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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora: Field Edition

Kosciuszko Alpine Flora: Field Edition

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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora: Field Edition

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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.

Ideal for the tourist or general interest reader, this field edition excludes the detailed taxonomic section.

Nov 1, 2000

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Kosciuszko Alpine Flora - CJ C.J. Totterdell





Alec Costin • Max Gray • Colin Totterdell • Dane Wimbush

National Library of Australia cataloguing-in-publication entry

Kosciuszko alpine flora.

Field ed.


Includes index.

ISBN 9780643065215

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

Reprinted with corrections 2017 by Printgraphics Printgreen Australia.

All photographs © Colin Totterdell

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.

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CSIRO Publishing

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Clayton South VIC 3169


Telephone: +61 3 9545 8400

Email: publishing.sales@csiro.au

Website: www.publish.csiro.au

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



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


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 com-mended 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.

July 2000

The AALC is proud to support the reprinting of the very popular ‘Field Edition’ of Kosciuszko Alpine Flora in 2017 which is also the 50th anniversary year of the establishment of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. The launching of the reprinted Field Edition helps to celebrate this important milestone. The AALC would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Dr Graeme Worboys in organising the reprinting of the Field Edition.

Australian Alps Liaison Committee

August 2017

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 fern-like 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 up-dated 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.

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

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 obser-vations. Our gratitude to all those who provided help, advice and encourage-ment, 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

The treeline on the eastern slopes of the Kosciuszko plateau is characterised by distinct patterns of roughly parallel rows of trees at the highest elevation of tree growth.

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.

Winter in the Kosciuszko Alpine Area showing Carruthers Peak, one of the highest peaks on the Main Range. The steep-walled hollow below the peak is occupied by Club Lake which, like the creeks and the Snowy River (right foreground) at this time of the year, is bridged over by ice and snow.

Early summer in the Kosciuszko Main Range showing semi-permanent snowpatches on the eastern, leeward slopes. Winter storms and blizzards cause heavy accumulation of snow in these sites sheltered from the prevailing westerlies. Stunted Snow-gums of the treeline are in the foreground.

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 tree-lines 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, the mean annual temperature of the warmest month is remarkably similar at about 10ºC; and this is also the case at Kosciuszko.⁵³,⁶⁵

With mean mid-summer temperatures of about 10°C, the physiological limits to tree growth are reached. Unless the

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