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Plants in Australia Relish Diversity and Links with the Past

Updated on July 1, 2017
Banksia
Banksia

Australian native plants such as Banksia are known to mesmerize due to its appearance as well as the diversity of forms that is unique to its region. The flora in the Southern Hemisphere is the most diverse in the world due to the many different types of soils and environments that despite being poor enable diversification among plants that need to adjust and results in a vast array of shapes and forms.

Even though there have been more plants transferred to the Southern Hemisphere from the Northern Hemisphere, there seems to be more diversity in the Southern Hemisphere. Amazingly, where the soils are more fertile, such as in New South Wales to the west of Parramatta, there seems to less diversity of plants there than in other East Coast sandstone areas.

Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise

The discovery of Native Australian Plants Shed the Light on Their Uniqueness

Plants that are uniquely distinct to Australia, such as eucalyptus, acacia and Banksia were discovered by Joseph Banks when he came to Australia on the first voyage of James Cook.

Plant such as Banksia displays can grow the form of shrubs or even trees. It is also a honeysuckle and hence produces nectar being used even more by birds and animals than just insects while Australian Aborigines used it as honey. This nectar is essential to the survival of many birds and other animals that uses it as food. Plants that are also abundant in nectar are Eucalyptus and Grevillea. They presence attracts nectarivore birds as well as bats.

The diversification in the Southern hemisphere in countries such as Australia has been also due to isolation and the way the flora is pollinated. Plants evolved here differently than in the Northern Hemisphere.

Fan Flowers
Fan Flowers

Australian Plants as the Former Antarctic Flora

Australian flora shares some of its flora with Antarctic flora, as these continents were once connected when they were part of Gondwana. Antarctica was then much warmer. The extinguished flora of Antarctica now survives in Southern Hemisphere in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America. New Zealand contains a significant amount of the Gondwanan flora.

In Australia, the Rainforest flora is the former Antarctic flora while the most characteristic Australian plants such as Grevillea, Hakea, Dryandra and Macadamia have their origins also in Antarctica. Another characteristic of Antarctican flora, Valdivian rainforest is still present in South America.

Tropicana Cana Lily
Tropicana Cana Lily

The Unique Features of Australian Plants

Australian flora is dominated by Acacia, Eucalyptus, and Casuarina. Many of the shrubs or trees are evergreen and many produce nectar that is essential to birds such as parrots that also play a vital role in pollination of these plants mutually contributing as well to their survival.

In Australia, plants that produce nectar encourage extensive bird pollination. Eucalyptus and banksia flowers produce a high amount of nectar that is used by birds such as musk lorikeets as the source of food. Rainbow lorikeets, as well as the vinaceous parrot, acquire a high amount of energy from Eucalyptus or Grevillea rather than other flowers that can supply a lower amount of such nectar.

Purple Cloud
Purple Cloud
Blood Leafs and possibly Yasmin flower
Blood Leafs and possibly Yasmin flower

Australian Birds, Pollination and Diversity of Australian Plants

In Australia pollination by vertebrae is more common than in other parts of the world. For this reason, Australian flora is also more diverse as it involves a greater number of animals to engage in pollination.

Almost half of Australian flowers and plants are pollinated by birds to sustain them throughout the day. When pollination is more wide-spread, more distant plants are reached that diminishes in this way the risk of inbreeding. The high mobility of birds provides a wide-spread pollination. This also assures a greater diversity of plants as well as their better genetic structure.

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Jungle Flame or Ixora Coccinea
Jungle Flame or Ixora Coccinea
Jungle Flame or Ixora Coccinea
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Humminbrid bush
Humminbrid bush
Humminbrid bush
Gazenia flower and butterfly
Gazenia flower and butterfly

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