Nimbin Plant Selection Guide

David McMinn  

Rainforest is not limited by rain or soil type in eastern Australia, but more by the frequency of fires burning through a particular area. Rainforests are very sensitive to fire and will not survive a 'big burn'. Thus rainforests are usually found in high rainfall regions. Even so, some species can grow in dry districts if given some protection from fires in localities such as gullies, on south eastern slopes, in rocky areas and so forth. Rainforest species, native to these forests, can cope with dry conditions and in fact may suffer root rot or fungal leaf diseases when gown in wetter areas. The species below are appropriate for planting in drier areas of the Northern Rivers and south - east Queensland, such as westerly facing slopes and rain shadow areas. If you live in a drier area, these species are the most suitable for you to grow as they can cope with drought much better than most other rainforest species. All species listed are native to north - east NSW and south - east Queensland. If you wish to expand on this listing, you may like to reference the following books for those species native to dry rainforests.                   


Jones, David L.
Rainforest Plants of Australia. Reed Books P/L.1986.        
Lines-Kelly, Rebecca & Currey, Anne (Eds). Trees for the NSW North Coast. NSW Dept of Agriculture. 1992.  
Nicholson, Nan & Nicholson, Hugh. Australian Rainforest Plants. Vols I, II, III, IV & V. 1985-2000.     
Radke, Peter & Radke, Ann. Growing Australian Tropical Plants. Frith & Frith Books, 1993.  
Williams, J B, Harden, G J & McDonald, W J F. Trees & Shrubs in Rainforests of NSW & South East Queensland. Botany Department, University of New England. 1984.

Dry Rainforest Species  Height
Ash species   
Alphitonia species
8-10 Fast Fast growing pioneer species. Often will self sow, if mature trees are located in the area. Excellent in initial plantings to create a quick canopy. Hardy in full sun and tolerant of cold conditions.

Bunya Pine    
Araucaria bidwillii
25-35 Moderate Large columnar tree. The large cones yield edible bunya nuts. May take several years to become established. Valuable timber tree. Frost and cold tolerant.

Araucaria cunninghamii
25-35 Moderate Large columnar tree. May take several years to become established. Valuable timber tree. Frost and cold tolerant.

Barklya syringifolia 

8 Slow Slow growing species, with showy yellow flowers. Grows best in a sunny position with good moisture.

Flame Tree
Brachychiton acerifolius 
10 Moderate Beautiful red flowers are displayed in spring, when the tree is deciduous. Needs well drained soil and copes with some frost.

Broadleaved Bottle Tree
Brachychiton australis
10 Moderate Fast growing, tolerates light frost and drought resistant. It produces a dense canopy and is suitable to grow as a shade tree in drier areas. It needs excellent drainage. White, scented flowers are produced in spring, when the tree is out of leaf.

Lacebark Tree
Brachychiton discolor 
12 Moderate Attractive pink flowers can be produced prolifically in a dry season. Easy to grow in very well drained soils. Aboriginals ate the roasted seeds.

Leichhardt Bean
Cassia brewsteri 
2-12 Fast Flowers prolifically in autumn. Adaptable to different soil types so long as they are free draining. Prefers a warm, frost free site.

Velvet Bean Tree
Cassia tomentella
5-10 Moderate Attractive tree producing bright yellow flowers in the spring dry season. Likes well drained, fertile soils. Copes with full sun.

Jak Wood
Cryptocarpus glaucescens
10 Fast Common species occurring in a variety of habitats. Black fruit attracts birds.

Native Tamarind
Diploglottis australis
10 Moderate Tall upright tree. The orange fruit are eaten by fruit bats and birds in spring. Will grow in sun or shade. Needs a site protected from heavy frosts and strong winds.

Spear Lily
Doryanthes palmeri
2-3 Slow Arching red flowers attract nectar feeding birds. Grows naturally on steep slopes with well drained soils. Do not plant in wet areas.

Bat's Wing Coral Tree
Erythrina vespertilo
2-30 Moderate In dry areas, this tree may only become a small shrub, but with more  moisture it can reach 30m. The orange flowers attract birds. Suitable for dry well drained sites with low humidity. Fast growing in full sun. Frost hardy.

Sandpaper Fig
Ficus fraseri 
8 Fast A bushy small tree with dark green leaves which are rough and sandpapery - hence its common name. A widespread species that will often self regenerate. It is a valuable food source for birds. Easy to grow and plants will establish themselves quickly. Briefly deciduous in cold areas.

Port Jackson Fig
Ficus rubiginosa 
15-20 Moderate Non strangling fig, which often is found growing over rocky outcrops. It occurs in coastal and dry rainforests. The fruit is an important food supply for many bird species.

Deciduous Fig
Ficus superba var henneana  

15-20 Moderate A strangling fig found in drier rainforests. Trees have a short deciduous period.

Flindersia australis

20 Slow Gives dense shade and found in a wide variety of habitats. Produces a good timber.

Leopard Tree
Flindersia collina

15-20 Slow Gives dense shade and found in a wide variety of habitats. Will grow on poorer soils. A good timber tree.

Long Jack
Flindersia xanthoxyla

15 Moderate Gives dense shade and found in a wide variety of habitats. Will grow on poorer soils. A good timber tree.

Silky Oak
Grevillea robusta
20-30 Fast Cabinet tree. The nectar rich, yellow flowers are a good food source for fruit bats and birds in spring. Flowering in spring is best in dry weather. Very hardy coping with frosts and dry conditions. Easy to grow and will tolerate full sun when quite young.

Guioa semiglauca
10 Fast Common pioneer species. May grow with multi trunks. Plant in a sheltered site to protect from strong winds. Fruit relished by birds.

Tulip Wood
Harpullia pendula
10 Moderate Prefers a fertile soil, but is adaptable to less favourable sites. Protect from frost when young. Copes with drier soils and full sun. Produces a beautiful timber.

Grease Nut
Hernandia bivalvis
10-12 Moderate Initial growth can be slow. Needs a sunny position with a well drained soil and good fertility. The nuts have a high oil content - hence the common name. A good specimen tree for house gardens.

Native Rosella
Hibiscus heterophyllus

3-6 Fast Flowers are large and showy during the warm season. Hardy to grow, provided the soil is well drained.

Native Frangipani
Hymenosporum flavum
10 Fast Tall slender medium sized tree. Clusters of yellow, scented flowers in spring. Strong winds may damage the branches.

Brush Box
Lophostemon confertus
20-30 fast Frost hardy. Tolerates a wide range of soils. May be grown on dry ridges and in exposed positions. Excellent border  tree for rainforest plantings to protect the more sensitive trees from hot winds and burning sun.

Mallotus species

8-10 Fast Pioneer species, which may self sow if adult trees are located in the area.
White Cedar
Melia azedarach 
15 Fast Grows well in difficult sites. The perfumed, lilac-coloured flowers are showy in spring. Fruit is poisonous to humans but is readily eaten by birds. Frost tolerant.

Finger Lime
Microcitrus australasica

1-6 Slow Can grow in seasonally dry forests. Fruit is edible and used in marmalades and in cooking.

Native Murraya
Murraya ovatifoliolata
1-5 Moderate  This species has showy white flowers, with the scent of jasmine or orange blossom. Followed by bright red oval fruit 1 cm long, which is eaten by birds. Flowers best in a sunny position. Must have well drained soil and appreciates a pruning after flowering. Plant as an alternative to the exotic, weedy Murraya paniculata.

Wonga Vine
Pandorea pandorana
Vine Fast  The attractive flowers bloom over several months. Plant this species as an alternative to exotic vines, which can become a serious weed problem.

Black Apple
Planchonella australis

12 Slow Slow growing tree. Fruit eaten by fruit bats. A cabinet timber tree.
Burdekin Plum
Pleiogynium timorense
10-12 Moderate Very  hardy and able to survive long periods of drought. Needs good drainage and plenty of sun. Winter deciduous with frost tolerance. Large edible fruit.

Plum Pine
Podocarpus elatus

10-12 Slow Slow growing in the initial stages. Birds eat the fruit. Produces a good timber.
Deep Yellow Wood
Rhodosphaera rhodanthema
15 Fast Very attractive tree. It is hardy to dry spells and copes well with sun. Must have well drained soils. Valuable timber tree.

Turrea pubescens
3-4 Moderate White fragrant flowers. Copes with hot, dry climates, if grown in a semi-sheltered site. Intolerant of wet soils and humid conditions.

Copyright.   2004. David McMinn. All rights reserved.