What Plants Grow in the Australian Outback?

The Australian Outback is the arid, central part of Australia that is sometimes called sunburned country. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Outback was home to many groups of indigenous people. In spite of being a desert, the Outback is home to many types of life, including animals and many plants.

Sturt's Desert Pea

Growing primarily in the eastern part of the Outback, Sturt's desert pea is a small, pea-like plant that produces red flowers with a prominent black bump in the middle. On rare occasions, the bump can be red or white. The flower is made up of four petals. It is a vine that grows along the ground for as long as 8 feet. Sturt's desert pea has a deep taproot to help it find water in arid climates. This flower has become popular in many parts of the world and is now being bred for export.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood grows primarily in the southwestern part of the Outback. Depending on the variety, it can range from a shrub to a tree as tall as 15 feet. Although sandalwood trees have their own root systems, they are capable of parasitically taking nutrients from the roots of other trees. The wood from sandalwood trees is often exported to Asia for the production of sandalwood oils and scents.

Western Myall

The western myall is a large tree that grows in the south central part of the Outback. It can grow as tall as 40 feet and grows with a widespread canopy that makes it an ideal shade tree. The leaves on this tree are silvery and needle-like. It has bright yellow flowers that only appear after a heavy rain and is a long-lived tree, with some specimens estimated to be as old as 800 to 1,000 years old. The dark brown wood is both hard and durable, and is sometimes used for fences. A member of the Acacia family, the tree is slow-growing and well adapted to hot, arid climates. Unlike some members of the Acacia family, the western myall does not have thorns.

Andamooka Lily

The andamooka lily is native to large parts of the Australian Outback, including all of Western Australia and parts of Central Australia. The plant grows after deep rains from an egg-shaped bulb. The lily flower is yellow and has a strong, unpleasant odor. The leaves of the plant emerge several days after a rain and the plant can grow as tall as 20 inches. One local name for this plant is the stink lily.

Keywords: desert plants, Outback vegetation, Outback plants

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Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.