Tropical Plants in Australia

Australia is a continent of amazing ecological diversity, boasting arid deserts, wet tropics and woodlands. Nicknamed "the Sunshine State," the northern Australian state of Queensland is home to the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics. Within these tropical regions exist a stunning array of native tropical plants.


The Wet Tropics of Queensland are home to approximately 230 different species of orchids, adaptable flowers that grow on rocks, on trees and in the earth. The rich purple Cooktown Orchid (Vappodes phalaenopsis) is the floral emblem of Queensland. The flower is rarely seen in the wild because of over-collecting, and the plant is now listed as vulnerable. The distinct, multi-flowered white King Orchid (Dendrobium speciosum) thrives throughout Australia, in habitats ranging from rain forest tree branches to sand stones along the eastern coast.

Strangler Fig

The Strangler Fig (Ficus destruens) grows on the rain forest floor of the Queensland Wet Tropics, using its long, cable-like roots to attach itself to a host tree. As its foliage expands, the Strangler Fig blocks light from reaching the host tree, thus killing it and making more room for the Strangler Fig to establish itself. The tree's fruit is a valuable food source for many birds, but the fig wasp is the only creature that can pollinate the Strangler Fig. A well-established Strangler Fig can live for several hundred years.

Palm Lily

The Palm Lily (Cordyline cannifolia), also commonly referred to as Cabbage Palm or Good Luck Plant, is a flowering woody shrub found in the Wet Tropics of Queensland, as well as eastern Australia. This evergreen plant boasts long, waxy, palm-like leaves and small pink, somewhat tubular, flowers. The plant can grow up to 13 feet high, although it often stays lower to the ground. Palm lilies produce small rows of orange or red berries after flowering.

Keywords: tropical plants, Australian plants, rainforest plants

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.