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Wetland Plants of Queensland: A Field Guide

Wetland Plants of Queensland: A Field Guide

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Wetland Plants of Queensland: A Field Guide

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Jan 9, 2002


This practical field guide describes and illustrates in colour 90 common and widespread wetland plants found in Queensland, and gives a distribution map for each species. To assist those readers who are keen to learn more, the book includes a series of keys to help identify those species that are not illustrated in the book but which may be encountered in the field. The keys also help to identify closely related species. There is also a glossary of technical terms.

Creating artificial wetlands for the treatment of wastewater and rehabilitating wetland areas that have been disturbed by roads, bridges, mining, housing and other infrastructure developments requires the use of a range of plant species.

Wetland Plants of Queensland is an invaluable resource for all those involved in the reclamation of wetlands or the treatment of wastewater, including farmers, environmentalists and all those with an interest in wetland revegetation.

Jan 9, 2002

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Wetland Plants of Queensland - KM K.M. Stephens



A field guide

K M Stephens & R M Dowling

© CSIRO 2002

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, duplicating or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. Contact CSIRO PUBLISHING for all permission requests.

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Stephens, K. M.

Wetland plants of Queensland.


Includes index.

ISBN 0 643 06674 8.

1. Wetland plants – Queensland – Classification.

2. Wetland plants – Queensland. I. Dowling, R. M. (Ralph M.).

II. Title.


Available from


150 Oxford Street (PO Box 1139)

Collingwood VIC 3066


Cover photographs by Ralph Dowling

Cover design by Jenny Pace

Text design by James Kelly

Printed in Australia by Brown Prior Anderson




Wetland Plants of Queensland





































Glossary of botanical terms

Getting specimens identified




The authors wish to thank Kate Gamble and Jane Ward for many hours of word-processing assistance. Sue Warbroke and Andrew Daniel assisted with the organisation of the photographs. The concept for this book was originally provided by the Wetlands Advisory and Co-ordination Committee Queensland Department of Natural Resources as a resource to assist those people involved in the construction and use of artificial wetlands used for the treatment of waste water. Financial assistance for the production of this book was provided by the National Landcare Program through that committee and by Main Roads Department (Queensland). The publication of this book would not have been possible without this financial support. CSIRO PUBLISHING took up the challenge of publishing this book to make it available to the public. We thank Rod Henderson and Jenny Milson who provided extensive editorial assistance and comment on the text. Peter Bostock and Will Smith assisted in the production of the maps using data from HERBRECS the Queensland Herbarium database. The time given by these busy people is greatly appreciated. Colleagues in the plant identification room at Queensland Herbarium tested draft versions of the identification keys and their feedback has been incorporated into the keys. The support of family members has provided the inspiration to persist during the long hours involved in the production of a book of this nature. Thanks Ben, Brodie, Gemma, Margaret, Ron and Sinikka.


All photographs were taken by Ralph Dowling except for the photograph of Marsilea drumondii which was taken by the late Selwyn Everist. Photographs were taken with a Rolleiflex 3003 camera with a 60 mm macro lens and 85 mm and 28 mm lenses using Kodachrome 64 slide film. Photographs were taken in the field using available light so that the plants could be depicted as they appear naturally. This was done to assist with field identification of the various plants. Descriptions of the species can be found in the text to further assist identification.


This book is intended as a field guide to the common and widespread wetland plants of Queensland. It is not written as the definitive book on the subject but rather as a guide to identification. As authors, we have tried to include as wide a range of plants as possible in the pictorial and descriptive section, but obviously could not include all species that occur in Queensland’s wetlands, as this is well outside the scope of this book. In addition, it would make the book too large and unwieldy for use in the field.

A satisfactory definition of a wetland is hard to find and depends to a greater or lesser extent on an individual’s viewpoint. It can be broadly or narrowly defined and hence can range from damp soakage areas to extensive areas of open water such as dams and lakes. Because of their nature and environment, the depth of water within them can vary greatly over time. To narrow the range of plants covered by this book, we have included mainly plants that spend most of their life cycle growing in free-standing water, although some species that can withstand extended periodic drying are also included. These species usually grow in shallow areas of freestanding water.

To help those who are interested in obtaining more information, keys to the currently known wetland species of Queensland (except for sedges) have been included in the second half of the book. The illustrated and described plants are indicated in these keys together with a page reference. A key to the sedges has not been included as a suitable key to identify the species of this large specialised group already exists (Sharpe 1986).

We have, however, included a series of keys to help identify those genera and species that are not illustrated in the book but which may be encountered in the field. The keys will also help you to identify closely related species. It is presumed that those wishing to use the keys have some technical knowledge or the ability to gain such knowledge. A list of useful references is also included for those who would like to learn more. An asterisk (* ) before a plant name in the text or keys indicates that the plant is a non-native species which has been introduced and become naturalised in Queensland.

In writing this book, we have tried to keep the use of technical terms to a minimum, and where possible, we have attempted to use plain English to replace them. Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate the use of such terms in a book like this, if only to avoid repetition. Technical terms are a shorthand way of describing some object or feature. The meaning of any term that we have used, either in the text or the keys, can be found in the glossary of botanical terms.

Wetland Plants of Queensland has been produced at the request of the Wetlands Advisory and Co-ordination Committee — a multidisciplinary group with a wide range of expertise from Government, Universities and industry — which was responsible for setting up and undertaking trials using artificial wetlands for the treatment of waste water in Queensland. The committee felt that there was a need for a field guide to assist operators and builders of artificial wetlands to identify the plants which they could use or were likely to find in the field. The use of this emerging technology will become more widespread in the future and can be expected to come into greater prominence with changing environmental laws and greater community expectations for the environment. We believe this book will also be useful to people wishing to restore or rehabilitate areas of wetlands that have been disturbed by, for example, roads, bridge construction, mining, housing and other infrastructure developments.

Kathy Stephens

Ralph Dowling

Queensland Herbarium

Mt Coot-tha Road


Queensland, 4066



Caldesia oligococca

Habit: Caldesia oligococca is a perennial, bottom-anchored, aquatic plant that has surface-floating leaves and an emergent flower peduncle that is 30 to 50 cm tall. The leaves may be emergent in the dry season.

Distribution: Caldesia oligococca is a native species found in coastal and subcoastal Queensland from Rockhampton to the Northern Territory border. It usually occurs in shallow water that is 20 to 30 cm deep in lagoons and swampy areas.

Leaves: Leaves float on the water surface and are cordate. They are up to 15 by 12 cm in size but are often much smaller than this, being commonly about 8 by 5 cm. The base of the leaf blade is split to the point of attachment of the blade to the petiole. In larger leaves, the bases may overlap. From 5 to 15 distinctive arching veins are present on the upper blade surface and they arise from the point of attachment of the blade to the petiole. The base of the petiole usually has narrow membranous wings on either side.

Flowers: Flowers occur in a pyramid-shaped panicle. There are usually three bracts at the base of each branch of the panicle. The flowers are small, being 4 to 10 mm across, and white.

Flowering period: Spring to late Summer.

Fruit: The fruit consists of 2 to 10 (usually 3) carpels that are laterally compressed, kidney-shaped and with four longitudinal ribs with blunt, wart-like outgrowths along them.

Notes: Caldesia oligococca is similar in appearance to starfruit, Damasonium minus, but starfruit is more southern in its distribution.

Damasonium minus


Habit: Starfruit is an annual, aquatic herb that is either erect or sprawling. It has both emergent and floating leaves and a scape bearing white flowers followed by star-shaped fruits that emerges up to 1m above the leaves.

Distribution: Starfruit is a native plant that occurs in marshy areas and freshwater pools up to 30 cm deep in southern and central Queensland and as far west as Charleville.

Leaves: Leaves are basal with petioles up to 30 cm long which are sheathing but open at the base. The leaf blade is cordate at the base, is narrowly spearhead-shaped, and up to 10 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, and has three to five longitudinal parallel veins.

Flowers: Flowers are 0.5 to 0.6 cm in diameter and have three rounded white deciduous petals and three persistent, green, cup-shaped sepals. Flowers have pedicels up to 4 cm long and are borne in several, simple whorls on scapes up to 1m tall.

Flowering period: Spring to Summer.

Fruit: The fruit is star-shaped and consists of several, radiating, flattened triangular capsular segments 5 to 6 mm long that are joined at their bases.

Notes: Starfruit is not common but is widespread. It makes an attractive subject in garden pond culture as it normally grows in shallow water. Young growth may be similar in appearance to that of Ottelia ovalifolia, swamp lily.

* Sagittaria graminea var. platyphylla


Habit: Sagittaria is an erect, emergent perennial herb growing to 75 cm in height. It propagates either by stolons or rhizomes and is capable of forming floating mats.

Distribution: Sagittaria is an introduced plant naturalised in south-east Queensland, mainly in creeks in urban areas.

Leaves: Leaves are sheathing and winged at the base and are very variable in shape. Emergent leaves are held stiffly erect, and have narrowly ovate blades up to 48 cm long on petioles up to 50 cm long. Submerged leaves are up to 48 cm long and strap shaped.

Flowers: Flowers occur on unbranched scapes 5 to 120 cm tall. The separate male and female flowers occur in whorls on the scape on pedicels up to 7 cm long. Flowers consist of three white or whitish petals, which fall readily, surrounding a raised rounded central disc.

Flowering period: November to January.

Fruit: Fruit are achenes which are flat and membranous and usually are without wings.

Notes: Sagittaria may grow in sufficient density to restrict water flow, especially in nutrient enriched waters. It is cultivated as an ornamental. It usually occurs in shallow water to about 0.5m in depth.


Oenanthe javanica

Habit: Oenanthe javanica is a stoloniferous herbaceous perennial which has roots that are often swollen or bearing tubers. It grows to about 1m or more in height and often forms pure stands.

Distribution: Oenanthe javanica is a native species usually found growing along slow moving streams or in areas of soakage in coastal and subcoastal north Queensland.

Leaves: Leaves of Oenanthe javanica are variable in shape. The leaf axis is branched up to four times with terminal branchlets bearing ovate to narrowly oblong leaflets that are 1 to 5 cm long, 5 to 20 mm broad and coarsely dentate or serrate. The petiole is often sheathing at the base.

Flowers: Flowers occur in terminal umbels of several rays 0.5 to 3 cm long each bearing 5 to 15 flowers. Flowers have petals about 1 mm long and 0.75 mm broad, and pedicels 1.5 to 4 mm long.

Flowering period: Oenanthe javanica flowers for most of the year, but the major flowering period is from Autumn to Spring.

Fruit: Fruits are mericarps which are 2 to 3 mm long and

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