Australia's "Amazingly Different" Flora

Australia's "Amazingly Different" Flora

May 10, 2013| by administrator

Once called the Carmarthen and Lansdowne Hills, today Sydney, Australia’s neighboring mountain range goes by a more descriptive name: The Blue Mountains. The characteristic blue-gray haze the mountains are known for comes from the abundant eucalyptus trees that grow there, which emit a foggy mist on warm days.

Of course, the eucalyptus is one of the more recognizable symbols of the expansive continent, right up there with the koala that eats its leaves. Of the approximately 700 species of eucalyptus, only nine are not found in Australia, and most are found nowhere else. “To see it in its rightful place is always pretty extraordinary,” says expert horticulturist Dan Hinkley.

Hinkley, who masterminded Washington state’s renowned Heronswood Nursery and later his private estate of Windcliff, is a writer, lecturer, plant breeder, and consultant who has traveled the world in pursuit of interesting plants. In November, he will lead a garden tour to Australia with Holbrook Travel to explore some of the country’s impressive public and private gardens, including visits to the gardens of some personal friends and colleagues, and cultural and natural landmarks. In addition to the Blue Mountains, the itinerary will take participants to such locales as the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House, and the Daintree Rainforest on a trip that Hinkley says has something for everyone, from novice gardeners to expert botanists.


Looking beyond the well-known eucalyptus, Australia features a stunning array of flora. The Daintree Rainforest, for example, is home to primitive flowering plants such as Austrobaileya scandens and Idiospermum australiense. A. scandens, which can grow to 50 feet tall, has flowers that smell of rotting fish to attract the flies that pollinate them. I. australiense, meanwhile, sometimes goes by the name Idiot Fruit and is believed to have existed in Daintree for 120 to 135 million years. Both are rare and exist nowhere else in the world.

The dramatic geography and unique flora that’s “amazingly different” from anywhere else—almost like being on a different planet, he says—make the country an ideal destination for botanical enthusiasts. Plus, North American travelers will find Australia to be simultaneously familiar and foreign, making it the perfect setting to learn and explore. “It’s just the right amount of exotic,” he says.

To learn more about this garden tour, visit