australia.

Also known as emu bushes, the oil from this tree is another popular essential oil. Emu oil has a wide variety of uses but its most commonly used as in topical skin care products. Known for its intense rehydrating properties, emu oil is a favourite ingredient in natural body washes, shampoos, soaps and lotions.

Kangaroo Paws

This lovely plant is an Aussie relative of the lily family, whose scientific name is haemodoraceae. Over 100 species are in this variety of small plants, which have leaves that stretch out about 3 feet high and wide. The plant earned the name kangaroo paws because of the pretty flower bells, which are long and slim, looking very much like the paws of a kangaroo. The flowers do not carry much of an aroma, but are quite pleasing to view and ideal for certain types of birds.

Other Flowering Plants

Australia has a huge selection of beautiful flowering plants that are often cultivated in gardens around the world. Bright, vibrant colours, delightfully shaped petals and hearty growth make many of the native flowers of Australia a gardener’s paradise.

Many of Australia’s plants and flowers make great features in the garden, while others are planted to attract butterflies or birds. With so many flowers, there is hardly a lack of choice for adding colour and texture to any display.

Some popular flowers include several members of the mint bush, such as the seven different species of the hemiandra and forty varieties of hemigenia, all of which are exclusive to Australian soil.

In fact, for almost every major plant family, there are at least a few varieties that can only be found and grown in Australia. Daisies, acacia, hakea and many flowering pea plants are native to the country and keep their roots planted in home soil.

Weeds are Plants Too!

What is a garden without a few weeds? Plant life in Australia has many beautiful blooms and lush forestry, but it also has some rather interesting weeds. Many of the plants that were considered flowers a couple centuries ago are now in the weed category.

Keep in mind, a weed is a plant that has no purpose. No fragrance to enjoy; no beauty to admire; no benefit to the soil. Sometimes weeds are a magnet for other undesirables such as plant-destroying insects. James Russell Lowell once referred to weeds as “no more than a flower in disguise.” In the case of many of the weeds found in Australia, that is a fitting description.

Several types of plants in the wattle family such as cootamhundra, golden wreath and queensland silver, have grown too dominant to be considered anything other than a weedy nuisance. Even some species of melaleuca have overgrown their welcome is some areas around Victoria, making them treacherous to other plants trying to grow in the bush.

Interestingly enough, some of the plants that originated in Australia and were harvested and seeded in other parts of the world, have become to overbearing for their host environment and been classed as weeds. Therefore, anyone looking to plant an Australian garden would be wise to avoid planting acacia, melaleuca, a.cyclops and other native Aussie plants. These are among many of the greeneries that are so adaptable to new environments that they become dominant to the point they bring peril to the growth of other plants.

Fire Proof Plant Life

The threat of bush fires is ever dominant in many parts of the Australian landscape. Most plants and bushes will burn quickly and spread easily to others in their path. However, there are some very hearty plants, both native and non-native, found in Australia that stand tough in the face of fire.

That does not mean these plants will never burn at all. It means numerous studies and tests have been performed to see how resistant they are to burning. Fire resistance means it takes a longer time for the plant to ignite. Due to their natural ability to withstand the heat, Australians in high risk fire areas are recommended to plant these varieties around their property. Plants will not stop the fire from reaching a person’s home, but it might slow it down enough to reduce the damage.

Some of the fire proof Australian plants recommended for planting include many types of saltbush, including coast saltbush, spreading saltbush, silver saltbush, old-man saltbush and several others. Rounded noon-flower, creeping emu, bottle bluebush, frosted goosefoot, white cedar as well as all twin leaf plants have been tested and found suitable for fire prone areas.

Ground cover is just as important to keep a fire from spreading, and there are many plants recommended that help keep the fire from engulfing the area. Silver mulga, narrow rock-fern, spotted gum, silver wattle, water bush, blackwood and dozens of other low growing ground plants will not burn when the first contact with fire reaches them. However, due to the nature of fire, these plants will very likely lose all their moisture content during a fire, at which point, the dried leaves will become vulnerable to flame.

Australia’s Garden of Delights

An intricate source of pride for so many, the many botanical wonders that cast themselves upon the landscape are a treasured garden of delights. Very few countries can boast so many native specimens. By comparison, England is barely a garden country at all, with only about 1700 different plants that are native to the country. Of-course, finding new, undiscovered plant life in Australia’s vast forests and bush land does happen from time to time.

Will there ever be an exact number? It is highly unlikely. Some species have become endangered due to environmental changes. Fires have greatly reduced some fragile greenery, and the introduction of non-native plant life over the centuries has pushed out some weaker native species.

Nevertheless, Australia will continue to be one of the best places to look at when it comes to finding variety, colour, fragrance and diversity in all forms of plant life. Scientists will continue to explore the vast properties and characteristics of different vegetation to bring new medicine to the human race.

We are majestically humbled when we look at the immensity of the different species of Australian native flowers and plants. Indeed, it does make the human race rather insignificant by comparison.

Whether strolling by the garden gate, resting beneath a shady tree with a good book, or filling the air with aromatic presence of eucalyptus, there is no part of the world that has not been touched, changed and made better by the wonder of Australian plant life.

Useful links:
Australian flora |
Australian Native Plants Society (Australia)
Greening Australia
Planting the Seeds of a Healthy Environment