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Quality images to aid in the identification of Australian native fig (Ficus spp.) and rainforest tree species, showing photos of the full tree, bark, fruit and leaf samples.
Accompanying descriptions give information on size, distribution and leaf characteristics. All Creative Designs Nambucca & Coffs Harbour® exhibits web optimized tree images for identification purposes.
Our aim is to build up the awareness to the high conservation values of remaining old growth forests in Australia.
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How to recognise Australian tree families and genera.
A practical field guide to the identification of native species. More than 200 full colour photographs and detailed descriptions explaining leaf, bark, flower, fruit and other tree characteristics.
New Holland Publishers
Format: Paperback with PVC
Pages: 128 pp.
Size: 13 cm wide x 18 cm high
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Common features of Australian Fig trees are 2 stipules (sheaths) enclosing and protecting the emerging leaf, which will turn yellow and fall off as the leaf unfurls. The Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) has the longest at up to 15 cm in long, stipules on other ficus species like the Sandpaper Fig (Ficus fraseri) might only measure 5 mm in length (See Leaf Characteristics Page for further information). When petioles (leaf stalks), branches or the bark is broken a sticky sap will exude, which can be clear to milky white and congeals on exposure. The fleshy fruit, a fig, is pollinated by tiny wasps, which access the fruit through a small opening, called an ostiole. After pollination the fruit produces large numbers of small seeds.
Creek Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata Other names: None
A small to medium sized tree with a spreading habit, found mainly along watercourses in subtropical and warm temperate rainforests (Picture 1). Bark is fairly smooth and brown in colour if not covered by mosses and lichen (2). Leaf arrangement is alternate (3). The fruit is a small fig supported by a stalk up to 2.5 cm long. The fig is hairy and purple to nearly black in colour when fully ripe. Fruit can appear on older trunks (cauliflorous Picture 2) (4) . Simple leaves on adult trees are; alternately arranged, up to 15 cm long, oblong or sometimes ovate (egg-shaped) with mostly fine toothed margins, hairy on lower surface and feel very sandpaper like. Stipules are up to 12 mm long. Juvenile leaves are larger and margins (leaf edges) can be entire or finely crenate. A clear sap exudes when leaf stalk is broken (5). Notes: One of the best species for creek or river bank stabilisation, figs can be sweet and palatable. Distribution: Vic, NSW and Qld. See also Sandpaper Fig Ficus fraseri below.
Deciduous Fig Ficus superba var. henneana Other names: Superb Fig
Under the right conditions this species can develop into a massive tree up to 35m high with a wide canopy. It has a strangling habit and often starts life in a host tree (epiphytic). Preferred habitats for best development are moist coastal locations such as rainforests and permanent watercourses. This species is semi deciduous and rarely shed all its leaves (1). On older trees the base of the trunk becomes buttressed and tangled with roots. Bark is shades of grey in colour with a firm and slightly rough texture (2). Stipules enclosing the emerging leaves are only up to 1 cm long. A white sap exudes when the leaf stalk (petiole) is broken off (3). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 12 cm long, varied in shape from ovate to broad oblanceolate or elliptic with entire margins, hairless, dark green, glossy on top, paler green below, thinner than other strangler fig species (4). The petiole is up to 7 cm long and grooved on top. A joint between the lamina (leaf blade), which narrows into a cordate base shape and the leaf stalk is visible (5). Distribution: From the south coast of NSW to northern Qld and NT.
Hairy Fig Ficus hispida
This small fig tree species without a strangling habit occurs as an understorey species within tropical rainforests and rarely attains more than 10m in height (Picture 1). Bark is olive brown in colour and densely covered in small blisters (lenticels) giving a finely rough texture (2). Edible figs develop on the main trunk (cauliflorous), on old branches or young twigs and are supported by strong stalks reaching 4 cm in length. They change from green to a yellowish brown in colour when fully ripe and measure up to 3 cm in diameter (3 & 4). Simple leaves with an opposite arrangement being thinner than most other native Ficus species are: large at up to 35 cm in length with varied margins from entire to crenate, elliptic to lanceolate or oblanceolate in shape, dark green, glossy on top, paler green, also glossy beneath with a finely rough texture due to short and stiff (bristle-like) hair. Petiole is up to 8 cm in length and excretes a pale yellowish latex when broken. Leaf apex is acute or acuminate ending in a fine point, base shape is rounded to cordate. Mid rib and prominent laterals veins are raised on lower leaf surface (5). Distribution: From central to northern Qld.
Moreton Bay Fig Ficus macrophylla Other names: Black Fig, Figwood
The natural habitat of this massive tree are subtropical rainforests. It has a strangling habit, starting life on a host tree, and prefers growing in proximity to watercourses (Picture 1). Older specimen feature large trunks with buttress roots extending far beyond canopy. Bark is a grey colour, firm with horizontal ridges (2). Figs are paired in leaf axils and turn a purple colour speckled with white dots when fully ripe. They are up to 30 mm long and are held on tough stalks (3 & 4). Simple leaves up to 25 cm in length are one of the largest of any Australian fig tree, oblong to ovate in shape and brownish on their underside with entire margins and a varied leaf arrangement. Strong petioles (leaf stalks) are up to 10 cm long, with sticky white sap exuding when cut or broken. Stipules are up to 15 cm in length (4 & 5). Notes: Important feed tree for a range of rainforest pigeons, fruit doves and flying foxes. Diversity of tree species growing under and close to Moreton Bay Figs is immense. Its seed will not germinate when in contact with the soil and within reach of its own roots. Distribution: From the mid north coast of NSW to Qld.
Red-leaved Fig Ficus congesta Other names: Cluster Fig
This small fig species rarely reaches more than 5 to 6m in height, i.e. a tall shrub or sometimes small tree. Despite its diminutive height, trunks are disproportional large in diameter on older specimens. It is an evergreen species without a strangling habit (Picture 1). Bark on the trunk is greyish brown in colour with a finely rough and in some places wrinkled texture (2). Abundant fruit (figs) are produced from the trunk and along smaller branches. Figs measure up to 2cm across and become yellowish when fully ripe (3). The very attractive foliage flushes in peach to copper colours, which is a distinguishing feature for this species. Stipules covering leaf buds are up to 25mm long (4).Broken leaf stalks exude a milky sap, which becomes sticky on exposure, characteristic for fig trees. Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 25cm long, elliptic in shape with finely crenate margins, dark green when mature, hairless or finely hairy, relatively thick and leathery in texture. The strong and brown coloured petiole (leaf stalk) is up to 6cm long. (5). Distribution: From central to northern Qld and NT.
Rusty Fig Ficus rubiginosa Other names: Port Jackson Fig, Rock Fig
The Rusty Fig or Port Jackson Fig grows up to 20 m tall with a wide spreading canopy and prefers a rocky, well drained position (Picture 1). The bark is firm with some horizontal ridges and a light grey in colour (2). Fruit is a globe shaped fig up to 2 cm long held on a stiff stalk. Figs grow in pairs and will turn more orange-red when fully ripe. Stipules are up to 5 cm long (3 & 4). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 11 cm long with entire margins, ovate to broad elliptic in shape, dark green and glossy on top, pale green to rusty brown underneath, firm and leathery. Underside of leaf is covered in fine brown hair with a silky touch, strong petioles are up to 4 cm long, exuding milky sap when broken (5). Distribution: Within coastal and subtropical rainforests from NSW south coast to central Qld.
Sandpaper Fig Ficus fraseri
The Sandpaper Fig reaches a height of up to more than 20m and can be found in different types of rainforests, especially in locations close to the coast (Picture 1). Bark has got a hard, rather smooth texture and is a dark green brown in colour (2). Foliage in juvenile specimens and on lower branches in minimal light conditions is deeply lobed (3). Young branches are rough but not covered in hair as is the case with the Creek Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata, stipules are less than 1cm long (4). Mostly alternately arranged simple leaves on adult specimens are; up to 15 cm long with entire margins, broad elliptic to ovate in shape with an acute apex and have a rough and sandpapery texture (5). Distribution: NSW central coast to central Qld. Note: Leaves are not as thick and rough compared to that of the Creek Sandpaper Fig.
Small-fruited Fig Ficus microcarpa Other names: Indian Laurel Fig, Curtain Fig
This impressive fig produces an abundance of aerial roots which after reaching the ground thicken and support the spreading crown. Within tropical rainforests it can develop into a tall tree more than 25m in height with a large crown and a maze of vertical roots, but is considerably smaller in drier locations (Picture 1 & 2). Bark is firm and a reddish brown to more grey in colour (3). Stipules enclosing the growing bud are up to 2 cm long. White sap exudes when petiole is broken (4). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 10 cm long, mostly obovate in shape with entire margins, dark green on top, light green beneath, hairless, smooth and fairly thick in texture. Petiole (leaf stalk) strong but relative short at up to 2 cm long (5). Distribution: From central to northern Qld and Asia.
Small-leaved Fig Ficus obliqua
Large and spreading Fig tree species with large buttress roots developing on older specimens (Picture 1 & 2). Fruit is relative small for an Australian Fig at only 10 mm in diameter and turns from yellow to an orange colour when ripening (3). Stipules are 3 to 4 cm long. Only a small amount of sap will exude when leaf stalk is broken (4). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; only up to 8 cm long with entire margins, broadly elliptic to obovate in shape, texture is firm but not as leathery and thick as other fig tree species. Petiole up to 3 cm long is strong, rigid and flattened in shape (5). Distribution: NSW south coast to central Qld.
Strangler Fig Ficus Watkinsiana Other names: Watkin's Fig
Magnificent very large fig species with a strong strangling habit, which uses other large rainforest tree species such as the Yellow Carabeen Sloanea wollsii as a host. Its natural distribution starts at the mid-north coast of NSW stretching to subtropical Qld (Picture 1, 2 & 3). After the host tree dies and decays a hollow centre is left (4). Simple leaves are; lanceolate in shape, up to 22 cm long with entire margins, smooth, thick, leathery in texture and exude a milky sap. Stipules are up to 6 cm long. Fruit turns very dark purple when ripe, more oval in shape when compared to the Moreton Bay Fig Ficus macrophylla and is up to 4 cm long and 2.5 cm wide (5).
Weeping Fig Ficus benjamina Other names: Benjamin Fig
In its natural habitat of tropical rainforests the Weeping Fig can be a large tree more than 30m in height with a spreading crown and buttress roots. In drier locations it is largely reduced in size. This Fig tree species is one of the most cultivated in the world and used as an indoor and outdoor ornamental plant. There are a number of cultivars, some with variegated white edged leaves (Picture 1). The bark is marked by small ridges and blisters, mostly shades of grey in colour and hard in texture (2). Figs are up to 12 cm in diameter and change from green over red to a dark purple when fully mature. They are globose (rounded) in shape and sessile (attached without a stalk) (3). Stipules protecting the newly emerging leaves are up to 2 cm long before turning brown and falling off. The petiole (leaf stalk) is only up to 2.5 cm long, grooved on top, and relatively delicate for a ficus species. Generous amounts of white sap will exude when a leaf stalk is broken off (4). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 12 cm long, elliptic to broadly lanceolate (lance-shaped) with entire margins, glossy dark green on top, smooth and rather thin. Leaf apex is typically acuminate ending in a fine tip; base shape is rounded (5). Distribution: Northern Qld and NT, but planted in many other parts of Australia.
White Fig Ficus virens Other names: Mountain Fig
The White Fig is a massive tree species with a strong strangling habit, occurring in subtropical and tropical rainforests (Picture 1). Bark is firm and rather smooth with some bumps and ridges. Colour is a light to medium grey (2 & 3). Stipules are rather short measuring only up to 15 mm in length. Petioles are up to 6 cm long, with sticky white sap exuding when cut or broken (4). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 15 cm long, oblong in shape with entire margins, mid green on top, lighter green beneath, smooth, thinner than species as the Moreton Bay or Strangler Fig. Leaf apex is acuminate, base shape is broadly rounded (5). Distribution: NSW north coast to tropical Qld, NT and WA. 2 variations: sublanceolata and virens.
False Gardenia Atractocarpus sessilis
This attractive shrub or small tree is a close relative to the better known Brown Gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzalanii Page 2), or more recently called Yellow Mangosteen, originating in the tropical rainforests of North Queensland. The genus encompasses six species, of which two are found in subtropical rainforests only; the Native Gardenia (A. benthamianus Page 8) and the Thin-leaved Gardenia (A. chartaceus Page 11). A further species is endemic Lord Howe island. In its natural habitat the False Gardenia prefers to grow beneath taller trees and is characterised by its dense foliage (bushy growth) consisting of large leaves. (Photo 1). Bark is brown in colour and has a firm texture marked by small vertical ridges (2). Beautifully scented flowers, characteristic for the genus, are up to 2 cm long and typically emerge from axillary buds towards the end of young branches. At the apex the white tubular corolla divides into 5 overlapping lobes up to 1 cm long (3). The fruit (a berry) is somewhat varied in shape from rounded to more ovoid and 5 to 6 m long. It has a rough surface texture and turns yellowish green when ripe. The persistent flower calyx (base) can be seen at the top of the berry (4). Simple leaves with an opposite arrangement are protected by a stipule up to 2cm long before emerging. Leaves are; .more than 20 cm long, broadly oblanceolate (reverse lance-shaped) with entire margins, hairless, dark green, glossy above, pale green beneath, very smooth and firm in texture. Mid rib and lateral veins are noticeably raised in upper surface (5). Distribution: North Qld. See Flower Characteristics Page and Leaf Characteristics Page for information on terms used.
Feather Wattle Acacia o'shanesii
The Feather Wattle is a tall shrub or small tree species up to 10m in height growing mainly close to the coast line (Picture 1). Bark is fairly smooth with fine fissures and pale reddish brown in colour (2). Beautiful yellow globose flower heads are up to 8 mm across, held on racemes and bloom most time of the year (3). The fruit is a flattened pod up to 12 cm in length which turns a reddish brown when ripening and contains up to 6 seeds (4). Bipinnate compound leaves with an alternate arrangement feature up to 17 pairs of pinnea per leaf which hold more than 50 leaflets each. Leaflets are oblong in shape with a rounded apex and 3 to 4 mm in length (5). Distribution: NSW south and mid-north coast. See Flower Characteristics Page and Leaf Characteristics Page for information on terms used.
Featherwood Polyosma cunninghamii
The Featherwood is most often a small native tree species under 10m in height and occurs within subtropical rainforests as an understorey species. The specimen shown is about 12m tall; the larger trunk to the left in the image is a Coachwood Ceratopetalum apetalum (Picture 1). Bark (on adult specimen) is brown in colour and rather firm with more longitudinal and shallow grooves than fissures (2). Cylindrical shaped flowers, coloured pale white at first, turn yellowish green with maturity and are pleasantly scented. They measure up to 12 mm in length with 4 fused petals separating at the top and are held on small racemes (3). The appearance of the tree and its' foliage is similar to that of the Doryphora sassafras and some Socketwood (Daphnandra) species, but leaves differ in being more oblanceolate in shape, thinner and softer in texture. Simple oppositely arranged (or nearly so) leaves are; between 6 to 9 cm long with regular toothed margins and callous tips (up to 7 on each side), mostly oblanceolate in shape, hairless, mid-green and very glossy on top, dull and paler below, rather thin with a soft and smooth texture. Leaf apex is acute with a callous tip, base is attenuate. Venation is visible with sunken laterals and mid vein on upper surface, all veins are more noticeable on lower leaf surface (4 & 5). Distribution: NSW south coast to southern Qld. Identification tip: Leaves are not scented as is the case with the Doryphora sassafras Page 9.
Fine-leaved Tuckeroo Lepiderema pulchella
Today the Fine-leaved Tuckeroo Lepiderema pulchella is a rare native tree species due to clearing of forests on rich alluvial soils for development. It can reach a height of up to 20m under favourable conditions (Picture1). Bark is a dark greenish grey in colour with a rather hard and smooth texture (2). Small white, cream and pale yellow coloured flowers measure up to 7 mm in diameter and bloom in early spring. (3). The orange coloured fruit splits into 3 valves each containing a brown seed which is partly covered in a yellow aril (4). Alternately arranged compound leaves are made up of 4 to 12 separate leaflets which are; up to 10 cm long, mostly lanceolate in shape with very wavy margins, hairless, dark green and glossy on top, lighter green and glossy beneath, soft and smooth in texture. Apex is acute running into a fine point, base shape is cuneate. A short petiolule joins a prominent brown pulvinule which is a good identification feature of this species (5). See Leaf Characteristics Page. Distribution: Small range in northern NSW and southern Qld.
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Firewheel Tree Stenocarpus sinuatus Other names: Wheel of FireTree
This beautiful tree has a slender, upright shape even when planted in full sunlight and reaches a height of up to 25 m (Picture 1). Bark is white to grey in colour, with longitudinal fissures appearing on older specimens, hard and rough in texture (2). Very impressive and unusual flowers held in umbels can cover the whole tree in midsummer (3). Fruit is a follicle up to 8 cm long containing numerous papery winged seeds (4). Simple leaves on adult trees are; very varied in shape from deeply lobed to obovate, up to 30 cm in length with undulated margins, firm and stiff, hairless and shiny on both surfaces (5). Distribution: from the mid north coast of NSW to central Qld.
Five-leaved Bonewood Bosistoa floydii Other names: Five-leaved Bosistoa
The Five-leaved Bonewood or Five-leaved Bosistoa Bosistoa floydii is an attractive and rare small tree growing to a height of up to 10m with a small distribution range and occurs as an under storey tree species in subtropical rainforests (Picture 1). The dark green glossy foliage and multi stemmed trunks are characteristic features (2). Bark is finely fissured and a grey brown in colour (3). Compound leaves with an opposite arrangement consist of 5 leaflets, rarely 3 or 7 (Picture 4). Leaflets are; up to 16 cm long with entire margins, elliptic to oblong in shape, hairless, dark green and glossy on top, mid-green below with a firm and rather stiff texture. Apex is acute, base shape is rounded and often asymmetric. Reticulate venation is prominent especially on lower leaflet surfaces with mid vein and laterals being strongly raised (5). Distribution: Nambucca, Bellinger and Orara Valleys, mid-north coast of NSW.
Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius Other names: Illawarra Flame Tree
This well known native tree species attains a height of up to 35m and is often planted as an ornamental specimen or street tree. It is deciduous (or semi-deciduous when mature) for a short time in spring while flowering in bright red colours (Picture 1). Bark is green and fairly smooth on younger trees, but changes to a dark grey with vertical fissures on the base of older trees (2). Large number of vivid red flowers are borne on panicles, with the pedicels (flower stalks) and the rachis are also being a bright red in colour (3). The fruit is a very hard (nearly woody) follicle splitting on one side only. It can measure up to 20 cm in length and will turn black when fully mature. Groups of up to five follicles can hang off a central stalk. Tightly packed rows of black seeds are enclosed in a thin, yellow papery layer which is hairy and may cause irritation to the skin (Picture 4 and inset). Simple leaves with an alternate arrangement are; up to 25 cm long with deeply lobed to entire margins (then oblong to ovate in shape), hairless, mid-green and glossy on top, paler beneath, thick with a firm texture. Leaf apex is acute, base shape is truncate. A prominent petiole can reach up to 20 cm in length. Palmate venation (on lobed leaves) is clearly visible (5). Distribution: In different types of rainforests from NSW south coast to Qld. See Flower Characteristics Page and Leaf Characteristics Page for information on terms used.
Flax-leaved Paperbark Melaleuca linariifolia Other names: Flaxleaf Paperbark, Budjur
The natural habitat of this native shrub or small tree are sclerophyll forests and margins of rainforests preferring moist locations, it can reach a height of up to 10m (Picture 1). The outer bark is a dark grey and very papery shedding in large patches to expose an orange and light grey coloured under layer (2). Numerous individual white flowers are held on spikes up to 4.5 cm long and bloom in spring (3). The hard and woody fruit is small at 3 to 4 mm in diameter featuring a broad and level disk and enclosed valves (4). Simple leaves are; varied in arrangement (sometimes opposite other times alternate), up to 6 cm in length with entire margins, narrow elliptic, narrow oblanceolate or linear in shape, hairless, smooth with a firm to stiff texture and scented when crushed. Leaf apex is acute to acuminate, base shape is attenuate. Mid vein is prominent and numerous straight lateral veins are faintly visible. Petiole is very short only up to 1 mm in length. (5). Distribution: NSW south coast to Qld.