VicFlora is a free-access, online compilation incorporating the Flora of Victoria (previously published in hard copy: Walsh & Entwisle 1994, 1996, 1999) and the Census of Vascular Plants of Victoria, of which eight editions were published by the National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne between 1984 and 2007. Some post-Flora accounts will be incomplete because of new discoveries and taxonomic revisions but VicFlora is a ‘living’ product and is being continually updated. It is intended that all members of the Victorian flora including those new discoveries and reinterpretations, both past and future, will be added as soon as practicable after being accepted by Herbarium botanists. We welcome information relating to new additions to the state’s flora, and errors or inconsistencies in the current version of VicFlora via email to email@example.com.
Information on how to use VicFlora is provided under the Help tab.
Pysek et al. (2004) used the term ‘origin status’ to differentiate between ‘native’ (= ‘indigenous’) and ‘alien’ plant taxa (= ‘exotic’, ‘introduced’, ‘non-native’, ‘non-indigenous’). The ‘establishment means’ of a species is important in species conservation and vegetation management, biological weed control, floristic evaluation and biogeographical analysis.
Some native species are also naturalised outside their natural range in the State, and these are further indicated as such. Most introduced taxa are naturalised and indicated as such, while others are regarded as ‘sparingly established’. Sometimes decisions related to establishment means are not clear-cut.
Bean (2007) proposed a system of assessment using a combination of ecological, phytogeographical and historical criteria for the determination of the origin status of an individual species in Australia. These factors are often used informally when determinations of origin status are made, but appear not to have been combined previously into a unified system for Australia. We have attempted to synthesise the approaches of both Pysek et al. (2004) and Bean (2007) in our assessment of origin status in VicFlora.
One of the complicating factors in formulating these definitions as Bean (2007) pointed out is that an increasing number of Australian plant species are present as both indigenous and naturalised populations. Most of these taxa originate as horticultural escapees and from, perhaps well-intentioned but ill-advised “revegetation” schemes. Inappropriate selection of species that are not indigenous to an area intended for revegetation not only results in a potential weed threat, but also, over time, obscures the known natural distributional ranges of native taxa.
The accepted establishment means of plants treated in VicFlora are:
Pysek et al (2004) defined ‘indigenous’ plants as ‘taxa that have originated in a given area without human involvement or that have arrived there without intentional or unintentional intervention of humans from an area in which they are native’. This is the definition of ‘native’ that is used in VicFlora.
Naturalised in part(s) of the state
Includes taxa that are naturally occurring in some areas of the state but have become naturalised, often after ‘escaping’ from cultivation, elsewhere in the state.
‘Introduced ’ as used in the Vicflora is synonymous with the term ‘alien plants’ as defined by Pysek et al (2004), which are defined as those ‘plant taxa in a given area whose presence there is due to intentional or unintentional human involvement, or which have arrived there without the help of people from an area in which they are alien’. These taxa can either be naturalised or sparingly established.
In early editions of the Census, and accounts of the State’s flora (e.g. Mueller, 1862; Ewart, 1931; Willis, 1970, 1973), an alien taxon was one that had spread ‘beyond the possibility of extirpation’ (Mueller, 1853) was considered naturalised. As the interest in and knowledge of the alien flora has burgeoned in recent years, we have endeavoured to adopt a more precise definition. In more recent editions of the Census, the criterion of Tutin et al. (1964) was used whereby naturalised taxa needed to have been established for at least 25 years, unless obvious seedling recruitment was taking place and the population was persisting or spreading.
We have drawn heavily on the definition of Pysek et al. (2004) but have avoided attaching time frames. We have also drawn from Bostock & Holland (2007). Our definition of naturalised plants is: ‘those alien plants that sustain self-replacing populations without direct intervention by people OR in spite of human intervention, by recruitment from seeds or vegetative propagules (e.g. the bulbils of many exotic Oxalis species) or by vegetative spread (e.g. the extensive rhizome system of Spartina × townsendii)’. Additionally, ‘naturalised’ plants have one or more Victorian occurrences that are in the ‘wild’. By ‘wild’ we mean outside of private home or urban gardens, botanic gardens. ‘Wild’ in this treatment does not necessarily mean undisturbed or pristine land. Although this is quite arbitrary, in our view it is impractical and not particularly meaningful to start listing taxa that self-seed from planted plants in home or botanic gardens. The sites can be natural vegetation, disturbed or undisturbed roadsides, farmland (which may or may not include remnant native vegetation), or other large expanses of land that may be maintained in some way such as golf-courses. At least one site which has more than 10 individuals that are self-established, or in the case of taxa that reproduce solely vegetatively at least one clump greater than 5 square metres or ten or more clumps under 1 metre.
Sparingly established plants
Sparingly established taxa are those that are known to be not native in Victoria but the extent of naturalisation has not been demonstrated to be fully self-perpetuating in the absence of the initial source and there is doubt whether it has become truly naturalised yet. ‘Casuals’ (not persisting without fresh introduction) are included in this category (definition after Kloot, 1987). OR in cases where the label information for a taxon is insufficient to apply criteria for “naturalised”.
It is uncertain whether the taxon is truly native in Victoria. This may include instances where the taxonomy of the group is unresolved and that what is treated currently as a single taxon actually represents more than one taxon and that these taxa include both truly native and introduced elements.
It is accepted that these categories may at sometimes appear imprecise, and that different observers may have different views of the status of plants occurring in the wild. The categories here are offered as a considered view of VicFlora’s compilers, relying on specimen label data, published accounts, personal observations, opinions of colleagues.
Where relevant, the threat status of taxa is provided at both a national and state level of jurisdiction.
Only nationally threatened taxa that are listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) are listed and their level of threat under that legislation provided.
Taxa that are acknowledged as being rare or threatened in the state are indicated as well as those listed as ‘threatened’ under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (the FFG Act). Beyond FFG-listed taxa are those known to be rare or threatened to some degree. Not all of these taxa are FFG-listed. They are also indicated where relevant on the taxon pages according to the following definitions:
- x - Presumed extinct in Victoria: taxa that have either not been found in recent years in spite of field searching at all known sites, which have failed to record the plant, or have not been collected for at least 50 years.
- e - Endangered in Victoria: rare or at risk of disappearing from the wild state if present land use and other causal factors continue to operate.
- v - Vulnerable in Victoria; rare, not presently Endangered but likely to become so soon due to continued depletion; occurring mainly on sites likely to experience changes in land use that would threaten the survival of the plant in the wild; or taxa where total populations are so low that recovery from a local natural disturbance such as drought, landslip or fire is doubtful.
- r - Rare (i.e. relatively few individuals and/or populations) in Victoria but not currently considered threatened with extinction in the foreseeable future.
- k - Poorly known in Victoria: suspected, but not definitely known to belong to one of the categories x, e, v or r. At present accurate field distribution information is inadequate. In our experience, most taxa originally included in this category have ultimately been reassigned into the e or v categories when sufficient information about their status in the wild has been accumulated.
Rare and threatened Victorian vascular plants
The status accorded a taxon can have profound implications for its conservation status. Recognition of a taxon as a native, especially if it has a restricted distribution or is known from only a few populations, may result in the expenditure of considerable resources to try and ensure the survival of populations. Conversely, classification as an introduced species may result in conscious efforts being made to eradicate populations. An endeavour has been made in VicFlora to reflect the conservation status of the taxa thought to be rare or threatened. Many of these decisions are based on discussions with colleagues and other specialists acknowledged below.
Categories of rare or threatened Plants in Victoria have been adapted from Gullan et al. (1990), Briggs and Leigh (1996) and Department of Sustainability and Environment (2005). National conservation status designations largely follow those of Briggs and Leigh (1996), but for taxa that have been recognised since their work, or in cases where more recent information warrants revision of the threat category, risk codes have been provided that reflect the conservation status based on current knowledge.
There has not been a detailed assessment for all Victorian taxa employing the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the internationally accepted framework for classifying threatened species. This work is ongoing, but until the detailed information required to employ the IUCN criteria is available, the system based on that of Briggs & Leigh is retained here.
Voucher specimens of taxa not treated in VicFlora, with accompanying locality data and notes will be welcomed by the National Herbarium of Victoria. Voucher specimens provide a permanent record validating the identity and occurrence of a plant at a particular locality and time. Vouchers are also a verifiable and invaluable source of information such as distribution, ecological preferences, and associated species.
Undescribed taxa that are well known to herbarium or field workers, are included in VicFlora under phrase names (i.e. informal names). Some of these taxa are referred to in literature in which case reference is given to the relevant publication. Where the taxa are not recorded in literature a reference is usually given either to their affinities or to their general distribution in Victoria or sometimes to both. Manuscript names are not used in order to obviate any confusion should they be changed, their publication be long-delayed, or not eventuate.
In the case of undescribed taxa, if it is clear that the taxon merits specific rank the entry indicates this by the inclusion of ‘sp.’ in the phrase name, for example, as Pelargonium sp. 1 sensu Fl. Victoria 4:238 (1999). In cases where the taxonomic rank is unresolved the entry is given, for example, as Eucalyptus aff. aromaphloia (Lerderderg).
This format for listing undescribed taxa is not in agreement with a number of recently adopted conventions and suggested conventions (e.g. Barker, 2005). While we support the need for a uniform national approach for citing phrase names, the current circumscription and knowledge of distribution for these taxa is not yet complete enough to ensure that the same name can be indisputably applied to the same taxon across state and territory boundaries. The development of a protocol for citing unnamed taxa for inclusion in the Australian Plant Census will, in time, ensure that informally known taxa may be recognised uniformly across their ranges. As a consequence the phrase names for some taxa listed on the Australian Plant Census website will be different from those used here, for example Cardamine. aff. flexuosa sensu Fl. Victoria Vol 3:435-436 (1996) is known as Cardamine sp. Jandakot (P. Luff s.n. 4/7/1969) WA Herbarium in the Australian Plant Census (APC). While it is regrettable that more than one phrase name is available for the same taxon, we have decided to defer adopting the APC phrase names until the completion of the APC project, in order to deliver a consistent account of all taxonomic groups.
Plant classification in Victoria, present and past
While the Flora of Victoria ,and past editions of the Census of Vascular Plants of Victoria (here-after referred to as the Census) followed the long-maintained classificatory system of Cronquist (1981), the VicFlora generally follows the increasingly accepted system presented by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (see APG website) which evolves as new information becomes available. The advent of DNA sequencing has facilitated access to genetic information that is providing valuable insights into evolutionary relationships (phylogeny). Numerous studies have been, and are still being conducted as part of a world-wide endeavour to understand the phylogeny of vascular plants. During the last decade the position of most angiosperms has been revealed in increasing detail (e.g. APG, 1998, 2003, 2009; Stevens, 2001). These numerous molecular studies have re-defined the relationships amongst many plant taxa and resulted in the classification systems used for flowering plants prior to the late 1970s becoming progressively outdated. Many familiar families are now known to be unnatural groupings. Consequently, some families have been re-circumscribed, some families have disappeared and been subsumed in others, and yet others have been fragmented and many of the genera dispersed among a number of other families. For example, the family Asclepiadaceae is now included in Apocynaceae (Endress and Bruyns, 2000), Epacridaceae in Ericaceae (Kron et al., 2002), and many of the genera of Scrophulariaceae dispersed among other families, whereas Myoporaceae has been incorporated into Scrophulariaceae.
Author abbreviations follow ‘Authors of Plant Names’ (Brummitt and Powell, 1992) and subsequent amendments (e.g. International Plant Names Index). Journal titles are abbreviated in accordance with BPH-2 (Bridson, 2004; Lawrence et al., 1968), and other literature in accordance with Stafleu and Cowan (1976-88) and Stafleu and Mennega (1992) except that upper case initials have been used for the initial letter of each word.
All taxa recognised in VicFlora are based on herbarium specimens. Most of the specimens are housed in the National Herbarium of Victoria but records known to be substantiated by specimens in other herbaria are also included. The distribution maps provided in VicFlora are based on herbarium specimens, and unvouchered site records obtained from the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas (VBA). In the absence of herbarium specimens, VBA records that occur significantly outside the range of vouchered records should be treated with some caution. The distribution information provided in the taxon profiles is based on verifiable herbarium specimens only.
The taxonomy of certain groups is fairly fluid. Usually this is because taxonomic revision is ongoing, or it is a reflection of the divergent opinions of different researchers who work on the same group. It is always difficult to accommodate differing taxonomic concepts for the same group, but decisions have had to be taken about which names will be accepted in VicFlora. Acceptance of certain names does not imply that alternative names are incorrect or that they are unsupported scientifically. Alternative names in common use are provided as synonyms. Reaching a consensus on which names to accept for the orchids continues to be a particular problem where taxonomists with differing views of generic circumscription continue to describe taxa in differently named genera. In these situations we have been guided by the recommended nomenclatures provided in the aforementioned Australian Plant Census or by staff with expertise in this perplexing family.