Phil Gilmour, botanist
The Great Koala National Park (GKNP) proposal includes about 315,000 hectares of mainly forested coastal and foothills areas between Kempsey and Red Rock in north-east New South Wales. It extends inland to the Five Day Creek area in the south-west and the Chaelundi and eastern Guy Fawkes River gorge areas in the north-west. The vegetation communities that occur in this area are highly varied and include sub-tropical rainforests, warm temperate rainforests, and both grassy and shrubby tall open and open forests (otherwise known as wet and dry sclerophyll forests). Smaller areas of dry rainforests, wetlands, heathlands and coastal communities also occur. This diversity of vegetation communities results in high floristic diversity.
Over 1,300 plant species have been recorded in the GKNP area. These represent about 150 families and 580 genera.
Families with the most species include Myrtaceae (126 species), Fabaceae (110 species), Poaceae (80 species), Orchidaceae (68 species), Asteraceae (61 species) and Cyperaceae (58 species). On the other hand there are about 30 families that are only represented by one species.
Genera with the most species are Eucalyptus (54 species), Acacia (30 species), Cyperus (19 species), Senecio (13 species) and Leptospermum (13 species), while about 300 genera are represented by a single species.
These numbers of species are indicative and not exhaustive, and many more species (particularly exotic species) may have been recorded or would occur in the GKPN area.
The GKNP area has a high diversity of eucalypt species, many of which occur as tall forest trees. If the genera Angophora, Corymbia, Lophostemon and Syncarpia (all of which are in the family Myrtaceae) are included in a broader definition of eucalyptus there are 66 species. Some of these species such as Flooded Gum Eucalyptus grandis, Brush Box Lophostemon confertus, Tallowwood E. microcorys and Mountain Ribbon Gum E. nobilis occur as very tall emergents over well-developed rainforest. This occurrence of tall eucalypt species over rainforest is of considerable ecological and evolutionary interest. The wet sclerophyll forests of north-east NSW have more mixing of sclerophyll and rainforest floristic elements than those of southern and northern Australia.
35 species that are listed on the Schedules of the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BCA) have been recorded in the GKNP area. Of these 19 are also included on the Schedules of the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC).
Species listed as Endangered on the BCA include vines such as Cryptic Forest Twiner Tylophora woollsii, the grass Floyd’s Grass Alexfloydia repens, shrubs such as Beadle’s Grevillea Grevillea beadleana and small trees such as Newry Golden Wattle Acacia chrysotricha. Vulnerable species include Orara Boronia Boronia umbellata , Ravine Orchid Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii and Narrow-leaved Black Peppermint Eucalyptus nicholii.
Bush Food and Horticultural Potential
Some species recorded in the GKNP area are currently used in the bush food industry such as Aniseed Myrtle Syzygium anisatum, which is endemic to the GKNP area. Many other species would have been utilised by the original indigenous peoples.
The horticultural value of native Australian plants has been more appreciated in recent times. Many of the rainforest species that occur in the GKNP area are already recognised for their use in gardens. There are also many non-rainforest species that are or could be used in horticulture.
With appropriate licensing and controls the GKNP area could provide a source for propagating material of these species.
Fruit of Red Boppel Nut Hicksbeachia pinnatifolia, a Vulnerable species that occurs in the GKNP area