Malviflora of Australia

Malvaceae Info
Biogeography of Malvaceae


Australia here includes the states of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, the Northern Territory (the Australian Capital Territory is included with New South Wales), and various distant offshore islands (Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, Ashmore Reefs and Cartier Island in the Timor Sea, the Coral Sea Islands Territory, and Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea - the Australian subantarctic islands (Heard and Macquarie islands) lack mallows). There are online floras for New South Wales [1] and Western Australia [2], checklists for the Northern Territory [3], Queensland [4], South Australia [5], Tasmania [6], Victoria [7], Christmas Island [8], Cocos (Keeling) Islands [9], Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island [10], Coral Sea Islands Territory [11] and Norfolk Island [12]. Other sources used for Queensland are the Queensland Millenium Seed Bank target species list [13], the Australian Plant Name Index [14], the New South Wales list [1] (which gives extra-state ranges for plants found in that state), Bentham's Flora Australiensis [15], a checklist of the vascular flora of the Gold Coast local government area [16], and a list of introduced plants in the Wet Tropics [17] region of Queensland. Data for Lord Howe Island had to be put together from multiple sources.

There is some disagreement about species names and boundaries among the various sources.

In Australia Abelmoschus sagittifolius and Abelmoschus tetraphyllus are present, but are not generally recognised as specifically distinct. I do recognise them as specifically distinct, and they are included in the tables below..

Composition of Flora

Much of the interior of Australia is arid, but there are regions of Mediterranean climate in the south west (occasionally referred to as Swanland), in the south east (the south east of South Australia and most of Victoria). Tasmania has a temperate climate, while the east coast has temperate, subtropical and tropical rainforest. The north of Australia is seasonally wet with a monsoonal climate.

Australia and its outlying islands possess approaching 700 species belonging to 69 genera of the family Malvaceae, 8 of which are introduced and naturalised, and one of which occurs casually. All the subfamilies are represented, but Tilioideae is known only from an introduced species (Tilia ×vulgaris).

The largest genera are Sida (101 species, one of which is introduced), Hibiscus (69 species, four of which are introduced) and Triumfetta (65 species, two of which are introduced). Other significant genera are Abutilon (39 species, four of which are introduced), Brachychiton (34 species and 5 wild hybrids), Corchorus (37 species, one of which is introduced), Gossypium (19 species, four of which are introduced), Helicteres (18 species), Lasiopetalum (45 species), Commersonia (31 species), Rulingia (21 species) and Thomasia (39 species).

There are a number of endemic and near endemic clades. The tribe Lasiopetaleae (Byttneroideae) is nearly endemic to Australia, with perhaps half a dozen species being found outside the continent. Of its constituent genera, only Maxwellia is not found in Australia, and Guichenotia, Hannafordia, Lasiopetalum, Lysiosepalum, Seringia andThomasia are endemic to Australia. The diversity of Lasiopetaleae is greatest in south west Australia. Of the other tribes of Byttneroideae Hermannieae also has a genus endemic to Australia - Dicarpidium, which is found in the north of Australia. Species of the remainning three genera of the tribe - Hermannia (Gilesia), Melochia and Waltheria - also occur in Australia, while two genera of Byttnerieae, Ambroma and Kleinhovia, reach northern Queensland. Kleinhovia also occurs on Christmas Island.

Sterculioideae has three endemic genera, Brachychiton, which is widely distributed in Australia (and also occurs in New Guinea), and Argyrodendron and Franciscodendron, which are restricted to the tropical rainforests of Queensland and the north east of New South Wales (Argyrodendron also occurs in New Guinea), as well as representatives of more widespread genera reaching Arnhem Land and northern Queensland (Firmiana, Heritiera and Hildegardia) and more generally the northern half of Australia (Sterculia).

Brownlowioideae is represented by the genus Berrya which reaches Arnhem Land and northern Queensland, and also occurs on Christmas Island, the genus Brownlowia which reaches northern Queensland, and by the Queenland endemic Indagator. Helicteroideae is represented by Helicteres (primariily Asian and South American), which is more widely distributed across northern Australia, and the genus Ungeria, which is endemic to Norfolk Island. Grewioideae is represented two pantropical genera (Corchorus and Triumfetta) and one palaeotropical genus (Grewia). These genera are widely distributed and diverse in the northern half of Australia. Dombeyoideae is represented by three genera, two of which (Pentapetes, Schoutenia) are primarily south east Asian, and one of which (Melhania) is palaeotropical.

Bombacoideae is represented by an endemic species of Adansonia, a widespread species of Bombax, and a naturalised species of Ceiba.

The basal malvoid genera Howittia and Lagunaria are endemic to eastern Australia (and Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands in the case of the latter). Two other basal malvoid genera - Camptostemon and Radyera - are also present.

All four clades of the core malvoids are present. Alyogyne is endemic to Australia. Within Gossypieae northern and central Australia is a centre of diversification of Gossypium, and at least two species of Thespesia are present within the north of Australia. Hibisceae (Hibiscus, etc) and sub-tribe Abutilinae (Sida, Abutilon, Lawrencia, etc) of Malveae are diverse in Australia. The latter contains there genera endemic to Australia - Asterotrichion (endemic to Tasmania), Gynatrix (souith east Australia) and Lawrencia. These are part of a clade with also includes the New Zealand endemic genera Hoheria and Plagianthus, and the Australian Sida hookeriana. (Sida appears to be polyphyletic.) Sub-tribe Malvinae of Malveae is, neglecting several introduced weeds, lacking in diversity in Australia, with possibly as few as two species native.


Counts of genera by state and territory

Species counts for genera (numbers in brackets represent naturalised and casual species)

state and territory counts

Species distributions (N represents naturalised species, C casual species)

Lasiopetaleae, other Byttnerioideae, Grewioideae, Brownlowioideae, Helicteroideae and Tilioideae, Sterculioideae, Dombeyoideae, Bombacoideae and basal Malvoideae, Hibisceae, Alyogyne & Gossypieae, Abutilinae and Malvinae in Australia
Malvaceae in Australian distant islands

Species lists

New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland (partial), South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia
Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island,


  1. New South Wales Flora Online
  2. FloraBase (Western Australian Herbarium)
  3. Cowie & Albrecht, Checklist of NT Vascular Plant Species (2005)
  4. Bostock & Holland, ed., Census of the Queensland Flora (2010)
  5. Census of South Australian Vascular Plants edn 5.1 (2004)
  6. Census of Vascular Plants (Tasmania) (2003)
  7. Ross & Walsh, A Census of the Vascular Plants of Victoria, 7th edn. (2003)
  8. Du Puy, Christmas Island: Species Lists
  9. Telford, Cocos (Keeling) Islands: Species Lists
  10. Ashmore Reefs and Cartier Island: Species Lists
  11. Telford, Coral Sea Islands Territory: Species Lists
  12. Green, Norfolk Island Species List, Flora of Australia 49 (1994)
  13. Queensland Millenium Seed Bank target species list
  14. Australian Plant Name Index (APNI)
  15. Bentham, G., Flora Australiensis 1: 184-279 (1863)
  16. Vascular Flora of the Gold Coast Local Government Area
  17. Werren, Environmental Weeds of the Wet Tropics, Rainforest CRC Report No. 17 (2001)

Malvaceae Info
Biogeography of Malvaceae

© 2006, 2007, 2011 Stewart R. Hinsley