Plants of the Great Victoria Desert
The Great Victoria Desert is an area of great botanical diversity and beauty. It boasts several stately trees and hundreds of wildflower species have been recorded. On our 2009 field trip we 'vouchered' around 140 plant specimens.
Some of the Friends' best plant photos appear at the bottom of this page.
Friends' Plant Lists
Several lists of the plants of the GVD have been prepared as a result of Friends' activities. They include non-flowering and flowering plants. Please follow the links below to view any which might interest you.
The Hilda Hewitson Herbarium contains over 250 plant specimens and is kept by the Friends as a reference tool. Duplicates of all these specimens have been supplied to the State Herbarium and are kept there. This link leads to a spreadsheet listing of the specimens in the form of an extract from the State Herbarium catalogue.
Plant List 2007. The 46 specimens collected by Marlene Friebe in the Great Victoria Desert parks in May and June of 2007. These specimens have been identified by the SA State Herbarium.
Combined Plant List 1995-2001. The 159 specimens collected by Hilda Hewitson and Marlene Friebe between 1995 and 2001 and identified by the State Herbarium.
Official Plant Lists
No specific plant lists for the South Australian parks and reserves in the GVD have been produced by the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH). However, the department's superb eFlora SA database is maintained by the State Herbarium. eFlora SA's Census of SA Plants, Algae and Fungi 'provides a summation of the current state of scientific knowledge of the flora of South Australia, as reviewed by the taxonomic botanists and research associates of the State Herbarium of South Australia'. It can give you a fair idea of what plants you will find in the GVD area. Go to eFlora SA and search for all plants in the NW (north-west) region. You will not believe how many there are.
The Samphires - Breaking News
The little halophytic (salt-loving) plants known collectively as 'samphires' have given us a bit of grief on field trips as they are very difficult to identify. Recent work on these plants by botanists Kelly Shepherd and Paul Wilson has resulted in the genus Tecticornia being enlarged to include a number of plants from older genera like Halosarcia. While this won't make it any easier for us amateurs to separate the different species in the field, at least we now only have to remember one genus name. The changes are listed in Changes in Samphire Nomenclature from the State Herbarium.
Plant Photographs by Friends of the GVD.
A selection of our plant photos appears below. They are in the public domain, so they may be used with the acknowledgement 'Friends of the Great Victoria Desert'. In most cases, high resolution versions are available from the webmaster.
To see more plant photos, go to Friends of the GVD on Picasa Web Albums.
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Marble Gum, Eucalyptus gongylocarpa. This single-trunked eucalypt is a major botanical feature of the Great Victoria Desert. It is only found in certain areas of the GVD and surrounding lands. It is a majestic, erect tree which is quite unlike the multi-stemmed 'mallee' eucalypts of the area. There are two views on why it is called the Marble Gum. One is that the trunk develops a marbled appearance as patches of old, dark bark cling to the newer, pale bark. The other is that the rounded fruits look like marbles. Photo: Bill Dowling
Desert Kurrajong, Brachychiton gregoryii. Another stately, green, single trunked tree which seems out of place in the desert environment. This tree is thought to have a very long tap root which can find moisture at considerable depths. Photo: Bill Dowling
Christmas Tree Mulga, Acacia aneura var conifera. Most Mulgas are straggly small trees or shrubs, but this unusual form can be found along the Anne Beadell Highway in the Mamungari Conservation Park. The easiest ones to find are in a small stand just west of Voakes Hill Corner. Photo: Bill Dowling
Regeneration After Fire. Fire is an inevitable and important part of the desert renewal and regeneration processes. Species like this Desert Poplar, Codonocarpus cotinifolius (front right of picture) spring up from seed after fire. Others, like the Eucalyptus youngiana on the left, regenerate from a lignotuber which survives the fire underground and sprouts many new stems after the fire has passed. Photo: Bill Dowling
Quondong, Santalum acuminatum. The Quondong produces great fruit which is now grown commercially to produce excellent jams and pies. Quondongs are not common, but they can be found, sparsely scattered, in most parts of the GVD. They are root hemiparasites, which means that they must have a host plant into which their roots tap. Commercial Quondong crops are grown with Myoporum parvifolium as the host. Photo: Bill Dowling
Quondong Kernels. The delicious bit of the Quondong fruit is wrapped around these nuts, but the kernels within are also nutritious, containing 25% protein and 70% oil. The seeds were ground by Aboriginal people for liniments. The outer fruit contains twice the Vitamin C of oranges. Photo: Bill Dowling
Sunset with Western Myalls. You won't find better sunsets anywhere. Here we see the moon going down a little after sunset. The trees are Western Myalls, Acacia papryocarpa, which the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta has adopted as its symbol. Photo: Bill Dowling
Sandhill Native Fuchsia, Eremophila willsii. One of several stunning Eremophila species found in the GVD, E. willsii grows on red sand dunes, the swales between them and on deep sand plains. Eremophila means 'desert-loving' and these plants certainly are. They are sometimes called 'Emu Bushes', but some species actually poison Emus. Photo: Bill Dowling
Hibiscus, Alyogyne species. The Alyogyne (pronounced 'al-ee-ODG-in-ee') genus has only recently been botanically separated from Hibiscus and you will need a hand lens to see why - Alyogyne flowers have an unbranched style (the female part of the flower), while Hibiscus styles are five-branched with five separate stigmas. There are only four Alyogyne species. Photo: Bill Dowling
Umbrella Bush, Acacia ligulata. A common wattle in several South Australian deserts. It grows swiftly to only about 2 metres high and can be identified by the short hard point on the tip of each leaf. Photo: Harold Ross
Grass-leaved Hakea, Hakea francisiana. This stunning native of the GVD has become popular with southern nurseries and several cultivated varieties have been developed. Like many members of the proteaceae family, this plant has proteoid roots - specialised clusters of roots which form a mat just beneath the soil surface. They help the plant to take up nutrients in phosphorus-deficient areas like the GVD. In gardens, traditional phosphorus-rich fertilizers should not be used on Hakeas or the uptake will be too great, killing the plant. The species was named for George Francis, the first director of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Photo: Ian Jackson
Sandhill Spider-flower, Grevillea stenobotrya. Like Hakea francisiana, this member of the proteaceae family has proteoid roots. Grevillea stenobotrya seeds were eaten by Aboriginal people and the rattling pods were used in ceremony. Photo: Bill Dowling
Lobed Spinifex, Triodia basedowii. This grass occurs in extensive patches which may extend for many kilometres, so it is often recorded in our vegetation surveys. It is very prickly and can easily puncture calves and knees. It is highly flammable and was exploited by Aborigines with 'fire-stick farming' - other species often cannot grow in the wide areas which it dominates. It forms rings and crescents as the plant dies off from the centre. These are often a refuge for animals. Photo: Bill Dowling