Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Native plants of Sydney Harbour National Park

Doug Benson - Senior Ecologist and
Lotte von Richter - Technical Officer Evolutionary Ecology

Sydney Harbour National Park protects significant natural vegetation on the harbour foreshores; its floristic abundance and landscape beauty have been acknowledged since the writings of the First Fleet - 'It suggests to the Imagination Ideas of luxuriant Vegetation and rural Scenery ...' wrote Surgeon Worgan in 1788. Although historical plant collections were made as early as1802, and localised surveys have listed species for parts of the park since the 1960s, a detailed survey of the flora of whole Park is still needed.

Using historical plant species lists, records from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (formerly Dept of Environment, Climate Change and Water) Atlas, National Herbarium of New South Wales specimen details, and some additional fieldwork, we have compiled the first definitive list of c.400 native flora species for Sydney Harbour National Park (total area 390 ha). Separate lists for the seven terrestrial precincts (North Head, South Head, Dobroyd Head, Middle Head, Chowder Head, Bradleys Head and Nielsen Park) were made. 131 species have only been recorded from a single precinct, and many are not substantiated with a recent herbarium specimen (though there are historical specimens from the general area for many). Species reported in the sources but for which no current or historic specimen exists were listed separately as being of questionable/non-local status.

About 85 % of the 400 species are recorded as being from North Head, the largest precinct, though the smallest Chowder Head does not have the fewest species. As well as size, differences indicate the different flora of inner harbour sites; inner harbour Bradleys Head and Nielsen Park include 24% of the single record species. Current threats to the flora include weed invasion, fire frequency, Phytophthora, rabbits, Black rats and tourism pressures.

A systematic quadrat-based survey is still needed to provide current baseline data against which to compare state of Park trends with future resurveys. In the absence of such a survey our list at least provides a reasonably definitive list of the plant species occurring in the Park regions at the beginning of the 21st Century. 





Dobroyd Head. Photo: Jaime Plaza