The Northern Territory (NT) covers 17 percent of Australia. It's home more than 4200 plant species, says the Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (DNREAS). Its trees grow in the mangrove swamps, dense forests and open woodlands near Darwin in the north, and on the sand plains, dunes and rocky mountains of the southern arid zone around Alice Springs. Each has found a way to cope with the often harsh conditions in its specific environment.
Acacia trees, says the DNREAS, grow in the chalky soils east and northeast of Alice Springs. Ironwood acacia (Acacia estrophiolata) prefers the more fertile sandy loams along streams or rivers or on plains at the feet of the region's hills. Dead Finish (Acacia tetragonophylla), named because thickets of it stopped travelers dead in their tracks, is a densely branched, thorned tree up to 16 feet high. It grows along the South Australia/Northern Territories border and south of Alice Springs.
Endangered waddy-wood (Acacia peuce) is a slow-growing tree that can reach 60 feet high. It grows in the Mac Clark Conservation Reserve 143 miles southeast of Alice Springs. Living for up to 500 years, it has needle-like leaves. Pale yellow flowers appear between October and March and seed pods from December to June.
Darwin Woolybutt Eucalyptus
The NT's eucalypt forests grow along its rainy northern coast. Darwin woolly-butt (Eucalyptus miniata), standing form 60 to 80 feet high, is a dominant species of these forests. Its orange-brown to gray trunk bark is soft and fibrous, and its branch bark, white and smooth. Bristly clusters of flame-orange, yellow-stamened flowers, effective in floral arrangements, appear from April to September--and sometimes in January--says the Australia National Botanic Garden. Cylindrical to barrel-shaped, silvery nuts contain gray or black seeds.
Cannonball mangrove (Xylocarpus granata) grows in the mangrove forests along the NT's coast and near the mouths of its rivers. These mangrove forests are some of the world's largest, says the DNREAS. Standing up to 72 feet high, it has fissured, flaky brownish-red bark. Its thick, exposed roots spread in all directions. Oval green leaves are up to 4 inches long. Small clusters of pink flowers bloom in January, giving way to large, rough-skinned greenish-brown fruit between June and September. Known as "monkey-puzzle fruit," it contains up to 18 seeds that interlock to form a single nut. They split apart when the fruit falls from the tree, frustrating anyone who attempts reassembling them.