COVID-19 information for our visitors Read more.

Rainforest Collection

Our rainforest - one of the largest botanic garden rainforest collections in Australia - is a peaceful, green oasis with and abundance of native Illawarra plants.

A number of rainforest species from tropical New South Wales, Queensland and the islands of New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island have also been included because they suit Wollongong's climate.

The rainforest collection follows a natural creek line, which provides a moist, rich environment. Tall canopy trees create a shady environment, and filter light for shrubs, ferns, epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) and ground covers at lower levels.

Some of the taller trees in this section are ‘remnant’ Turpentine and Melaleuca trees, which survived harsh land clearing during European settlement.

Our collection represents a number of locally endangered ecological communities such as the Illawarra Escarpment Sub Tropical Rainforest. Some of the species you’ll find here are listed as endangered including Illawarra Socketwood (Daphnandra johnsonii), and Illawarra Zieria (Zieria granulata) as well as plants like the iconic Australian Red Cedar (Toona ciliata) which were devastated by logging or land clearing in the early 1800s.

Planting of this collection started in 1978. In 1981 major regeneration works were done, and hundreds of plants native to the Illawarra were added.

Rainforests are vital to life on Earth - absorbing carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, helping to stabilize the climate, and are home to an incredible biodiverse variety of plants and wildlife keeping our planet in balance.

This collection can be viewed year-round; the epiphytes flower in spring.

Rainforest conditions

  • Rainforests need high annual rainfall. They usually have volcanic soils that are high in nutrients, well drained, deep and fertile.
  • Rainforest plants are generally evergreen. Their leaves have large surface areas to catch sunlight and shed water quickly.
  • Rainforest species need shelter from westerly winds. They thrive in a south easterly aspect where moisture loss from winds is minimised.
  • Rainforest seedlings can germinate in dense shade and will sit dormant until a gap in the canopy opens; this is usually the result of the death of older trees. Young seedlings then compete for the newly created space in a process called ‘gap phase dynamics’.


The Rainforest Garden stretches west from the middle of Wollongong Botanic Garden, through to Robsons Road.

See location 10 on the map below (or click the map to open a larger PDF version).

map of Wollongong Botanic Garden