* notes relating to families are general only. fruit = fruit, flowers = flower, leaves = leaves, BK = bark, infl. = inflorescence.

The following are (mostly) short field notes on many of the photographed species, some which may look similar to others that are likely to be encountered in and just beyond the Darwin region. They are far from comprehensive, however they hopefully give an insight into the thoughts of the field botanist as he/she glances over the 'soon to be named' floral specimen. As these notes become more complete one should be acquire a feel for the important features and level of detail needed to identify a species from a particular group. Many of these observations are based on personal experience, though I acknowledge the indirect assistance of my colleagues at the NT Herbarium, as well as the following REFERENCES in building my knowledge base and contributing to these notes.




ACANTHACEAE: mostly herbs; stems often angular or ribbed; leaves simple, opposite and many species have a streaked leaf surface due to cystoliths [calcareous secretions]; fruit is always a 2-part longitudinally splitting pod, often apparently explosively.

AIZOACEAE: herbs or shrubs; leaves opposite or alternative.

ALISMATACEAE: Primarily aquatic herbs with 3-merous flowers.

AMARANTHACEAE: herbs or shrubs with leaves opposite or sometimes alternate simple leaves; flowers usually consist of papery bracts, bracteoles. Ptilotus may be similar to some species of Gomphrena but the former mostly have alternate leaves.

AMARYLLIDACEAE: includes members of the terrestrial 'lillies' they are rather fleshy plants with thick strap-like leaves; conspicuous flowers with an inferior ovary and six stamens. T he two Crinum species are separated by the the multiple flowering heads ofand the single flower ofBoth may appear from underground bulbs around Nov. continuing well into the dry season where soil is slow drying.

ANACARDIACEAE: includes species such as Mango, Cashew Nuts.

APOCYNACEAE: (includes Asclepiadaceae) Vines, herbs or trees; opposite leaves, often with colleters (glands) around base of petiole or junction with leaf margin; frequently having milky sap.

ARECACEAE: 'true' palms; the genus Livistona is often mistakenly pronounced or mispelt 'Livistonia' or 'Livingstonia'.



Aristilochia holtzei

ASTERACEAE: The 'daisies' mostly herbs, sometimes shrubs; inflorescence a 'capitulum' of tiny flowers;

Blumea integrifolia Blumea saxatilis flowers yellow, distinctive due to multiple capitula on a stem Pleurocarpaea denticulata herb to 80cm leaves fleshy tofeel with toothed margins flowers pink to white with purple, Oct-Feb; found on heavier soils in various woodland communities; Pterocaulon serrulatum annual/biennial, usually erect shrub to 1.5m grows chiefly along dried watercourses on gravelly and rocky substrates flowers arranged in terminal, compound heads 15-20mm wide May-Nov. BIGNONIACEAE:Dolichandrone filiformis small straggly tree to 4m leaves rounded in cross seaction, linear flowers large off-white fruit is a long narrow pod; occassional in open woodlands.

BORAGINACEAE: leaves simple, variably opposite or alternate; flowers 5-merous, characteristically on a 'scorpoid' cyme ovary usually 2 carpels.

Heliotropium ventricosum


Burmannia juncea

BYBLIDACEAE: insectivorous herbs with sticky glandular hairs

Byblis linifolia

CAPPARACEAE: leaves usually alternate, often with spines (modified stipules)

Capparis umbonata : Capparis sepiaria : Capparis tetrandra : Cleome viscosa

C. microaustralasica is a aromatic herb covered in glandular hairs flowers 12-22 stamens, Feb-May; a sandstone species mot in DR. Several introduced species can be found in the Top End.

CARYOPHYLLACEAE: usually herbs, often with swollen nodes, leaves opposite or rarely alternate and often with interpetiolar stipules; flowers 4-5 merous, ovary inferior. Polycarpaea flowers consist of 5 conspicuous sepals; petals are inconspicuous

Polycarpaea corymbosa : Polycarpaea longiflora


Stackhousia intermedia


Centrolepis exserta

COMBRETACEAE: many species have domatia; sympodial branching; leaves alternate

Terminalia ferdinandiana : Terminalia pterocarya


Cartonema parviflorum : Cartonema spicatum : Commelina ensifolia : Murdannia graminea : Murdannia gigantea

CONVOLVULACEAE: 'morning glory' family

Bonamia pannosa : Ipomoea graminea trailing herb leaves linear, 100-200mm long flowers large, more visible at night and early morning; to 110mm long with long slender tube, Dec-Apr. Ipomoea macrantha is a coastal sp. Evolvulus alsinoides perennial herb, extremely variable flowers to 12mm across, often on slender peduncle to 40mm long; very widespread. Hairs bifid (split into two parts) and styles 2 in Bonamia, Evoleavesulus and Cressa - single style and simple or stellate hairs in other NT Convoleavesulaceae. Ipomoea coptica : Jacquemontia browniana erect or prostrate perennial subshrub to 1m; with 3-branched hairs leaves simple, narrow, entire flowers white, pink or blue, funnel-shaped up to 25mm long; Feb-Oct J. paniculata is a species with more ovate leaves and smaller flowers <15mm long Xenostegia tridentata climbing herb leaves narrow to 70mm with toothed lobes, petiole short flowers to 12mm across, seen dry season.

CUCURBITACEAE: e.g. cucumber, melon

Cucumis maderaspatanus : Cucumis lanatus : Trichosanthes holtzei

CYPERACEAE: leaf sheaths are closed (unlike grasses) and stems are often (3) angular; often found in wet areas.

Arthrostylis aphylla has flattened stems Bulbostylis barbata annual herb to 0.2m leaves basal, <1mm wide flowers glumes spirally arranged; similar to F. schultzii but with narrower leaves <1mm and often involucral bract held erect Cyperus glumes nearly always distichously arranged (like herring-bones) Crosslandia setifolia flowers female at base of leaves, male on stems and much more obvious; sandy soils in woodlands Cyperus polystachyos sasd aadtems C. pulchellus 0.1-0.3m trigonous stems flowers glumes 1.2-1.6mm Jan-Jun, grows on any soil in damp situations Eleocharis dulcis leaves reduced to sheaths, inflorescence lacking involucral bracts and tubers sometimes present (Water Chestnut) Fimbristylis glumes usually spirally arranged F. denudata flowers May-Oct Occurring along watercourses and on floodplains. F. pauciflora leaves reduced to membranous sheaths, glumes 2.5-3.5mm long; stigmas mostly 3, nut pale grey; F. dichotoma involucral bracts 2-5 mostly shorter than infl. F. xyridis infl. has superficial resemblence to Xyridis spp. hence the name Fuirena ciliaris leaves at each stem node Schoenus stem noded, spikelet axis flexuose, curved over nut Lipocarpha microcephala slender annual up to 300mm high, involucral bracts 2 or 3; nut 1 mm long by 0.2 mm across, pale brown. Schoenus falcatus tufted perennial to 2m (usually less) flowers spikelets 6-12mm in length - seen year round along watercourses. Rhynchospora many species have distinctive half-spherical brown heads R. leae glumes dark brown fruit nut is distinctly deeply grooved Scleria rugosa annual usually hairy S. brownii perennial to 0.5m S. pygmaea annual often < 0.1m tall.


Hibbertia tasmanica : Hibbertia sp. Darwin Hibbertia junceumP. complantatum flowers has flattened stems.

DROSERACEAE: 'Sundews' insectivorous, with glandular hairs Drosera burmannii flowers similar to D. dilatatopetiolaris however the infl. is longer >150mm D. indica only Drosera in DR with alternate leaves scattered along stem (cauline); flowers several per stem, 10-17mm across, Jan-Oct, colour variable, usually purple or mauve but can be white or almost red; may be found in various localities with a moist substrate. D. dilatatopetiolaris leaves including petiole up to 50mm long flowers multiple flowers on raceme to 300mm; woodland species commonly found on laterite and moist sandy flats

ERIOCAULACEAE: most species in the genus look like 'pincushions'

Eriocaulon setaceum


Croton arnhemicus leaves with 2 distinct glands at margin meets petiole; found in range of habitats Petalostigma quadriloculare flowers cream to yellowish usually appearing with regrowth; common shrub often with numerous stems no more 1.5m high; leaves pale undersurface; P. pubescens small tree >1m in height fruit orange drupe. Phyllanthus exilis a sparsely branched herb

FABACEAE: (=Leguminosae) pea family

Subfamily Mimosoideae - characterised by small petals and numerous stamens

Acacia oncinocarpa : Acacia mimula : Erythrophleum chlorostachyum large tree or hardy resprouting shrubs, dark corky bark leaves distinct lime green flush during the dry,

Subfamily Caesalpinioideae- characterised by zygomorphic flowers often with large showy petals

Chamaecrista absus : Chamaecrista mimosoides : Peltophorum pterocarpum

Subfamily Faboideae (=Papilionoideae) - characterised by the classic 'pea' flower

Alysicarpus schomburgkii : Austrodolichos errabundas flowers standard 15-25mm longwoodlands and open forests in well drained soils Cajanus acutifolius leaves pinnately tri-foliolate, stipules 1mm long leaflets 25-65mm long by 9-25mm wide flowers 15-25mm long, with red or brown stripes behind, Dec-Jul found in sandstone areas eg. Litchfield Canavalia rosea vine leaves trifoliate, glabrous flowers May-Dec fruit thick woody pods to 160mm; found on coastal dunes. Crotalaria medicaginea perennial herb to 0.8m leaves trifoliolate flowers terminal raceme to 5mm top to bottom fruit inflated ellipsoid pods Desmodium heterocarpon tall annual herb to 1.5m leaves trifoliate flowers terminal or axillary racemes individually ca 4mm long found along watercourses in heavier? soils Desmodium trichostachyum flowers May-Aug ca 2mm long, pink to purple, edge of swamps and wetter areas of woodland and forest Desmodium spp. are known for their jointed (articulate) pods Flemingia parviflora perennial herb to 0.4m leaves digitately 3 foliate common on lateritic Indigofera hirsuta usually a subshrub (sometimes spreading), covered in spreading hairs appearing simple but actually unequal leaves usually 3-11 I. trifoliata flowers asdkljj Indigofera typically have pods rounded in cross section and medifixed hairs Tephrosia ajsd Rhynchosia minima creeping vine leaves trifoliolate leaves flowers 3-8mm long R. australis is similar species from coastal areas but terminal leaflet has acuminate (pointed) 'drip tip' Uraria leontopetioloides leaves with hooked hairs flowers blue, mauve or white Vigna lanceolata var. filiformis perennial vine leaves linear to 80mm pinnately 3-foliolate flowers calyx to 4mm, corolla ca 8mm long, Jan-Jul Vigna radiata var. has peltate stipules V. vexillata has mauve or bluish flowers.

GOODENIACEAE: herbs and shrubs or rarely trees, leaves alternate (or spirally arranged), simple; important identification features for Goodenia include corolla colour, length; seed surface and presence of a wing; style branching; the amount of hair and hair types; 14 species in the Darwin area.

Goodenia pilosa : Goodenia armstrongiana : Goodenia purpurascens : Goodenia symonii : Scaevola taccada


Hydrolea zeylanica perennial herb to 1.2m found in swampy areas and on river banks flowers blue.


Hypoxis nervosa perennial grass-like herb resprouting from corms during the wet; flowers positioned close to the base of the plant. Curculigo ensifolia is a similar plant but has wider plicate leaves.

IRIDACEAE: different from other lily families by inferior ovary and 3 stamens;

Patersonia macrantha

JUNCAGINACEAE: herbs of wet places, grass like basal leaves, some are popular aquarium plants

Triglochin dubium

LAMIACEAE: commonly with square stems; crushed leaves with strong odour; flowers bilabiate (petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip); leaves often whorled or opposite; family includes many culinary herbs such as basil, mints, balms, rosemary, thyme etc.

Anisomeles malabarica : Pogostemon stellatus : Plectranthus scutellarioides : Clerodendron floribundum : Huxleya linifolia : Vitex glabrata

LAURACEAE: trees or rarely parasitic vines; usually trees with fine oil dots (often only obvious with a hand lens) and waxy leaf undersurface which can be rubbed off with your finger (pruinose).

Cassytha filiformis

LECYTHIDACEAE: trees or shrubs; leaves alternate

Barringtonia acutangula : Planchonia careya

LENTIBULARIACEAE: Utricularia chrysantha common in wet grassland U. fuleavesa herb to 0.3m flowers distinctive c. 20mm long; on sandy banks of many sandstone streams eg. Litchfield and Kakadu. U. odorata flowers mm long, 2-20 in numberin moist sandy sights asdfs ; U. leptroplectra flowers ca 10mm usually with yellowish undersurface; in swamps in shallow water or at margins in damp soil. U. leptorhyncha flowers usually paired, but can be up to 4, or solitary; grows in damp sandy soil U. limosa flowers 2-20 per infl. each up to 6mm 'long' may be blue through to pink or white at edges of or in shallow water, in various substrates. U. minutissima tiny herb in damp sand. Utricularia capilliflora

LILIACEAE: Iphigenia indica : Sowerbaea alliacea : Thysanotus banksii overall larger than Thysanotus chinensis, having twisted anthers over 10mm in length and petals (perianth segments) < 20mm long; the pedicels of T. chinensis become pendulous as the fruit matures

LINDERNIACEAE: Lindernia approx. 8 spp. in DR; commonly of seepages and billabongs.

LOGANIACEAE: leaves opposite or whorled

Mitrasacme aggregata : Mitrasacme connata : Mitrasacme subvolubilis : Mitrasacme nudicaulis : Strychnos lucida

LORANTHACEAE: semi parasitic ephiphytic vines, the 'mistletoes'

Amyema sanguineum : Decaisnina signata leaves opposite, sessile. Lysiana spathulata

LYTHRACEAE: opposite leaves

Nesaea muelleri

MALVACEAE: leaves alternate, often with stellate hairs and stipules

Hibiscus meraukensis : Hibiscus tiliaceus : Sida cordifolia similar to Waltheria indica but fls are larger. Triumfetta possibly the most common are the two introduced weedy species T. rhombifolia and T. pentandra. Urena lobata

Grewia retusifolia perennial shrub 1m leaves toothed, paler undersurface; common throughout north Australian woodlands; looks a bit like Helicteres,


Nymphoides aurantiaca :

MELASTOMATACEAE: Melastoma has stamens unequal in length and shape with elongated curve below the anthers and capsule with many-seeded purple flesh

Melastoma malabathricum : Osbeckia australiana has stamens equal in length and shape leaves 3-veined and narrower than on Melastoma, fruit dry at maturity; both prefer moist substrates associated with rainforest edges, shaded creeklines and swamp margins.

MOLLUGINACEAE: usually herbs, with simple alternate or whorled leaves

Mollugo pentaphylla

MORACEAE: vines, shrubs or trees; stipules present includes the 'figs' Ficus aculeata tree leaves opposite or alternate, blade rough like sandpaper flowers like all figs are numerous within an 'inside out' inflorescence, known as a syconia; syconia to 15mm across, often smaller, green, may develop reddish colour with maturity; found in almost any habitat Ficus scobina is another 'sandpaper fig' in the DR distinguished by having a more variable and usually obovate (thickest above the mid-point of the leaf blade).


Asteromyrtus magnifica : Calytrix exstipulata : Melaleuca argentea tree to 20m leaves sileavesery, petiole 5mm separates it from M. leucadendra (petiole 5-15mm, leaf green and generally larger) M. cajaputi leaves new with spreading hairs, petiole ~ 5mm; found on clay soils M. viridiflora generally has wider leaves than all other DR Melaleuca spp. In M. nervosa the leaves are often slightly oblanceolate; both these species are only two with stamens longer than 15mm Syzigium eucalyptoides subsp. bleeseri is woodland mid-storey tree with rounded blue-grey leaves while S. eucalyptoides subsp. eucalyptoides is the narrow leaved subsps. of sandstone areas e.g. Syzigium suborbiculare leaves glossy dark green, paler below, orbicular petiole reddish flowers rounded petals 20mm, stamens to 50mm, Jul-Oct fruit edible, apple sized 'lilly pilly' conspicuous during the buildup and early wet season. Corymbia polysciada

NELUMBONACEAE: aquatic plants with large, water lily-type flowers, known as lotus

Nelumbo nucifera

NYCTAGINACEAE: includes Bougainvillea

Boerhavia coccinea. Pisonia aculeata

NYMPHAEACEAE: Aquatics with floating leaves

Nymphaea violacea flowers white or pale blue to purple, petals 25-90mm long.OLEACEAE:Jasminum aemulum leaves often with hooked hairs Jasminum spp. petiole has an articulation which leaves an obvious stub on stem if leaf broken off flowers with long thin calyx lobes (unlike J. molle in which they are much shorter) common in coastal situations.


Ludwigia adscendens : Ludwigia octovalvis

OROBANCHACEAE: semi-parasitic herbs (formerly in the SCROPHULARIACEAE family)

Buchnera linearis : Buchnera tetragona : Stemodia lythrifolia


Opilia amentacea


Passiflora foetida :


Habenaria sp. perennials leaves with annual strap-like leaves appear during the wet season flowers usually white Nov-Feb; several spp. in DR.

POACEAE: The grasses; stems of grasses are known are known as 'culms' and unlike members of the Cyperaceae the leaves sheaths are open, not closed.

Alloteropsis semialata perennial, tufted. Basal leaf sheaths thickened and forming a bulb pubescent or woolly. Culms erect, 0.2-1.5m tall. Inflorescence digitate, racemes 2–4(–8), unilateral, 2–22cm long Aristida holathera Annual or perennial, tufted. Culms 0.3–1.3m tall fruit long thin lemma (<0.5mm thick) with 3 awns. Chloris barbata Chrysopogon spikelets in 3's; like Sorghum, but laterally (side) compressed (dorsally compressed in Sorghum) Cymbopogon procerus Ectrosia leporina Annual or perennial. Culms 10–90cm tall. Leaves mostly basal. Leaf-blades 5–12cm long, 1–4 mm wide. Infl. a panicle often reddish 5–15cm long. Eragrostis are identified by distinctive herring-bone arrangement of spikelet Eriachne schultziana Eriachne triseta : Heteropogon contortus perennial, tufted to 1m; seed awns often distinctively tangled H. triticeus perennial to 180cm a robust version of H. contortus I. rugosum var. rugosum up to 0.6m distinctive rugulose (rippled) lower glume Imperata cylindrica perennial, 10–150cm tall leaves mostly basal 3–100cm long, 2–20 mm wide; infl. solid, a panicle 3–22cm long Ischaemum australe I. rugosum y Mnesithea formosa distinctive grass infl. articlated spike leaving neat ring of white hairs around edges Mnesithea rottboellioides Paspalidium rarum annual grass to 40cm high prefering moist soils Pseudoraphis spinescens water loving grass very similar to Cynodon dactylon; has very variable growth habit, from compact 'couch' growth to large-leaved sprawling culms Rottboellia cochinchinensis annual grass of moist area Sacciolepis myosuroides ~2mm wide, spikelets < 1.5mm long S. indica spikelets >2.5mm long Schizachyrium fragile annual, often to 30cm tall leaves 2–10cm long, 1–3 mm wide Sorghum species are also known as 'Sarga' by some botanists Sehima nervosum leaves dry curled and very pale hence common name Curly Whitegrass. Sorghum intrans annual grass; spikelets in 3's, separated from other species by having a tuft of hairs on the seed Sorghum plumosum perennial Thaumastochloa major annual 15–35cm tall Urochloa holosericea erect annual to 70 cm. leaves 1–8cm long, 2–7 mm wide racemes 4–6


Polygala orbicularis usually compact annual flowering during the wet to early dry, rounded leaves; found on laterite and sandy areas in particularly in Eucalyptus woodlands and open forests. Polygala stenoclada.


Monochoria australasica emergent aquatic leaves to 17cm x 5.5cm wide long flowers Jan-Jul; this species has yellow anthers, all similar in size and >3mm long.


Calandrinia uniflora : Portulaca bicolor

PROTEACEAE: trees, shrubs; flowers distinctive, with four tepals being fused into a long narrow tube and long stigma; many genera have clustered, showy inflorescences making ideal cultivated plant such as Grevillea, Banksia, Hakea etc.

Grevillea decurrens : Grevillea goodii : Grevillea pluricaulis : Hakea arborescens : Persoonia falcata : Helicia australasica


Dapsilanthes spathaceus sedge, often of seasonally wet sandy soils. Similar species is Schoenus sparteus however this species has a closed leaf sheath (overlapping in Dapsilanthes) and often has weaker stems.


Alphitonia excelsa : Colubrina asiatica

RUBIACEAE: leaves opposite or whorled, often with interpetiolar stipules; flowers often aggregated (as in Spermacoce, Nauclea), inferior ovary.

Gardenia megasperma : Kailarsenia suffruticosa perennial prostrate herb leaves hairy, paler undersurface, shortly petiolate flowers to 35mm across, 4-6 petals Nov-Jun Knoxia stricta sp. Mitracarpus hirta is a weed Oldenlandia galioides untidy, sprawling herb found in damp situations flowers from lf axils O. mitrasacmoides erect slender herb to 0.5m flowers have a ring of hairs surrounding the corolla tube opening Spermacoce calliantha : Spermacoce phalloides : Spermacoce stenophylla : Spermacoce occultiseta *There are approximately 10 spp. of Spermacoce in the Darwin area; they can be difficult to separate - important features include arrangement of hairs/appendages within the corolla, proportional length of stamens and various seed characters.

SCROPHULARIACEAE: leaves opposite, mostly simple, flowers characteristically tubular and two lipped (bilabiate) upper 2 petals fused, lower 3 fused.

Centranthera cochinchinensis annual herb to 60cm flowers tubular, pink to reddish with white corolla lobes ca 50mm long; found mostly in seasonally wet areas. Lindernia clausa slender herb to 0.3m flowers ~15mm moist sandy/loamy soils Lindernia aplectra : Lindernia lobelioides leaves smell of licorice flowers stamens 2 Lindernia plantaginea leaves broad, in rosette at base flowers in dense infl.

SOLANACEAE: herbaceous with alternate leaves; five petalled (fused to some degree), regular flowers; in Solanum stamens often appearing fused; fruit is a pod or berry with numerous seeds e.g. capsicum, tomato, potato, tobacco.

Solanum echinatum : Physalis angulata shrub to 2m; angular stems flowers yellow, to creamy white fruit enclosed in papery green calyx; is considered by some to be an introduced species.


Brachychiton diversifolius : Brachychiton megaphyllus Waltheria indica common, slender shrub to 2m leaves densely hairy flowers clustered in leaf axils on short raceme.

STYLIDIACEAE: 'Trigger' plants

Stylidium tenerrimum : Stylidium ceratophorum : Stylidium fissilobum


Thecanthes punicea


Hybanthus aurantiacus has orange petals and shorter leaves (~10 mm) compared to Hybanthus enneaspermus



Xyris complanata grass like herb with infl. to 0.5m flowers 3 petals, yellow and appearing one at a time.

ZINGERBERACEAE: 'Ginger' family

Curcuma australasica

ZYGOPHYLLACEAE: in the genus Tribulus, the fruits are globular and have large prickles or wings.

Tribulopsis angustifolius