Recognise these trees? You may even think they’re Australian, since they can be spotted all over the country. But in fact, they’re native to a small island just off the east coast of Australia – Norfolk Island. Its volcanic soils and sub-tropical climate allow it to support diverse plant life. Plus, being isolated means its plants are found nowhere else in the world – except for a few that were taken and bred overseas, such as these lofty beauties…
A familiar sight along the coast of Australia, the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a much-loved seaside planting, because of its ability to grow well in deep sand and its tolerance of salt and wind. It grows into an attractive conical-shaped tree, which can reach a height of 25m and spread of 10m, so it’s best
suited to large, open spaces.
This stout palm, also known as Rhopalostylis baueri, was named in honour of the botanical artist Ferdinand Lucas Bauer. Bauer accompanied Matthew Flinders on his voyage of exploration, where he collected specimens and drew pictures of the plants they discovered. This palm grows to 10m tall and has graceful dark-green fronds, which give way to gorgeous bright-red berries that make for an attractive colour contrast.
Norfolk Island hibiscus
The spectacular blooms of the Norfolk Island hibiscus (Lagunaria patersonia) hint at its relation to the hibiscus plant. The flowers open mauve-pink before fading to white and appear scattered amongst the dense foliage. But, unlike most hibiscus plants, the Norfolk Island variety is actually a tree and can reach 10-15m tall. It’s tolerant of salt spray, so is ideal for coastal landscapes. Just watch out for the seed pods, as these contain sharp hairs that can irritate skin on contact.
It’s one of the tallest species of tree ferns in the world, with some Norfolk tree ferns (Cyathea brownii) recorded as growing to the towering height of 18m, however, it will more commonly grow to about 5m. Its umbrella-like fronds can grow to 6m in length and are borne by an elegant single trunk. These fronds look glorious as a garden feature, especially when underplanted with smaller ferns.