Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Molonglo High Plains - Plant Communities

Molonglo High Plains

This is one of a series of posts dealing with the Molonglo High Plains (Hoskinstown, Rossi, Forbes Creek and other areas to the west of the old volcano Palerang).  The entire series is at:

Billabong - Molonglo High Plains - Foxlow 2013

Plant Communities

There are three main plant groupings in the Molonglo High Plain area:
·       the Wet Woodlands on the mountains;
·       the Dry Woodlands in valleys and hollows;
·       the Grasslands on the frost flats.
White Sallee (E pauciflora) and the Silver Wattle (A dealbata) are found throughout the region.

Wet Woodlands (intermediate sclerophyll)

The wet woodlands consist of tall trees (to 30m) with an open understorey.  It consists of an association of gums, including: Mountain Gum (E dalrympleana), White Sallee (E pauciflora), and Candlebark Gum (E rubida). E pauciflora dominates the wet woodland. E dalrympleana is only found at high wet elevations (>850m). E rubida tends to 760+m.

Blackwood (A melanoxylon) is likewise found on higher slopes (800m).  Isolated examples of Hazel pomaderris (Pomaderris aspera) and Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata) were also located her (in some places large tracts of open Banksia forest can be found - particularly along Bald Hill Road).

In wetter areas Australian Bugle (Ajuga australis), Fishbone Fern (Blechnum nudum), Snow Daisy (Brachycome nivalis), Shield Fern (Polystichum proliferum), and Bracken (Pteridium esculentum) can be found.

Elsewhere in the region, E viminalis and E radiata are associated with wet woodlands. Higher, in the nearby Turallo Range they are characterised by the silver topped Ash (E sieberi).

Dry Woodlands (dry sclerophyll)

Cold air from the valley flows into drier areas at the bottom of the valley and frost flats and hollows leaving ground water frozen for extended periods through winter. Depending on exposure, trees sometimes adopt a dwarf habit, seldom exceeding 20m and tending to clumps with a sparse understorey.

Colder areas are indicated by associations of Black Sallee (E stellulata), White Sallee (E pauciflora) and Candlebark (E rubida). Above 750m, Apple Box (E bridgesiana) while below 750m separate comunities of Yellow Box (E melliodora) and Red Box (E. polyanthemos) exist. The understorey consists of heaths and native grasses (as in the grasslands) together with a profusion of wildflowers including the Royal Bluebell (Wahlenbergia gloriosa), Billy Buttons (Craspedia uniflora) and the Grass Trigger Plant (Stylidium graminifolium).

In the western part of the region, Brittle Gum (E mannifera) and Scribbly Gum (E rossii) are associated with dry woodlands.


Extreme cold on the lower flats exclude most trees. The grasslands are dominated by the tussocky Snow grass (Poa labillardieri), Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and Wallaby grass (Danthonia carphoides) together with the spiny heaths including the Narrow-leaf bitter-pea (Davieso) and Parrot pea (Dillwynia retorta).  Blackthorn (Bursaria lasiophylla) and Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) are sometimes found in disturbed ground.

Common Names


Eucalyptus bridgesiana (Apple box)
Eucalyptus dalrympleana (Mountain gum)
Eucalyptus dives  (Broad leaf Peppermint)
Eucalyptus mannifera (Brittle gum)
Eucalyptus melliodora (Yellow box)
Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow gum)
Eucalyptus polyanthemos (Red box)
Eucalyptus radiata (narrow leaf peppermint)
Eucalyptus rubida (Candlebark gum)
Eucalyptus stellulata (Black sallee)
Eucalyptus viminalis (Ribbon gum)


Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle)
Acacia genistifolia (Early wattle)
Acacia implexa (Hickory)
Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood)
Acacia rubida (Red-leaf wattle)

Shrubs and grasses

Ajuga australis (Australian bugle)
Avena fatua (Wild oats)
Banksia marginata (Silver Banksia)
Blechnum nudum (Fishbone fern)
Brachycome nivalis (Snow daisy)
Bursaria lasiophylla (Blackthorn)
Craspedia uniflora (Billy buttons)
Danthonia carphoides (Wallaby grass)
Davieson (Narrow-leaf bitter-pea)
Dillwynia retorta (Parrot pea)
Lolium rigidum(Wimmera ryegrass)
Microlaena stipoides (Weeping grass)
Phalaris paradoxa (Paradox grass)
Poa labillardieri (tussocky Snow grass)
Polystichum proliferum (Shield-fern)
Pomaderris aspera (Hazel pomaderris)
Pteridium esculentum (Bracken)
Stylidium graminifolium (Grass trigger plant)
Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass)
Vulpia myuros (Rat’s tail fescue)
Wahlenbergia gloriosa (Royal bluebell)
Hardengergia voilacea (Sarsparilla)

Some local Shrubs and grasses

Ajuga australis (Australian bugle)
Herb with a basal rosette of toothed leaves with several erect stems carrying leaves and flowers (purple to blue and two lipped). Aborigines used bruised leaves and juice from the plant as a cure for ulcers, sores, gangrenes and fistulas.
Banksia marginata (Silver Banksia)
Shrub 1-8m. Leaves have a silvery underside and the flower heads range from greenish yellow to bright yellow and open from late summer to winter. Tends to be found in dry forests.  It is hardy and will grow in a variety of soils and most forms are frost tolerant.  Early settlers soaked the flower in rain water to make a syrup for sore throats and colds.
Brachycome nivalis (Snow daisy)
Yellow-centered daisy with soft white petals. Found in moist conditions.
Bursaria lasiophylla (Blackthorn)
Shrub or tree to 6m with numerous sharp spines. It flowers in late summer (dense creamy white flower heads) and is common in dry forests.  The leaves contain aesculin which is present in 4-5% of the dry weight of leaves and which is used in modern medicine (particularly in absorbing ultra-violet light and as an aid to identifying bacteria). Easily extracted by boiling and purifying.
Danthonia carphoides (Wallaby grass)
Perennial grass, probably the most important economic grazing grass. Grows as small blue-green tussocks 10cm high and 10cm wide. The flower spikes rise to 20-30cm tail. Tuffs of white seed heads appear at maturity.
Davieson (Narrow-leaf bitter-pea)
Small shrubs with small yellow flowers sometimes called ‘eggs and bacon’. Widespread, but more common in higher forests and after fires. There are two main varieties -  the narrow leaf and gorse.
Dillwynia retorta (Parrot pea)
Small shrub with small yellow flowers (but a wide top petal) sometimes called ‘eggs and bacon’. Frequents dry forests.
Shrubs and twiners with small or large alternative, entire toothed leaves  The  flowers areyellow with five petals.
Small prickly heath with white/red long narrow flowers.
Some varieties reputed to be a good bush tucker with a pleasant honey taste.
Poa labillardieri (tussocky Snow grass)
Tussock forming grass up to 1.3m wide and 1m high with narrow greyish leaves. Plume like feathery spray of flowers, often purplish, on long stems. Hardy. Can be grown from seed or tussock division.
Stylidium graminifolium (Grass trigger plant)  A small plant with a prominent pink flower of four petals in two pairs. At the base of the flower is a ‘trigger’ which delivers pollen to the first insect collecting nectar after opening.
Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass)
Native grass forms clumps with short leaves, bluish when young but reddish when older, particularly in winter. Flowers and seed heads to 1m high held above leaves.

Peter Quinton

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