Softwood scrub is one of those uniquely Queensland terms. Early European settlers gave this name to the dark green patches of low, dense scrubby vegetation that grew on the subcoastal hills and ranges in South East Queensland (SEQ). Regional Ecosystem (RE) 12.9-10.15 is considered part of the softwood scrub.

Softwood scrub is a type of dry rainforest and contains many different trees, shrubs and vines. Plants are often small-leaved due to the relatively low rainfall and some have thorns or spines.
Tall trees of Narrow-leaved Bottle Tree (Brachychiton rupestris), Crows Ash (Flindersia australis), Rosewood (Acacia fasciculifera) and Small-leaved Fig (Ficus obliqua) rise above the canopy. While Narrow-leaved Bottle Tree and Crows Ash may be as tall as 25-30m, the canopy itself is uneven and ranges in height from 2-12m and is composed of densely packed small trees and shrubs. Scattered trees of Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) may also be present.

12.9-10.15 Softwood scrub
Softwood scrubs can often be seen in the landscape as bands of dark green low vegetation in contrast to the surrounding bushland or cleared agricultural land
12.9-10.15 Softwood scrub
RE 12.9-10.15 often has large sedimentary rocks

Vines are very common in RE 12.9-10.15. They climb and drape over trees and often hang down to near ground level, one of the reasons why these ecological communities are referred to as ‘vine thickets’.

The ground layer largely comprises soil, rock and leaf litter but some shade tolerant grasses, forbs and ferns may occur. Soils supporting softwood scrub are usually fertile and well-drained.

RE 12.9-10.15 is formally defined as semi-evergreen vine thicket (SEVT) with Narrow-leaved Bottle Tree and microphyll vine forest in which Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) may be present, growing on sedimentary rocks. The term ‘semi-evergreen’ refers to the tendency for plants to shed leaves during the dry spring season and during drought. The term ‘microphyll’ refers to the average size of the leaves of canopy trees when they are exposed to sunlight (not those in the shade). Microphyll-sized leaves are relatively small – up to 7.5 cm long and 3.5 cm wide.

12.9-10.15 Softwood scrub
Once within a patch of RE 12.9-10.15, the sparse groundlayer reveals the sedimentary geology that characterises this ecosystem
12.9-10.15 Softwood scrub understorey
Semi-evergreen vine thickets, such as RE 12.9-10.15, are difficult places to traverse given the dense vines, rocks and scrub plants, which are often prickly or thorny. The name ‘rupestris’ as per the scientific name of Narrow-leaved Bottle-tree means ‘living near rocks’.

Distribution

RE 12.9-10.15 grows on sedimentary rocks in gently undulating to hilly country receiving an average rainfall of 700-1000 mm per year. The sedimentary rocks on which RE 12.9-10.15 occurs are soft and easily weathered and form loamy to light clay soils.

Variations and Similarities

The presence of Narrow-leaved Bottle Tree distinguishes semi-evergreen vine thickets from Hoop Pine vine forests. Hoop Pine vine forests occur in slightly moister situations (e.g. sheltered slopes) and Hoop Pine is usually present.

Within SEQ, semi-evergreen vine thickets grow on a range of geologies. Consequently, four different REs, including RE 12.9-10.15, are recognised based upon the type of country where they grow. Similar vegetation communities that occur on geologies different from RE 12.9-10.15 are:

  • RE 12.8.21 Semi-evergreen vine thicket on Cainozoic igneous rocks (especially basalt).
  • RE 12.11.13 Semi-evergreen vine thicket on metamorphics +/- interbedded volcanics.
  • RE 12.12.17 Semi-evergreen vine thicket on Mesozoic to Proterozoic igneous rocks.
12.9-10.15 and 12.9-10.16
RE 12.9-10.15 often co-occurs with RE 12.9-10.6 Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla). Brigalow trees sometimes overtop a dense understorey of vine thicket trees and shrubs. This ecosystem could eventually develop into RE 12.9-10.15 as the Brigalow trees die out. Softwood scrub species will also successfully establish in some adjacent types of Eucalyptus woodland in the absence of fire and in time develop all of the floristic and structural features of a semi-evergreen vine thicket.

 

RE 12.9-10.15 Distribution map
RE 12.9-10.15 Distribution map. Red areas indicate today’s distribution and grey areas indicate the Pre-clearing extent (~180 years ago)

 

1. Conondale Forest Reserve, Monslidale Road, Monslidale. RE 12.9-10.15 can be view along the roadside as it winds up the range.

2. Esk-Kilcoy Road, Hazeldean. At this location, the hills to the west of the road are covered in RE 12.9-10.15 on the steep slopes behind the residential estate. Many patches of this Regional Ecosystem remain because the steep and difficult terrain restricts other use of this land.

3. Dwyer’s Scrub Conservation Park, Fordsdale. This remnant forest is situated on both basalt and sedimentary rocks, so two vine thicket REs are present; RE 12.9-10.15 and RE 12.8.21. Dwyer’s Scrub is a great place to view Narrowleaved Bottle Tree in its natural habitat, with the spreading crowns rising above a dense sea of smaller trees and shrubs.

Natural Values

Vine thicket patches act as cool shady islands surrounded by hotter open pasture and woodland habitats, and are used for shelter and food by a wide range of birds and small to medium-sized mammals. Many plant species are bird-dispersed and some of the fruit-eating species use vine thickets as stepping stones on seasonal and annual migration routes.

Rock Felt Fern Pyrossia rupestris
The cool, protected refuge created by RE 12.9-10.15 allow species such as this Rock Felt Fern (Pyrossia rupestris) to survive in an otherwise dry environment
Black-breasted Button Quail
The Black-breasted Button Quail is a threatened bird that lives in semi evergreen vine thickets, such as RE 12.9-10.15.
Photo by Todd Burrows

Some Native Plants of RE 12.9-10.15

Tall Trees

Crow’s Ash  Flindersia australis
Crow’s Apple  Owenia venosa
Ivorywood  Siphonodon australis
Moreton Bay Fig  Ficus macrophylla
Narrow-leaved Bottle Tree  Brachychiton rupestris

 

Pine Mountain Coral Tree  Erythrina numerosa
Rosewood  Acacia fasciculifera
Silky Oak  Grevillea robusta
Small-leaved Fig  Ficus obliqua
Yellowwood  Flindersia xanthoxyla

Pine Mountain Coral Tree (Erythrina numerosa)
Leaves of the Pine Mountain Coral Tree
(Erythrina numerosa).
Pine Mountain Coral Tree (Erythrina numerosa)
Prickly stems of the Pine Mountain Coral Tree

Trees and Shrubs

Bastard Crow’s Ash  Pentaceras australis
Black-fruited Thornbush  Pittosporum viscidum
Broad-leaved Leopard Ash  Flindersia collina
Brush Hovea  Hovea longipes
Celerywood  Polyscias elegans
Chain Fruit  Alyxia ruscifolia
Currant Bush  Carissa ovata
Daisy Bush  Olearia canescens
Deep Yellowwood  Rhodosphaera rhodanthema
Diplospora  Triflorensa cameronii
Hard Alectryon  Alectryon subdentatus
Holly-leaved Pittosporum  Auranticarpa rhombifolia
Mock Olive  Notelaea macrocarpa
Native Holly  Alchornea ilicifolia
Native Witch Hazel  Turrraea pubescens
Native Pomegranate  Capparis arborea
Orange Bark  Maytenus bilocularis
Pavetta  Pavetta australiensis
Prickly Pine  Bursaria incana
Python Tree  Gossia bidwillii
Red Olive Plum  Elaeodendron australe
Scaly Ebony  Diospyros geminata

 

Scrub Whitewood  Atalaya salicifolia
Scrub Ironbark  Bridelea exaltata
Scrub Poison Tree  Excoecaria dallachyana
Scrub Wilga  Geijera salicifolia
Shiny-leaved Canthium  Psydrax odorata form buxifolia
Shrubby Deeringia  Deeringia amaranthoides
Small-leaved Acalypha  Acalypha capillipes
Small-leaved Canthium  Everistia vaccinifolia
Small-leaved Coondoo  Pouteria cotinifolia
Small-leaved Phyllanthus  Phyllanthus microcladus
Small-leaved Tuckeroo  Cupaniopsis parvifolia
Southern Erythroxylon  Erythroxylon sp. ‘Splityard Creek’
Strychnine Tree  Strychnos psilosperma
Thorny Yellow Wood  Zanthoxylum brachyacanthum
Turkey Bush  Acalypha eremorum
Veiny Denhamia  Denhamia pittosporoides
Weeping Pittosporum  Pittosporum angustifolium
Whalebone Tree  Streblus brunonianus
White Tamarind  Elattostachys xylocarpa

 

Pioneer Species

Bellfruit Tree  Codonocarpus attenuatus
Bitter Bark  Alstonia constricta
Flannel Weed  Abutilon oxycarpum
Green Kamala  Mallotus claoxyloides
Hickory Wattle  Acacia disparrima subsp. disparrima
Lolly Bush  Clerodendrum floribundum
Maiden’s Wattle  Acacia maidenii

 

Native Cascarilla  Croton insularis
Native Rosella  Hibiscus heterophyllus
Poison Peach  Trema tomentosa
Peach Bush  Ehretia membranifola
Red Kamala  Mallotus philippensis
Scrub Boonaree  Alectryon diversifolius
White Cedar  Melia azedarach

Lolly Bush (Clerodendrum floribundum)
Lolly Bush (Clerodendrum floribundum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vines and Scramblers

Black Silkpod  Parsonsia leichhardtii
Blood Vine  Austrosteensia blackii
Bower Vine  Pandorea pandorana
Burney Vine  Trophis scandens
Corky Prickle Vine  Caesalpinia subtropica
Hairy Silkpod  Parsonsia velutina
Hairy Water Vine  Cayratia acris
Hoya  Hoya australis
Lloyd’s Milk Vine  Marsdenia lloydii

 

Native Grape  Tetrastigma nitens
Native Jasmine  Jasminum didymum subsp. racemosum
Pleogyne  Pleogyne australis
Scrambling Caper  Capparis sarmentosa
Stiff Jasmine  Jasminum volubile
Stinging Vine  Tragia novae-hollandiae
Wombat Berry  Eustrephus latifolius
Zig Zag Vine  Melodorum leichhardtii

 

Grasses, Forbs, Ferns, Epiphytes

Dwarf Sickle Fern  Pellaea nana
Felt Fern  Pyrrosia confluens
Hooky Grass  Ancistrachne uncinulata

 

Rough Maidenhair Fern  Adiantum hispidulum
Stout Bamboo Grass  Austrostipa ramosissima
Square-stemmed Broom  Spartothamnella juncea

Restoration Tips

  • Plan the project thoroughly, as ecological restoration of softwood scrub is slow and requires major inputs.
  • Make use of the huge volume of information about softwood scrub in SEQ and nearby areas available on the internet.
  • Become familiar with the local flora by observing the species surviving in gullies, roadsides etc. Also bear in mind that those prickly looking plants in the paddock are probably native species that will make a contribution to the project.
  • If your project is going to need lots of planting, try growing your own! Most softwood scrub and dry rainforest trees and shrubs are much easier to germinate than eucalypts and bottlebrushes! The seed you collect doesn’t usually stay viable for long so remember, fresh is best.
  • Don’t get carried away planting vines too early in the project. They tend to become rampant and smother trees and shrubs.
  • Control or limit the use of fire and grazing to avoid damage to the regeneration.
  • Protect the genetic resources of local wild populations of plants by reducing the risk of cross pollination with planted species sourced from outside the local area or planting species that did not occur within your local area.

 

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2 responses on “Semi-Evergreen Vine Thicket with Bottle Trees on Sedimentary Rocks

  1. I recently purchased a property on the southern slope of Mount French (Bunjurgen) and am keen to properly identify the vegetation, tress, etc. The picture at the top of this page looks very much like our property? Is there anyone that you can point me to that would be able to properly identify our landscape and environmental value?

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