Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Cool-temperate rainforests

One quarter of Australia’s rainforests, stretching from the McPherson Range on the New South Wales-Queensland border to Tasmania, are classed as Cool-temperate. Structurally simpler than Warm-temperate Rainforests, these silent, usually damp forests favour high altitudes, cooler climates and very high rainfall.

Often cloaked in mist for days on end, the dominant trees usually have a thick coat of mosses, liverworts, ferns and lichens.

The Southern Beech (Nothofagus species) is the most widespread, dominant tree of Cool-temperate Rainforests. Small leaved beech forests featuring the Antarctic Beech (Nothafagus moorei) are dominant at high altitudes from the McPherson Range to Barrington Tops.

Pinkwood, Eucryphia moorei, dominates Cool-temperate Rainforests between the Illawarra and the Victorian border. Further south, Myrtle Beech (Nothafagus cunninghamii) extends into Tasmania. The Deciduous Beech (Nothafagus gunnii) also occurs in Tasmania. Other common trees include Coachwood (Ceratopetalum apetalum), Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras), tree ferns and, in Tasmania, Leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida).

Characteristic features of cool-temperate rainforests include:

  • simple structure, often with only one species in the upper canopy and few species in the lower layer
  • small average leaf size of trees. Leaves are simple and feature toothed margins
  • palms and stranglers absent
  • buttresses are absent, but the bases of trees are sometimes massive
  • tree ferns, ground ferns and ‘mossy’ epiphytes common and obvious

Cool Temperate Rainforests
Features of Cool-Temperate Rainforests