The flora of Lord Howe Island shows close affinities with nearby islands and landmasses – Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and, to a lesser extent, distant Pacific Islands. These places were the principal points of origin for the diverse and remarkable plant life found on Lord Howe Island.The complex landscape of lowland, valley, mountain and ridge provides many microhabitats for diverse plants to exist. Over time, some of the plants slowly evolved into new species, with 105 of the 244 species of native vascular plants unique to the Island.
There are species of flowering plants ranging from tiny herbs to tall rainforest trees 20 metres tall. Most of these flower during spring and summer, but there are some plants to be seen in flower any time of the year you visit.
The island forests have:
- 52 tree species
- 24 shrub species
- 24 creeper species
- 12 orchid species
- 28 grasses and sedges
- 48 herb species
- 56 fern species
- 105 moss species
The image galleries, below, show a small selection of the best known plants from Lord Howe.
The majority of Lord Howe Island is covered in rainforest – with drier littoral rainforest in the northern parts, wetter montane forest around the southern mountains, and the cloud forest on the Mount Gower summit.
Within this rainforest there are 52 different tree species, all described in the Field Guide to Flora of Lord Howe Island.
The rainforest understory and exposed ridges and cliffs of Lord Howe Island have 24 shrub species. While exploring the island walking tracks you can view many of these close up and enjoy observing their detailed leaf structure, flowers and fruits.
A characteristic of rainforests is the large number of climbing plants (or creepers or vines as they are sometimes called).
Lord Howe Island has 24 creeper species, and you see them in many island habitats from beaches to the cloud forest. When exploring the island, see how different creepers climb into the tree tops.
The orchid family is the largest family of flowering plants in the world. Lord Howe Island has 12 orchid species. While most are rare and take some searching to find, there are two Dendrobium species that are quite widespread and easily viewed.
Orchids have many shapes and sizes, but all are characterized by fascinating flowers that enthrall those who seek them out.
Herbs are generally tiny ground plants that have no woody tissue. Many are small and often not noticed except when they have flowers, and even then may also be overlooked by the casual walker.
Taking time on walks to search the 24 herb species on the island will reward you with some delicate flowers and seed structures.
Ferns generally are medium sized ground plants with green, divided fronds. There are exceptions to the size, with four tree ferns on the island, and some small ferns just 3cm tall. They have no flowers, but reproduce via brown spores in patches under the fronds.
The 56 ferns of lord Howe Island are found in all habitats from forest floor, to cliff faces and some are epiphytes perched in trees.
There are 105 moss species on Lord Howe Island, particularly abundant on the mountain summit forests. There are 21 endemic species (about 20 per cent) which is a low percentage when compared with other islands in the Pacific.