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Discovering new plants

We discover more than 50 new species of plants, algae, lichens and fungi in Queensland each year. These new species are formally described under international rules, and are then recognised as part of the established native flora of Queensland.

Descriptions and illustrations of new species are published in the Queensland Herbarium’s international journal Austrobaileya. Identification keys and illustrations are also included in the publication to assist users. Additional identification keys to the Queensland flora can be found on KeyBase.

The Census of the Queensland Flora records the status and distribution of all of the known flora species in Queensland, and is updated annually to include newly described species, new records and new naturalisations along with name and status changes that have occurred during the year.

For more information on these publications contact the Queensland Herbarium.

2017 plant species discoveries

In 2017, botanists described 20 new plant species, as documented in the latest issue of the journal Austrobaileya.. A further two species are recorded as new for Australia.

Pimelea, family Thymelaeaceae

Pimelea species, also known as rice flowers, are herbs or shrubs with white or pale yellow flowers in heads or clusters. The majority of species occur in Australia and New Zealand, and are known to be poisonous to livestock. Eight new species have been described for Queensland. Pimelea approximans, P. chlorina, P. confertiflora and P. plurinervia are endemic to north Queensland, P. fugiens is endemic to Central Queensland, P. mollis, P. gigandra and P. rupestris occur in southern Qld and NSW. Pimelea rupestris and P. fugiens both have highly restricted distributions and are recommended for listing as Endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Cycas, family Cycadaceae

Queensland has a high diversity of cycads, with 20 known species. Many of these species are endemic to Queensland. Cycas distans is a new species that was discovered in the Mitchell River district. It is most closely related to C. platyphylla but is taller than that species, growing to 3.5 m, and has longer median leaflets and smaller male cones. It is known from only two populations and is recommended for listing as Endangered under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Olearia, family Asteraceae

Olearia species are native daisies that are either herbs or shrubs and often have showy flower heads. Queensland now has 26 species of Olearia, with the addition of these two new species, Olearia bella and O. orientalis. Both are bushy shrubs: the former has clusters of mauve or purple flower heads, while the latter has single white flower heads. Both have highly restricted distributions and are recommended for listing as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Melaleuca, family Myrtaceae

Melaleuca comosa is a large shrub with a dense rounded crown, flaky fibrous bark, and white flowers. This new species is superficially similar to M. lasiandra and M. bracteata but differs from these species in many characteristics. It is restricted to a single population in western Queensland and is recommended for listing as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Labichea, family Leguminosae

The genus Labichea is endemic to Australia with 16 species. Labichea species are mostly woody shrubs with hairy branches, pungent pointed leaflets and showy yellow flowers. Labichea mulliganensis is a new species related to L. brassii. It is only found on Mount Mulligan in north Queensland, a well-known hot-spot for highly restricted plant species.

Atriplex, family Chenopodiaceae

Species of the genus Atriplex, commonly known as salt bushes, are well represented in Queensland with 32 native species. Atriplex alces is a new species known from only two locations near Longreach. It is a scurfy subshrub similar in appearance to the more common A. eardleyae. A conservation status of Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 is recommended for this new species.

Elionurus, family Poaceae

Elionurus is a widespread genus of mostly perennial grasses. The previous single Australian species, E. citreus, is a perennial grass occurring in tropical and subtropical areas. Elionurus pupureus is a new annual species with purplish spikelets. Both species have lemon scented foliage, a common feature of the Andropogoneae. This new species is known from several locations on Cape York Peninsula and a status of Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992 is recommended.

Gastrodia, family Orchidaceae

Gastrodia is a widespread orchid genus with ten species known to occur in Australia. These species lack chlorophyll and obtain nutrients by accessing fungal mycorrhizal networks (mycoheterotrophic). Gastrodia umbrosa is a new species described from the Atherton Tableland in north Queensland, where it grows on the moist damp rainforest floor. It has an inflorescence 4–12 cm high and dark purplish brown flowers.

Thismia, family Thismiaceae

Thismia plants, also known as fairy lanterns, lack chlorophyll and obtain nutrients in a similar way to the Gastrodia species described above. Only five species were previously known to occur in Australia. They are notoriously difficult to find as they are only visible when flowering, which occurs during wet weather. Two new species, T. hawkesii and T. lanternatus are described from the wet tropics in north Queensland. Both have restricted distributions.

Fimbristylis, family Cyperaceae

Fimbristylis is a widespread genus of sedges with more than 300 species occurring across the tropics and subtropics. Approximately 80 species are known to occur in Australia. The two new species, F. buchananensis and F. triloba, are endemic to Queensland, from central and northern Queensland respectively.

New records for Queensland

Two new significant records for Queensland are reported: Oldenlandia pinifolia, family Rubiaceae and Didymoplexis micradenia, family Orchidaceae.

Historical plant collectors

One article on historical Queensland plant collectors is included in this volume of Austrobaileya. John Dowe describes the botanical contributions of three members of the Simmonds family during the late 19th and early 20th century.

More information

These articles can be accessed online under Austrobaileya. More information, publications and reports can be found under Queensland Herbarium publications.