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Australian Open Forest + Grassland

The Australian Open Forest and Grassland Collection includes native open forest, sandstone and grassland plant species.

This collection features a variety of vegetation types that are commonly found in the Illawarra and Sydney, including:

  • Wet and dry sclerophyll forest sections (sclerophyll means’ hard leaves’) which highlight typical Illawarra open forest areas
  • A sandstone area with heath and hanging swamp plants from the Illawarra and Shoalhaven areas.

This site's gradual slope (or topography) faces north and is typical of the types of locations where these plants are naturally found. Topography plays a major role in plant diversity by affecting how winds, fire, rainfall and sun exposure impact plants.

The collection also shows how plants adapt to their surroundings. For example, eucalypt leaves hang vertically, which helps them withstand severe wilting without lasting damage. This reduces their exposure to the sun, and lets light filter to the understory (lower level) plants.

Soils where these plants are found often have low fertility, which means plants can grow slowly. Many species have adapted to low fertility soils by re-using nutrients, and storing phosphorous in their tissues. Some species have even developed symbiotic (cooperative) relationships with bacteria and fungi that help them to get more nutrients.

Planting for this collection began in 1977. In 1980 work started on the wet sclerophyll section with the planting of a number of eucalypt and turpentine trees which form the canopy. Within two years both the wet and dry sections were complete. In 2011, the Sydney sandstone section was added to the collection.

The best time to view this collection is in spring to early summer.


The older trees in this collection are now coming to the age when hollows are beginning to form in the trunks. These small hollows are already supporting a wide range of wildlife from nesting birds to sugar gliders, and are vital for their survival.

In time these hollows will increase in size and number to accommodate larger species like powerful owls. ‚ÄčThis highlights the importance of old growth forests, as young forests have no hollows as homes to support diverse wildlife.


The Australian Open Forest collection is on the northern edge of Wollongong Botanic Garden, near Northfields Avenue.

See location 2 on the map below (click the map to open a larger PDF version).

map of Wollongong Botanic Garden