Ferns beside a still pool

Australian Alps

Closer look at Mt Kosciuszko down to Limestone Creek

Single tree in herb field

Eucalyptus dominate the landscapes, from dry and open woodlands that get wetter as the altitude increases, terminating at the treeline that marks the start of the alpine zone. Heaths, fens, bogs and grasslands are common throughout the montane and alpine areas, with herbfields and feldmarks limited to the alpine zone.

The flora of the tablelands is covered in the section on the South Western Slopes & South Eastern Highlands where there is a significant overlap.

Montane Zone

Stringybarks and gum woodlands dominate the areas between 1,100 m and 1,400 m. There is a distinct sequence of succession of the woodland species from the lower slopes to the subalpine zone.

Swamp Gums (Eucalyptus ovata), Narrow-leaved Peppermint (E. radiata) and Blue Gums (E. globulus ssp. bicostata) dominate the forests on the lower slopes. Mountain Gums (E. dalrympleana), Candlebarks (E. rubida), Ribbon Gums (E. viminalis) and Alpine Ash (E. delegatensis) become common as you go higher with Snow Gums (E. pauciflora niphophila) dominating the subalpine zone due to it's cold tolerance.


High plains grasslands are dominated by snow grass (Poa sp.) with patches of heath that include:

  • Bossiaea foliosa (Leafy Bossiaea)
  • Kunzea muelleri (Yellow Kunzea)
  • Grevillea victoriae (Royal Grevillea)
  • Tasmannia xerophila (Alpine Pepperbush)
  • Hakea microcarpa (Small-fruit Hakea)
  • Oxylobium alpestre (Mountain Shaggy Pea)

Sphagnum communities are common in wetter areas and at the head of most creeks.

  • Sphagnum cristatum (Sphagnum moss)
  • Richea continentis (Candle Heath)
  • Epacris paludosa (Swamp Heath)

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Subalpine Zone

Snow gum woodlands of White Sallee (Eucalyptus pauciflora) and Snow Gums (E. pauciflora niphophila) dominate the areas between 1,400 m and 1,850 m where they grow directly up to the treeline. This zone still shows the effects of a number of large fires from the last few decades with large stands of dead snow gums common. Some of the Snow Gums are regenerating with strong growth seen from their woody lignotubers (roots).

Single tree in herb field

Leafy Bossiaea (Bossiaea foliosa), Common Shaggy Pea (Oxylobium ellipticum) and Mountain Plum Pine (Podocarpus lawrencei) dominate the Snow Gum understory and these form dense healths on more exposed sites. A dense understory of Yellow Kunzea (Kunzea muelleri) and Epacris species are common on poorly-drained sites.

shrub in flower

Treeless frost hollows can be found in higher montane and subalpine areas where cold air accumulates preventing even the frost hardy Snow Gums from growing. These tend to form sod tussock grasslands that are dominated with Poa species and Danthonia nudiflora. In wet areas, bogs and fens are common with Carex and Sphagnum dominating.

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Alpine Zone

Alpine view with low plants

Herbfields and heathlans above 1,800 m.

While Mt Kosciuszko is relatively low compared to many other alpine habitats from around the world, the mean summer temperature is comparable and this prevents the treeline from covering the tops. It is the smallest of the defined bioregions along the Murray River but has some of the most diverse plant communities found on the entire trip. There are five main communities of plants in the alpine zone:


Feldmark is a plant community characteristic of sites where plant growth is severely restricted by extremes of cold and exposure to wind. There are two slightly distinct feldmark communities on Mt Kosciuszko, the first being defined by semi-permanent snow caps and the second is defined by exposure to high winds.

Snowpatch Feldmark

Snowpatch feldmarks are created from well drained areas around the semi-permanent snow caps. These supports several custom or mat forming plants such as Creeping Coprosma (Coprosma niphophila) and Snowpatch Cushion-plant (Colobanthus nivicola), as well as some herbs like the Anemone Buttercup (Ranunculus anemoneus) and Snow Willow-herb (Epilobium tasmanicum).

As seen in the first photo below, these habitats are becoming few and far between!

Mountain scape with nearly devoid of snow
Small customs of plants on a rock
Big flowers sticking out of grass

Other species include:

  • Agrostis muelleriana
  • Isolepis montivaga
  • Argyrotegium mackayi
  • Luzula acutifolia subsp. nana
  • Carex cephalotes
  • Luzula australasica subsp. dura
  • Neopaxia australasica
  • Poa fawcettiae
  • Erigeron setosus
  • Ranunculus muelleri
  • Euphrasia collina subsp. diversicolor
  • Senecio pinnatifolius var. alpinus
Small custom plant
Small customs of plants among some stones
Small customs of plants with red berries

Windswept Feldmark

Windswept feldmarks are created on very exposed sites that tend to get any snow cover blown off, even in winter. These feldmarks are characterised by the prostrate shrubs such as Coral Heath (Epacris microphylla), Snow Heath (E. petrophila) and Snow Hebe (Veronica densifolia).

Gravel with small patches of plant cushions
small cushion plant in flower
small grass

Other species include:

  • Agrostis muelleriana
  • Brachyscome spathulata spathulata
  • Colobanthus pulvinatus (Feldmark Cushion-plant)
  • Colobanthus affinis
  • Craspedia jamesii
  • Epacris gunnii
  • Epilobium tasmanicum
  • Euphrasia collina lapidosa
  • Ewartia nubigena (Silver Ewartia)
  • Hypogymnia lugubris
  • Kelleria dieffenbachii
  • Leptorhynchos squamatus
  • Luzula australasica dura
  • Lycopidium fastigiatum
  • Pentachondra pumila
  • Poa fawsettiae (Smooth Blue Snowgrass)
  • Polytrichum juniperum
  • Ranunculus acrophilus
  • Rhytidosperma pumilum
  • Scleranthus singuliflorus
  • Senecio pectinatus var. major
  • Trisetum spicatum australiense
  • Chionohebe densifolia
  • Leucochrysum albicans
  • Leucochrysum alpinum (Alpine Sunray)
Small flowers
Small custom plant
Low growing plant

Alpine Herbfields

The alpine herbfields have non-water logged soils and are reasonably sheltered from the prevailing winds. These are sub-classified into low and high alpine herbfields. Sod tussock grasslands contain similar species to those of the high alpine herbfields but grass species dominate.

Short Alpine Herbfield

These are mostly found in wet areas from snowpatches to semi-bare rocky areas. These tend to be slightly colder and wetter than the other herbfields, but sheltered from the strong prevailing winds. White Purslane (Montia australasica), Plantago muelleri, and Alpine Marsh-Marigold Caltha introloba are common. The sedge Oreobolus pumilio forms small levies that often hold the water in these areas that in turn allows the other species to survive.


Other species include:

  • Epacris glacialis
  • Oreobolus pumilio
  • Carex gaudichaudiana
  • Drosera arcturi
  • Brachyscome stolonifera
  • Poa costiniana
  • Rytidosperma nivicola
  • Oreomyrrhis pulvinifica
  • Diplaspis nivis
  • Luzula atrata
  • Carpha nivicola
  • Schoenus calyptratus
  • Myriophyllum pedunculatum
  • Oreobolus distichus
  • Deyeuxia affinis
  • Carpha alpina
  • Parantennaria uniceps
  • Plantago glacialis
  • Deschampsia caespitosa
  • Gentianella muelleriana alpestris
  • Isolepis crassiuscula
  • Carex hypandra
  • Euphrasia collina glacialis
  • Craspedia alba
  • Dichosciadium ranunculaceum
  • Rytidosperma australe
  • Abrotanella nivigena
  • Sphagnum cristatum, S. novo-zelandicum (Sphagnum Moss)
  • Erigeron setosus

Tall Alpine Herbfield

Tall alpine herbfield and heathland communities dominate the alpine areas. It is only when the temperature, exposure and moisture levels impede the growth of these two communities that the other alpine communities survive. The rich organic soil supports a wide variety of plants and around 200 species have been identified in these herbfields.

Common associations include the coupling of Snow Daisy (Brachyscome nivalis) and Crag Wallaby-grass (Rytidosperma alpicola), along with various Poa species (a grass) with Silver Snow Daisies (Celmisia sp.). Ribbony Grass (Chionochloa frigida), Mountain Celery (Aciphylla glacialis) and White Purslane (Neopaxia australasica) are all common.

The flat and gentle slopes of these herbfields often support tussock grasslands dominated by Prickly Snow Grass (Poa costiniana) and Alpine Wallaby Grass (Rytidosperma nudiflorum) as well as many smaller grasses and herbs. This sod tussock grassland is usually grouped with the tall alpine herbfields as it can be difficult to discover the exact boundaries between the two.

Herbfield Celmisia
Rytidosperma alpicola
Brachyscome nivalis
Aciphylla glacialis
Rytidosperma nudiflorum
Poa costiniana


Dry Heaths

Common in rocky and well-drained sites, where the Common Shaggy Pea (Oxylobium ellipticum) and Mountain Plum Pine (Podocarpus lawrencei) are often associated together along with Yellow Kunzea (Kunzea muelleri), Alpine Mint Bush (Prostanthera cuneata), Ovate Phebalium (Nematolepis ovatifolia), Alpine Grevillea (Grevillea australis) and other small shrubs.


Wet Heaths

Often surrounding bogs and streams. Reddish Bog-heath (Epacris glacialis) and Prickly Snowgrass (Poa costiniana) are commonly associated together.

Poa costiniana

Other species include:

  • Lycopodium fastigiatum (Mountain Clubmoss)
  • Deyeuxia cannata (Slender Bent-grass)
  • Luzula novae-cambriae (Rock Woodrush)
  • Dianella tasmanica (Tasman Flax-lily)
  • Grevillea victoriae nivalis (Royal Grevillea)
  • Orites lancifolia
  • Exocarpos nanus
  • Tasmannia xerophila xerophila (Alpine Pepper)
  • Hovea montana
  • Podolobium alpestre (Alpine Shaggy Pea)
  • Geranium potentilloides var. abditum (Mountain Cranesbill)
  • Pimelea alpina (Alpine Rice-flower)
  • Pimelea axiflora alpina (Alpine Bootlace-bush)
  • Pimelea ligustrina ciliata (Kosciuszko Rose)
  • Baeckea gunniana
  • Epilobium gunnianum (Gunn's Willow-herb)
  • Oreomyrrhis eriopoda (Australian Caraway)
  • Epacris microphylla (Coral Heath)
  • Epacris paludosa (Swamp Heath)
  • Leucopogon montanus (Snow Beard-heath)
  • Pentachondra pumila (Carpet Heath)
  • Euphrasia collina diversicolor (Variable Eyebright)
  • Asperula gunnii (Mountain Woodruff)
  • Asperula pusilla (Alpine Woodruff)
  • Brachyscome scapigera (Tufted Daisy)
  • Craspedia aurantia (Orange Billy-button)
  • Olearia algida (Alpine Daisy-bush)
  • Olearia phlogopappa (Dusty Daisy-bush)
  • Ozothamnus alpinus (Alpine Everlasting)
  • Ozothamnus secundiflorus (Cascade Everlasting)

Bogs and fens

Both bogs and fens are permanently saturated with water.


The presence of Sphagnum helps to acidify the water as the moss draws in Calcium and Magnesium while leaving the Hydrogen ions behind that creates the acidity. There are two types of bogs, those fed by springs or seeps on angled slopes (raised bogs) and those in permanently wet areas (valley bog).

Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum cristatum) and the Swamp (Epacris paludosa) and Bog (Epacris glacialis) Heaths are the dominant association.

Other species include:

  • Carex gaudichaudiana (Fen Sedge)
  • Candle Heath (Richea continentis)
  • Astelia alpina (Pineapple Grass)
  • Astelia psychrocharis
  • Sphagnum novo-zelandicum (more permanent water)


Fens are permanently saturated areas that allow for anaerobic conditions that limit the decomposition. This allows the organic matter to accumulate as peat. The lack of Sphagnum in the fens allows for more alkaline / basic conditions.

Fen Sedges (Carex gaudichaudiana & C. hypandra), Broad-leaf Flower-rush (Carpha nivicola), Caraway (Oreomyrrhis ciliata), Gunn's Willow-herb (Epilobium gunnianum) are common. Sphagnum moss (Sphagnum cristatum) is often present but to a lesser extent of the bogs.

Other species include:

  • Isolepis crassiuscula (Alpine Club-rush)
  • Myriophyllum pedunculatum (Mat Water-milfoil)
  • Brachyscome obovata
  • Carex echinata (Star Sedge)
  • Deschampsia cespitosa
  • Juncus falcatus (Sickle-leaf Rush)
stream bank

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