Queensland has over 8,000 native flowering plant species and more than 1,400 non-flowering plant species (gymnosperms, ferns and mosses), with new species being discovered and documented at the rate of approximately 20 every year.
More than a third of these species are unique to Queensland. The most recognisable plants in the state are the wattles (Acacia species) and eucalypts (Eucalyptus and Corymbia species) that dominate many ecosystems, along with commonly cultivated native plants such as lilly pillies (Syzygium species) and Callistemons (Melaleuca species). The flowering plants (angiosperms) are the largest group, but Queensland has many non-flowering native species of conifers, cycads and ferns. In addition, Queensland has more than 5,000 species in other flora groups (mosses, algae, lichens, fungi).
A full list of species is available in the Census of the Queensland Flora.
- Queensland is the most diverse state with 14,000 native species of plants, algae, fungi and lichens represented by more than 500 families and 2,900 genera.
- We have over 8,500 species of native flowering plants, gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies (vascular plants), representing approximately half of the known Australian species.
- More than one third of these species are endemic to Queensland, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world.
- More than half of Australia’s cycad species and 80% of Australia’s fern species occur in Queensland, with many endemic species in these groups.
- We have more than 400 non-flowering vascular plant species (gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies) and more than 1000 species of non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts, hornworts)
- Related groups in the flora include:
- algae (more than 1,500 known species including cyanobacteria, red, green and brown algae)
- lichens (over 2,000 known species)
- macrofungi (more than 1,000 known species)
Wattles (Acacia species) and eucalypts (Eucalyptus and Corymbia species) dominate and define many regional ecosystems throughout Queensland and include hundreds of species. The greatest diversity of species occurs in rainforest and coastal heath communities, with many different families and groups represented across the landscape, from Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) to Mulga (Acacia aneura).
The grasses (family Poaceae) are the largest vascular plant family in Queensland , with more than 600 species. Grasses dominate the understorey over much of the landscape. Grasses are also the largest family of introduced species that form the basis of our pastoral industry as well as the source of many weedy species.
The myrtles (family Myrtaceae), the pea flowers (family Fabaceae),the sedges (family Cyperaceae) and the orchids (Orchidaceae) are also well represented in Queensland.
Conifers, cycads and ferns
Queensland ecosystems feature many non-flowering vascular plants (gymnosperms, ferns and fern allies) and Queensland is a centre of diversity and endemism for cycads and ferns in particular. These ancient land plants remain an attractive and unique part of our landscape. Many of these species are now threatened or near threatened and are receiving conservation effort .
Mosses, liverworts and hornworts
“Bryophyte” is a collective term for three distinct lineages of non-vascular land plants: mosses (Bryophyta), liverworts (Marchantiophyta) and hornworts (Anthocerotophyta). The three lineages are grouped together because of shared traits, primarily small stature, lack of vascular tissue and a life cycle including a sporophyte (diploid spore producing phase) and a dominant gametophyte (haploid sexual phase which is the most easily seen form). From an evolutionary viewpoint, the bryophytes mark the transition from aquatic to terrestrial environments and are considered the closest modern relatives of terrestrial plants. There are an estimated 20,000 species worldwide with approximately 1,800 occurring in Australia. With just over 1,000 known species occurring in Queensland, the Bryophytes are the second-most diverse group of land plants after the flowering plants.
In Queensland, bryophytes occupy a diverse range of habitats from arid environments through to tropical rainforests. They are often among the first species to colonise exposed surfaces such as road cuttings. Along with cyanobacteria, lichens and algae, bryophytes are a critical component of the biological crusts which bind the soil surface in semi-arid to arid areas. The bryophyte flora of Queensland is far from complete with many areas yet to be properly surveyed.
Algae and Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) have traditionally been grouped together based on their ability to undertake photosynthesis in aquatic environments. Unlike land plants which evolved from a common ancestor, different lineages of algae have evolved separately in aquatic environments over the last three billion years. These different evolutionary histories are reflected in the current classification scheme which assigns ‘algal’ species to four of the six Kingdoms of Life on Earth: cyanobacteria (Bacteria), red and green algae (Plantae), euglenoids and dinoflagellates (Protozoa) and the brown algae, diatoms and several others (Chromista). Globally, there are approximately 34,000 described species of cyanobacteria and algae, but this is probably only a tenth of the species still waiting to be discovered. These organisms play an important role in aquatic ecosystems underpinning food webs including those supporting commercial fisheries, contributing to global carbon, nitrogen and sulphur cycles, stabilizing sediments to improve water quality and providing habitat for many other species.
Fungi are an important part of ecosystem processes. The roles of different fungi include decomposers that recycle nutrients, mycorrhizal fungi that are associated with plant roots and assist water and nutrient absorption, along with disease fungi such as myrtle rust which attack their hosts. Many fungi are important food sources for native animals.
The macrofungi include those with larger, more visible fruiting bodies (mushrooms) and are mainly decomposers or mycorrhiza. The majority of macrofungi belong to either the sac fungi (Ascomycetes) or the club fungi (Basidiomycetes). The sac fungi are recognised by the typical a cup or sac (ascus) usually containing eight sexually-produced spores. These include the cup fungi, morels, truffles and most lichens. Club fungi are recognised by their distinctive club shaped cells (basidia), which usually bear sexually-produced spores in groups of four. They include the mushrooms, puffballs, coral fungi, bracket fungi and many other forms.
The fungal biodiversity of Queensland is still largely unknown. Recent surveys in south-eastern Queensland have shown that more than 70% of fungi species in this area are new to science. The Queensland Herbarium is actively involved in discovering and documenting the fungi flora.
Two non-native fungi species are known to be naturalised in Queensland.
The Queensland Mycological Society is working in partnership with the Queensland Herbarium to improve the knowledge of fungi in Queensland.
The lichens are a group of organisms characterised by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and a photobiont (photosynthetic organism). The photobiont is usually a green alga or a cyanobacterium (blue-green alga). The fungus is almost always a sac fungus (Ascomycete) but may also be a club fungus (Basidiomycete). Lichens are considered to be ancient in origin, appearing in the earliest known land floras.
About half of the known Australian lichens occur in Queensland, with many more yet to be discovered, especially in central and northern Queensland. The Queensland Herbarium is actively involved in discovering and documenting the lichen flora.
The Lichens of Subtropical Queensland includes keys, descriptions and some images of lichen species found in the subtropics of Queensland.