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Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

Posted by orio Italy (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 14, 07 at 13:00

I am a tree amateur. I live in Italy.
I build 3D landscapes that try to represent the landscapes of various countries.
I am making a search on Australian native trees and shrubs.
Internet sources and books help, but they do not really let a person who has never been to Australia know, which are the most important trees and shrubs nation-wide.
I mean, not the most rare or uncommon local species... the species that are most known and loved nation-wide, also by people who are not botanical specialists.
So I thought that I could ask for your help. What would be a list of, say, 20-30 most representative trees and shrubs that are native Australian?
There should ideally be species that represent all regions of Australia, and also the most important ecosystems - the most popular for each region and ecosystem - and also of course those that are most popular nation-wide - but always native, not imported.
And there should be both trees and shrubs - although of course trees would probably get the more attention.
There are so many species of, for instance, eucalypti or grevilleae, that is very difficult, actually impossible, for a person who does not know Australia, to tell which one is more or less important nation-wise.
Thanks in advance for all help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

I think it would depend on where you live because Australia is such a large country with different climates and soil types. Here in the West a large portion is in a Mediterranean climate zone, and other large portions fall into a semi arid and arid climate but there are other climate zones aswell which are then very different to the east coast states climate and soil so plants can really vary.

The ones I would pick from WA as the most representative would be
WA Xmas tree
red and green kangaroo paw (anigozanthus)
native daisies (which cover whole areas in spring)

and the boab tree from the north west

RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

When you say " 3D landscapes", do you mean pictures, or do you want to work with real plants?:
I am assuming you mean pictures, and here is my list:
(I am most familiar with eastern Australian plants.)
1. Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia. ("Gumtrees") These are all very similar plants. There are more than 700 species of them in Australia, and almost every Australian landscape has several species,(and Australians love them) so they are essential for your picture. You should use at least one smooth-barked species such as E. camaldulensis (River Redgum). There are many of these growing in Italy, but see some paintings by Hans Heyson for a more typical Australian shape. They grow by rivers on open plains, and are Australias commonest Eucalypt. E. maculata( also called Corymbia) (Spotted Gum) is very well-known, and has a tall spotted trunk. E.grandis (Flooded Gum) has a very big, tall straight creamy-white trunk. It typically grows in wet forests and needs a strong green background of rainforest foliage to look authentic. E.saligna has a typical bluegum trunk and is a big tree of the same habitat. E.papuana (ghost gum) is a well-known gumtree of the desert. See some paintings by Albert Namatjira for the setting.
Of the rough-barked Eucalypts, the best known are ironbarks such as E.crebra or the blue--leafed E.melanophloia. They have black trunks with deeply furrowed bark, and would be very suitable for your picture.
For flowers, the Angophoras and Corymbias are better than Eucalypts, as the flowers are held on the outside of the canopy. A.leiocarpa (Rusty applegum) is very well-known and popular. It grows in many environments including rocks where its roots make good pictures. Western Australian Corymbias are small trees with the showiest flowers. E.ficifolia is very popular and well-known.
In Australia gumtree leaves typically show insect damage, and this is considered to be part of their beauty (see paintings by May Gibbs) so you should include insect damage if you are showing close pictures of the leaves.
2. Acacia (Wattles). There are more than 800 species in Australia. Typical Australian landscapes would have up to six species. The species with showy flowers are usually small. A.podalyrifolia is well-known and has blue-green leaves and grown in many environments. (A typical Australian landscape should feature plants with blue-green or silvery-leaves) A.harpohpylla (Brigalow) is a silver-leafed tree of the plains. For a typical landscape you might like to choose one wattle with phyllodes and one with leaves.
3. Grevillea. I would choose G.robusta (silky oak) which is a tree of rainforest margins, very well-known. There are more than 300 grevilleas in Australia and most are from heath environments.
4. Brachychiton acerifolius. This is a popular garden plant which drops its leaves in spring, and becomes covered with red flowers at the same time as the silky oaks are flowering. They look very picturesque together. This is a rainforest tree.
5. Araucaria species. A. bidwilli (Bunya Pine) is probably the most eye-catching, with its dark green prickly foliage, and old trunks like giant elephant's legs. It is a rainforest species with a very distinctive crown. These trees rise above the canopy of rainforests, making a distinctively Australian skyline.
6. Wollemia nobilis. Wollemi Pine. A newly discovered species "from the age of the dinosaurs". These trees are hot news at the moment. Australians only know them as small trees, as the location of the large ones is still a secret place deep in the rainforest. They have been recently released, so are beginning to be seen in gardens around the country. For a "genuine" look they should be depicted as small trees - perhaps something for your foreground.
7. Melaleuca species. Choose a paperbark. I think these have been introduced to Italy, and perhaps they are a weed? Typically they grow in swamps, close together presenting a picture of many straight tall trunks.
8. Banksia. B. integrifolia is a tree - very popular, very Australian-looking. They grow on heaths, or coastal sands (near Melaleuca swamps). B.ericifolia is a shrub (of heathlands) with a dense rounded green canopy and is well-known for its showy flowers. There are "better" flowers on smaller plants from Western Australia.
9. Leptospermum species. (Tea-trees). Choose any one. L.flavescens is well-known. White flowers are typical, and they grow on stream banks, especially among rocks (with Angophora leiocarpa).
10. Telopea species. (Waratah) Popular in Australia because it is our showiest flower. This is a shrub of heaths.
11. Casuarina or Allocasuarina. She-oaks are one of Australia's most characteristic trees. I'd recommend A. torulosa for beauty. It grows on hillsides with eucalypts. A.cunninghamiana is a useful landscape tree because it grows densely along creek banks in Eucalypt country, and makes a good dark background with a distinctive skyline. Australian love she-oaks for the sound they make with the wind, and for the brown carpet of fallen branchlets. It is soft under bare feet, prevents other plants from growing, and makes a good picnic place.
12. Xanthorrhoea species (Grasstrees) are essentially Australian. They grow on hillsides in open country with Eucalypts.
13. Ficus species. I suggest F. macrophylla (Moreton bay fig) which is very well-known and has big leaves. The big figs are our most typical rainforest tree, and their trunks - especially when they are "strangling" another big tree - are well known and make a good picture.
14. Dendrocnide species. Giant stinging tree. Typical rainforest tree. Well-known. Choose one with big leaves - and to be "typical" the leaves should show insect damage.
15. Toona ciliata. Australian Red Cedar. This is Australia's most famous timber tree. It has a dense green canopy, but loses its leaves in spring than immediately sprouts showy new red leaves. These can be seen from a great distance over the rainforest canopy.
16. Archontophoenix cunninghamii. Piccabeen (or Bangalow) palm. This grows on rainforest creek banks.
17. Livistonia species. Cabbage-tree palm. There are two broad kinds - some have "self-cleaning" trunks, and others retain their leaves which make wonderful birds nest habitat.
17. Fern-trees. Cyathea and Dicksonia grow in damp and shady rainforest gullies, with palms
Some non-trees to consider:
18. Rainforests need climbing plants to look authentic. Large woody lianas are typical, and the flowers appear on top of the tree canopy. Pandorea species are the best known.
19. Dendrobium speciosum is a very well-known orchid of rainforests and rainforest edges. They grow high in trees, or on rocks, and I think the plants are large enough to be suitable for your landscape.
20. Alocasia species (Cunjevoi) have large leaves and grow on rainforest stream banks. They are well-known and would be typical of a rainforest scene.
Cheers, Trish

RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

Trish has compiled an incredible list, and I really think you'll struggle to do better. I guess we need to distinguish between our 'iconic' natives - such as Eucalypt, Callistemon, Acacia and Grevilleas - and the species which are also in favour in modern Australian gardens. For example, I would argue that the rainforest myrtles - Syzygium/Eugenia/Acmena/Austromyrtus etc - have become increasingly popular in recent years, but a lot of our choices are driven by our local conditions. Australia is a big country - just as gardeners in Northern Europe would rely on different plants to those on the Meditteranean coast, those of us in the warmer parts of Oz have a different palette to those further south, as TG has already pointed out.

If I had to try to depict the Australian landscape for the benefit of a wider audience, its difficult to avoid the usual Eucalypt/Banksia/Grevillea tableau, but we could walk all day through the Daintree rainforest in Far North Queensland without seeing that landscape recreated in nature. WA's wildflowers are probably as close as our country gets to a mass floral spectacle - the majority of the country is comprised of shades of grey-green foliage, often against a background of red soil. Its been the iinspiration for a surprisiingly large number of artists, from 30,000 years ago to the present.


RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

How about you start with our floral emblems.

Acacia pycnantha / Golden Wattle - Australia

Epacris eimpressa / Native Heath - Victoria

Teleopea speciosissima / NSW Waratah - New South Whales

Swainsona formosus / Sturt's Desert Pea - South Australia

Anigozanthus manglesii / Reg & Green Kangaroo Paw - Western Australia

Eucalyptus globulus / Tasmanian Blue Gum - Tasmania

Gossypium sturtianum / Sturt's Desert Rose - Northern Territory

Wahlenbergia gloriosa / Royal Bluebell - Australian Capital Territory

Dendrobium phalaenopsis / Cooktown Orchid - Queensland

RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

Could I suggest the bottle tree (brachychiton Rupestris or australe)? I bet you could find a few big fat old ones on the streets of every country town on the Darling Downs. Dalby, Roma, Goondiwindi, St George and Warwick immediately spring to mind.

I wonder how many people have eaten their lunch under the ANZAC Square Bottle trees in Brisbane? I wonder how many Bottle trees have left australia in a shipping container?

RE: Most representative Australian trees and shrubs

I'm not game to say anything after reading all the above, other than to suggest maybe eucalyptus pilularus (excuse spelling) angophera costata, telopia speciossissima (Waratah), Sturts desert pea perhaps - good luck with that and Anigozanthus manglesii, I've never gotten either to grow. Perhaps a few wattles, maybe some banksias; stick to the tough ones, see if you can get them to grow first - Aussie plants arn't easer and nearly all HATE root disturbance.

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