Nature Profiles

Flora of the South Australian Mallee


Flora of Monarto & Ferries MacDonald Conservation Parks

Monarto CP is the nearest mallee park to Adelaide, just down the road from the town of Monarto, and near Murray Bridge.  Ferries MacDonald CP is south of Monarto CP along a typical rural SA dirt road.

Acacia euthycarpa

This typical shrubby Acacia is one of the typical plants of the South Australian mallee.  It used to be considered the same species as A.calamifolia, but the two plants have recently been split into valid separate species.  They are very similar, with minor floral differences.  Identification can be aided by the location of the plants - A.euthycarpa has a southerly range, from the Eyre Peninsula south east to the Victorian mallee, whereas A.calamifolia is found in the Flinders Ranges south to the northern Mount Lofty Ranges, and north-east into NSW.  All plants south of Adelaide are therefore A.euthycarpa.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for the identification.


Ferries MacDonald Conservation Park

Prostanthera aspalathoides (Scarlet Mintbush)

Surely one of the most attractive mallee plants, and the most spectacular of the Prostantheras, Scarlet Mintbush is wdiespread in South Australia's mallee regions, especially on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island and the Murray River region.  The species' distribution also extends into northern Victoria and southern NSW.

Monarto CP

Carpobrotus modestus

Ferries MacDonald Conservation Park

Arachnorchis cardiochila (Heart-lip Spider Orchid)

Small in stature and drab in colour, this orchid is easily overlooked. It is an abundant species, found in all south-eastern Australian states including Tasmania, although it is most common in South Australia.  It favours drier heathy habitats, rather than the wetter woodland habitats of some other South Australian orchids.

Monarto CP

Arachnorchis sp.

This plant is probably just the common and widespread A.tentaculata, but several similar species need close inspection to distinguish them, so this photo may be of a more unusual plant.

Monarto CP

Stackhousia sp

The plant in this photo could be S.aspericocca, but it's impossible to be certain from the detail in this image.  S.apericocca is a variable plant, and there are also two as-yet unpublished subspecies (Helen Vonow, personal communication, 2011).

Monarto CP

Eutaxia microphylla (Mallee Bush-pea)

This is a common and widespread low-growing shrub of mallee habitats, and can be found throughout semi-arid South Australia.  It can be distinguished by its broad yellow flowers and thin concave leaves which are arranged in opposite pairs on the stems and have only a very short petiole.

Monarto CP

Phebalium bullatum (Desert Phebalium)

This attractive yellow-flowered shrub is common in mallee regions of South Australia, and also occurs in the far north-west of Victoria.  It can be easily recognised by its umbels of bright yellow flowers and thin, leathery leaves.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for confirming the identification.

Ferries MacDonald Conservation Park

Lasiopetalum baueri (Slender Velvet-bush)

The hairy calyx (on both the innner and outer surfaces) indicates this plant is L.baueri, rather than L.behrii.  Slender Velvet-bush can be found in dry habitats in South Australia, Victoria and northern Tasmania.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for confirming the identification.

Ferries MacDonald CP

Baeckea behrii (Broom Baeckea)

The recurved pointed leaves help identify this medium-sized shrub, as well as the typical small, white five-petalled flowers.  It is widespread in semi-arid areas of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

Ferries MacDonald CP

Grevillea ilicifolia ssp.ilicifolia (Holly Grevillea)

Holly Grevillea is a common plant in all of South Australia's mallee areas, occurring from the Eyre Peninsula south-east into western Victoria and New South Wales.  It has a very distinctive appearance, with 'holly' leaves and curved red and green toothbrush-type flowers.  G.aquifolium (also meaning 'holly-leaved') also occurs in South Australia, but is very uncommon, being confined to a small population in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges (Belair National Park) and another, larger population in the far south of the state. Although very similar, G.aquifolium differs in having persistent rather than deciduous flower bracts, and a covering of curly, raised hairs, rather than straight appressed ones.  Locality is also a helpful means of identification in South Australia - the ranges of the two species only overlap in the Mount Lofty Ranges, Thanks to Helen Vonow for confirming the identification.

Ferries MacDonald CP

Senecio sp (gregorii perhaps)

S.gregorii is a very widespread plant of inland central-southern Australia, as well as drier coastal areas where sandy soils are found.  Like many members of the Compositae, differences between individual species can be subtle, and the details seen in this photo aren't sufficient to be certain of this plant's identity.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for attempting an identification for me!

Ferries MacDonald CP

Melaleuca acuminata ssp.acuminata (Mallee Honey-myrtle)

See the Flora of Coffin Bay & Lincoln National Parks section of the site for details of this widespread mallee species.

Ferries MacDonald CP

Bulbine sp (semibarbata perhaps)

Bulbine species are very similar in overall appearance.  B.semibarbata has smaller flowers (half the size of the common B.bulbosa) and is much more a plant of semi-arid habitats than its larger cousin, which is more at home in cooler and wetter areas like the Adelaide Hills.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for attempting an identification for me!

Ferries MacDonald CP

Spyridium subochreatum (Velvet Spyridium)

The dense, short hairs which cover the stubby leaves of this Spyridium make it easy to identify.  It is a plant of drier areas than the other Mount Lofty Ranges Spyridium species, and is found in mallee areas from the Eyre Peninsula to north-western Victoria.

Ferries MacDonald CP


Flora of Brookfield Conservation Park

Brookfield Conservation Park is near Blanchetown, an easy 90 minutes' drive north-east of Adelaide.  The main 'draw' of the park is its population of Southern Hairy-nosed Wombats, a threatened species in Australia, but it also gives a good introduction to the characteristic vegetation and fauna of the South Australian mallee.  It has a one-way driving route through easy terrain, so on a quiet day you can easily get out and have a look around at your leisure.  There is also an interpretive nature trail detailing the main plant species at a picnic area on the drive.

Atriplex sp - nummularia perhaps (Old Man Saltbush)

The broad rounded leaves on long petioles suggest Old Man Saltbush, a common saltbush of arid inland regions of Australia.  Two subspecies are recognised in South Australia, distinguished by the differing shape of their bracteoles. 



Atriplex sp - vesicaria perhaps (Bladder Saltbush)

It's very difficult to determine the species of Atriplex in this photo due to the small features which are important in defining indivudual species.  A.vesicaria is a very widespread species, and certainly present at Brookfield, with ovate leaves which resemble those of this plant.  I've described it in the Flora of Coffin Bay & Lincoln National Parks section of the site.


Pittosporum angustifolium (Weeping Pittosporum / Native Apricot)

Despite its alternative common name, the fruits of this common small tree are unpalatable to people.  It is a widespread plant of semi-arid areas, from Western Australia to central and southern Queensland.  I like the blurred effect in the photo of the weeping branches that were swaying in the hot, dry SA breeze!


Maireana sedifolia (Pearl Bluebush)

Pearl Bluebush covers extensive areas within Brookfield, as it does in other calcareous sandy areas of SA, as well as the neighbouring areas of NSW and WA.  There is also an outlying population in far southern Northern Territory.



Flora of Pinkawillinie Conservation Park

It was mid-summer when I visited Pinkawillinie, so sadly there wasn't much in flower.  It was interesting to see what plants were there though; the flora was totally different to that of the much wetter and cooler Adelaide Hills.

Glischrocaryon behrii (Golden Pennants)

This attractive small, shrubby perennial is widespread on the eastern half of the Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, and mallee areas from the Murray River region into northern Victoria.  Four Glischrocaryon species are known, three of which are found in South Australia - this species, G.aureum and G.flavescens.  The latter two are largely restricted to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, but are common in south-western WA.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for the identification.



Duboisia hopwoodii (Pituri)

Aborigines traditionally used this plant for its narcotic effects.  Pituri contains toxic alkaloids, and historically branches of the plant were soaked in waterholes.  Animals that came to drink the water became intoxicated, and could easily be killed for food.  Favouring sandy soils, Pituri is widespread in semi-arid and arid areas of central and southern Australia.



Dampiera lanceolata var. lanceolata (Grooved Dampiera)

Named for its grooved stems, this Dampiera is widespread in South Australia's semi-arid regions, and can be found in mallee habitats throughout the state, with other populations in far north-western Victoria and southern NSW, where it inhabits dry woodland. 


Olearia lepidophylla (Club-moss Daisy Bush)

This widespread mallee shrub can be found in every state except WA and NT.  The tiny scale-like leaves and typical white daisy flowers make it easy to identify.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for the identification.



Dicrastylis verticillata (Sand-sage)

This attractive small shrub (little more than 50cm tall) grows in deep sandy areas in mallee and semi-arid regions.  Its distribution is restricted, from the Eyre Peninsula east into south-western NSW.




Melaleuca uncinata (Broombush)



Triodia sp (Spinifex)

Several similar Triodia species occur at Pinkawillinie, and are almost impossible to identify from photographs - very small features of flower structure are the best way of differentiating them.  Thanks to Helen Vonow for help with the identification.


Triodia sp

A different plant to the one above, this species is also impossible to identify from these photos.  Spinifex is a very important plant in arid Australia, providing shelter for a very large number of animals, from small insects to large snakes and lizards.