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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora

Kosciuszko Alpine Flora

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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora

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Nov 1, 2000


Around Australia’s highest mountain lies a rare ecosystem, an alpine area of outstanding beauty and diversity, strikingly different from other alpine ecosystems of the world but with common features.
Kosciuszko Alpine Flora describes and illustrates the area’s 212 flowering plants and ferns, of which 21 are endemic. It discusses the geological and human history of the area, the life-forms and habitats of the plants, and explores the various plant communities and their environmental relationships.
The book contains identification keys, detailed descriptions, and distribution and habitat notes for each species. Superb colour photographs show details of flowers, fruit, foliage, and ecology.
Finalist Scholarly Reference section - The Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing 2001
Nov 1, 2000

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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora - AB Costin



National Library of Australia cataloguing-in-publication entry

Kosciuszko alpine flora.

Field ed.


Includes index.

ISBN 0 643 06521 0.

1. Mountain plants – New South Wales – Kosciuszko, Mount – Identification. 2. Plant communities – New South Wales – Kosciuszko. Mount. I. Costin, A. B. (Alec Baillie), 1925–.



First published in 1979 by CSIRO/Collins

This edition © 2000 CSIRO

All photographs © Colin Totterdell

All rights reserved. Except under the conditions described in the Copyright Act 1968 of Australia 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.

Set in 10/13 Sabon


150 Oxford Street (PO Box 1139)

Collingwood VIC 3066


Tel: (03) 9662 7666   Int:+61 3 9662 7666

Fax: (03) 9662 7555   Int:+61 3 9662 7555


Opposite: Chionogentias muelleriana subsp. alpestris (Mueller’s Snow-gentian)



Preface and acknowledgements

Alpine and subalpine environments

Human history and the Kosciuszko flora

Evolution of the Kosciuszko Alpine Area

Plants and plant communities

The Kosciuszko alpine flora




Thousands of people visit the Australian Alps. They come all year round to enjoy the feeling of freedom, the breathtaking views and the harmony of nature. The Alps are a magnificent part of Australia — an ancient mountainous landscape in a predominantly dry and flat continent.

Until relatively recently, Kosciuszko National Park was the only substantial area of high country dedicated as national park. Now there is a chain of parks and reserves in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory covering more than 1.6 million hectares. The co-operative management programme for this important national asset is the responsibility of the Australian Alps Liaison Committee (AALC).

A major objective of the AALC is to increase public awareness of the significant natural values of the region. With assistance from the Co-operative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism, we are delighted to be associated with this new edition of Kosciuszko Alpine Flora. The authors, their many colleagues, and CSIRO Publishing are to be commended for producing a world-class publication, combining the results of excellent scientific research with community education.

With continuing conservation management, the alpine flora of Kosciuszko and its sustaining ecosystems should remain an inspiration for all visitors — something to enjoy and cherish for the future.

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

July 2000

Opposite: Mass flowering of Craspedia in a tall alpine herbfield above Lake Albina.

Once regarded mainly as a place for winter recreation, the Kosciuszko Alpine Area has become increasingly popular in summer for nature-lovers and walkers, seen here approaching the alpine area through heath at the edge of the treeline.

Preface and acknowledgements

Kosciusko Alpine Flora, describing the flowering plants, ferns and fernlike plants of the Kosciuszko Alpine Area, was first published in 1979 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of CSIRO’s Division of Plant Industry. It was well received by the public and soon went out of print. This completely revised edition of the Flora responds to the need for updated publications.

When the Flora was first published, many species even in quite significant groups such as Craspedia and Celmisia could not be named without major revisions of the genera concerned. Subsequent work by many botanists, and the publication of excellent State Floras, as well as many volumes of the Flora of Australia, have largely remedied this situation. However, many genera are still under active revision and in these cases we have usually followed the names used in the standard Floras of New South Wales and Victoria, with reference to as yet unnamed taxa in the notes under each species. Most of the species are now identified by common names.

In this new edition, colour photographs replace some of the black and white photographs of the original edition, some new photographs have been added, and maps, figures and tables have been revised. Throughout, ‘Kosciusko’ is now referred to as Kosciuszko, in accordance with a recent decision of the Australian Place Names Committee. This change more accurately commemorates the Polish patriot after whom Australia’s highest mountain is named.

While many of the Kosciuszko alpine species are found only at Kosciuszko itself, others are more widespread. To this extent, Kosciuszko Alpine Flora will be found useful elsewhere in the Australian Alps and in mountain areas of Tasmania.

Publication of this revised edition has received strong support and continued encouragement from staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales. Particular thanks go to Roger Good for his liaison between the several groups and individuals involved. Roger’s long and wide experience in the Australian Alps is reflected in many parts of this new edition. Keith McDougall’s help in updating information on the taxonomy and distribution of the alpine plants has been invaluable. Without his dedicated help the book would not have been possible. Genevieve Wright provided enthusiastic help in the field and Jane Gough has re-drafted the main vegetation map. Author and photographer Allan Fox has also been of great help. Dr Judy West, Director of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, provided facilities and access to the collections of the Australian National Herbarium, and Mary McDougall spent many hours at the computer incorporating the changes to the taxonomic section. Our publisher Nick Alexander deserves a special medal for his patience and positive actions.

Financial support from the Australian Alps Liaison Committee and from the Co-operative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism (Griffith University, Queensland) has contributed to making this high quality publication possible. With increasing recreational pressure on natural resources, sustainable nature conservation and ecotourism are now more dependent on each other, and a balance between the two may not always be easy.

As in the first edition, Alec Costin and Dane Wimbush are responsible for the general text, ecological data and colour vegetation maps. Max Gray is responsible for the taxonomic part. The photography is by Colin Totterdell, who also contributed to both taxonomic and ecological information through extensive field collections and observations. Our gratitude to all those who provided help, advice and encouragement, whom we acknowledged in the first edition, remains as strong as ever.

We hope your enjoyment of Kosciuszko Alpine Flora outlasts us, as it is unlikely that we shall be able to do it again.

Alec Costin, Max Gray, Colin Totterdell, Dane Wimbush.

April 2000

Opposite: By spring and early summer the deep winter snowpack is fast disappearing.

Alpine and subalpine environments

In Australia, alpine and subalpine environments, which regularly experience persistent snow, are restricted to elevated areas of the Australian Alps on the mainland and the Central Plateau and other mountain areas of Tasmania. This snow country occupies about 5200 sq. km on the mainland and 6500 sq. km in Tasmania, the combined area being only 0.15 per cent of Australia as a whole.

Fig.1 The alpine and subalpine areas (the ‘snow-country’) of mainland Australia. The largest alpine area is around Mt Kosciuszko. Although this book features the flora of the Kosciuszko Alpine Area, most of the species occur elsewhere in the high country.

The Snowy Mountains Region of the Australian Alps, with about 2500 sq. km of snow country, is one of the most extensive of these areas. Of this, some 250 sq. km are truly alpine including the main alpine area of about 100 sq. km centred on Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain (2228 m). The Kosciuszko Alpine Area is the principal subject of this book.

The term ‘alpine’ refers to environments which lie between the climatic limit of tree vegetation and the zone of permanent snow and ice cover (the nival zone). There is some argument over whether the Kosciuszko area is truly alpine, in the sense that it occurs above a climatically determined treeline, or whether the treeline is determined by local, non-climatic conditions such as shallow or wet soils. Some people point to the occurrence of treelines at much higher elevations in parts of the northern hemisphere at similar latitudes to Kosciuszko. For example, the treeline in the Colorado Rockies is at about 3000 m, compared with only 1830 m at Kosciuszko.

This apparent discrepancy — and there are many others when treelines at similar latitudes in different parts of the world are compared — prompts a comparison of the various environmental features of different treeline localities, to see if there is a common denominator. Factors such as depth and duration of snow cover, lowest temperatures experienced, wind regime, soil conditions and many others have been compared and are found to vary greatly. But whether the treelines occur in the northern or southern hemisphere, in high mountains or in the subantarctic or arctic,

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