Alpine Herbfields

Vegetation class map


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Key:
<1%
1-10%
10-50%
>50%
Estimated percentage landcover for vegetation class

Structure

Low herbfields dominated by forbs and grasses with scattered shrubs in rocky sites. The dominant herbs in this class are daisies with rosettes of leaves. These together with abundant tussock grasses form an almost continuous cover over the landscape, generally no more than about 0.3 m tall.

Trees

Typically none, though scattered Eucalyptus niphophila may occur at the lower altitudinal limit.

Shrubs

Typically none, though species indicative of Alpine Heaths may occur in low abundance.

Forbs

Acaena ovina, Alchemilla xanthochlora (ladys mantle), Brachyscome nivalis (snow daisy), B. scapigera (tufted daisy), Cardamine robusta, Celmisia sp. B (silver snow daisy), Craspedia coolaminica, Epilobium billardierianum subsp. cinereum, Geranium antrorsum (rosetted cranesbill), Leptorhynchos squamatus subsp. A (scaly buttons), Leucochrysum albicans subsp. alpinum, Linum marginale (native flax), Plantago antarctica, Podolepis robusta (alpine podolepis), Ranunculus anemoneus (anemone buttercup), R. graniticola, Scleranthus biflorus. Depositional zones at the base of semi-permanent snow patches support short herbfields with Brachyscome stolonifera, Caltha introloba (alpine marsh-marigold), Neopaxia australasica (white purslane), Oreobolus pumilio subsp. pumilio (alpine tuft-rush), Plantago muelleri and Ranunculus inundatus (river buttercup). Grasses and sedges include Carex breviculmis, Chionochloa frigida (robust wallaby grass), Elymus scaber var. scaber (common wheatgrass), Luzula ovata, Poa costiniana, Rytidosperma nivicolum, R. nudiflorum.

Habitat

Tall herbfield on hills and slopes on the alpine plateau above 1500 m elevation, with short herbfield restricted to depositional zones below semi-permanent snow patches. Occurring above 1500 m on hills and slopes wherever the soils are not too rocky or too waterlogged and are not covered with persistent snow.

Distribution

Restricted to Koscuisko plateau in New South Wales, but also occurs in the Victorian alps, notably on the Bogong High Plains. Around Kosciuszko, examples occur along the track from Charlotte Pass to Mount Kosciuszko, and along the track from Mount Kosciuszko to the head of the Thredbo chairlift

Notes

A locally abundant but geographically restricted group of assemblages that varies with meso-topographic features. Grasses dominate in valleys with warmer winters, or under moderate levels of grazing, whereas tall herbs proliferate on the cool elevated slopes and where grazing pressure is low. Recovering from cattle grazing prior to 1960. The most extensive vegetation class in the alpine zone, shares a  number of species with Alpine Heaths, Bogs and Fens.

Sources

Costin (1954); Wimbush & Costin (1973); Costin et al. (1979); Thomas et al. (2000)

See all threatened species associated with this vegetation class

See a list of species, populations and ecological communities associated with the Alpine Herbfields vegetation class.