Native plants

There are more than 1730 species of native plants which grow on the Gold Coast. We also have an abundance of non-vascular plants, such as mosses and algae.

This diversity of species is due to our region's diversity of ecosystems and habitats, including a broad range of vegetation communities. Each of these communities supports a diverse array of native plant species.

Exposed coastal

Exposed coastal areas, such as beach dunes and rocky headland, are exposed to strong salt laden winds, and wind and wave erosion, resulting in unique array of plant species. These include:

  • trees that grow in small numbers, sometimes as isolated individuals. Local species include coastal she-oak, screw pine, coastal banksia, tuckeroo, macaranga, beach Alectryon and cottonwood
  • small trees and shrubs including coastal vitex, coast wattle
  • grasses including coastal dune grass, beach spinifex, blady grass
  • ground covers including pigface, goat's foot morning glory vine, yellow beach bean, coastal jack bean.

Protected coastal

Plants in protected coastal heathlands and woodlands grow on old sand dunes which can be less fertile than other soil types. Local species include:

  • trees – white cypress pine, black she-oak, coastal banksia, pink bloodwood, cheese tree, scribbly gum, swamp mahogany
  • small trees and shrubs – dwarf banksia, back wattle, coastal wattle, weeping baeckea, grey guinea-flower, wild may, olive tea-tree, paperbark tea tree, White's tea tree, prickly-leaved paperbark
  • grasses – coastal dune grass, blady grass, kangaroo grass, barbwire grass
  • notable species – wallum banksia, our arboreal and floral emblem, and the wallum grasstree.

Estuarine wetlands

Plants that grow in estuarine wetlands are highly specialised and adapted to saltwater environments.

  • mangroves – true mangroves have adapted to live in salty and oxygen-deficient soils. For example, they have above-ground roots called pneumatophores to help them breathe. These specialised structures are filled with spongy tissue and holes that maximise oxygen absorption, acting like snorkels. Six species of mangrove are recorded on the Gold Coast including grey, red, river and orange mangroves. To learn more, download our fact sheet: Mangroves of the Gold Coast(PDF, 764KB)
  • other tree species – swamp oak and scattered forest red gums
  • shrubs – boobialla, ruby, grey and berry saltbushes
  • ferns – swamp fern, mangrove fern, elkhorn (epiphyte)
  • samphires – succulent, herbaceous plants that grow in high salinity environments. Local species include Austral seablite, sea purslane, jellybean sea blite, beaded samphire, lesser sea-spurrey
  • grasses – saltwater couch
  • sedges and rushes – streaked arrow-grass, rusty sedge
  • orchids that grow in estuarine wetlands are usually epiphytes (grow on the trunk of other plants) – tiny bulbophyllum, pencil orchid
  • mistletoes – mangrove mistletoe
  • vines – common silkpod, mangrove wax-flower.

Vegetated wetlands

Wetland plants grow in water or need a waterlogged environment for at least part of their lifecycle. Local species include:

  • broadleaved paperbarks which dominate many of our coastal vegetated wetlands
  • other tree species including swamp oak, swamp box
  • shrubs – swamp banksia
  • ferns – swamp water fern, harsh ground fern
  • reeds, sedges and rushes – curly sedge, tall saw-sedge, soft twig rush, jointed twig-rush, common reed
  • other – swamp grasstree.

Eucalypt forests & woodlands

This is the most common type of vegetation on the Gold Coast. Eucalypt vegetation communities grow on a variety of soil types, most often in areas with lower rainfall and soil moisture. Local plant species include:

  • eucalypt trees – the most iconic of all Australian trees. Eucalypts are also the most abundant and widespread of Australian trees with more than 700 species. More than 35 species have been recorded on the Gold Coast. Notable local species include broad-leaved white mahogany, Queensland white stringybark and spotted gum.
  • preferred koala food trees – koalas feed on a wide range of eucalyptus species across their wider distribution. However, within local areas koalas mainly feed on a small number of preferred species. On the Gold Coast, 5 are known to be preferred koala food trees – tallowwood, swamp mahogany, forest red gum, small fruited grey gum, grey gum.
  • other trees – pink bloodwood, smooth-barked apple, brush box, black she-oak, hickory wattle, black wattle, red ash
  • shrubs – dogwood, Mt Tamborine ziera, golden pea, waddy wood
  • ferns – gristle fern, prickly rasp fern
  • grasses – kangaroo grass, blady grass, barbwire grass, poverty grass, bluegrass
  • sedges and rushes – broad-leaved mat rush.

Rainforest

Most rainforest communities are found in areas with moist, rich, volcanic or alluvial soils. This results in a high diversity plants including:

  • emergent trees (isolated tall trees that are visible above the canopy) – a feature of many types of rainforest. Local species include hoop pine, rose marrara, Moreton Bay fig, strangler fig
  • canopy trees – lancewood, white booyong, yellow carrabeen, giant stinging tree, brown pine, riberry, purple cherry, giant water gum, Bangalow palm
  • small trees and shrubs – native holly, glossy laurel, green and hairy-leaved bolly gum, finger lime, walking stick palm, native ginger, native lily
  • ferns – dwarf sickle fern, naked shield fern, rough maidenhair fern, robber fern (epiphyte), jungle brake, trim shield fern, climbing fishbone fern, bird's nest fern, staghorn (epiphyte), elkhorn (epiphyte), prickly tree fern
  • grasses – basket grass
  • vines – Burny vine, blood vine, kangaroo vine, native grape, scrambling caper, hairy water vine, lawyer vine, native pothos
  • orchids (ephiphyes) – tree spider orchid, beetle orchid, raspy root orchid.

To learn more, download Threatened rainforest plants of the Gold Coast(PDF, 1MB)

Montane

Montane areas have shallow, low fertile soils. Plants that grow in Montane areas include:

  • small trees – bell-fruited mallee ash
  • shrubs – small-fruited tea-tree, mountain tea tree, rigid she oak, flax-leaf heath myrtle, mountain mintbush, willow-leaved hakea, prickly Moses, blunt-leaved pea
  • orchids – baby greenhood, Daintree's greenhood, pink rock orchid
  • ferns – screw fern, coral fern
  • grasses and sedges – wiry panic, tailed swordsedge.

Aquatic plants

Aquatic plants grow in water environments. Important and notable local species include:

Freshwater

  • free floating – azolla, think duckweed
  • fully submerged – ribbon weed, hydrilla, Queensland lace plant
  • submerged with floating leaves – snowflake lily, giant swamp lily and swamp lily.

Estuarine and marine waters

  • seagrass
  • sea tassel.

Of the more than 1700 species of plants recorded on the Gold Coast, over 100 are listed as threatened species. This means they are at risk of becoming extinct.

We have identified 100 of our local native plants as priority species for conservation. There are also more than 150 species that have been identified as city-wide significant species. To learn more, download our City-wide significant plants of the Gold Coast booklet(PDF, 2MB).