Unlike the bush typical of most of Australia, the vegetation of Tasmania‘s World Heritage Area includes alpine heathlands, tall open eucalypt forest and large areas of cool temperate rainforest and moorlands. Many of the plant species are unique to Tasmania, with some having close relatives in South America and New Zealand. Their ancestors grew on an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, which broke up more than 55 million year ago.
Today, Tasmania is the Australian stronghold of descendants of the ancient flora of Gondwana. A feature of the World Heritage Area is its alpine heathland, which has the appearance of a landscaped rockery complete with dwarf shrubs, crystal-clear pools and rich green carpet of cushion plants.
Other striking sights are the autumn gold of the fagus and the red flowers of the waratah against a background of spring and summer snow. Huge eucalypts, some of the tallest flowering plants in the world, grow in tall open forests on the eastern edge of the high rainfall belt.
To the west grow the most extensive cool temperate rainforests in Australia. Myrtle beech dominated rainforest has a dense canopy of fine leaves which block out the light, creating a cool and shady world clad in mosses and ferns. All rainforests are sensitive to fire, They need at least 300 fire-free years to reach maturity. King Billy pine is particularly vulnerable, often not regenerating after a fire. In wet, riverine habitats of this region grow stands of Huon pine. They are among the earth1s oldest living things with some being over 2,000 years old.
Sweeping buttongrass plains cover large areas of wet, peaty soils. Although these sedgelands support many species, the buttongrass plant is the most distinctive with its round buttons of seeds waving on the ends of long stalks.