Learn how to identify and grow Australian trees. Are you passionate about Australian plants? This broad course covers both the theory and practical exercises. Learn from experts.

Course Code: VHT115
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Select and Cultivate Australian Native Trees for Different Situations

Plant identification is a cornerstone of this course. In addition to the topics outlined below, every lesson also involves reviewing a range of different native trees. Your reviews are then commented on by expert tutors. On completing this course, most students have greatly increased the range and number of native trees which they can identify and describe.  
Australian Native Trees are Grown All Over the World 
  • In tropical, temperate and cold climates
  • From wet rain forests to dry deserts
  • For timber and fruit production
  • As windbreaks, shade trees and even indoor plants
This is a course for anyone wanting or needing to learn more about native trees:
  • Amateurs and plant collectors following their passion
  • Horticulturists, foresters and land managers for professional development
  • Nurserymen, Plant Breeders and businessmen exploring new business possibilities

Rainforest Trees

There are three major types of rainforest in Australia, each supporting different types of trees.  Tropical rainforests are only found in northern Queensland, and most closely approximate the 'jungle' habitat found in many tropical overseas regions. Subtropical rainforests are distributed from northern NSW into Queensland, whilst cool temperate rainforests occur at higher altitudes in Tasmania, Victoria, and NSW. 

Rainforests only occur in scattered pockets, with rainfall, topography, and soils being the main influences in their occurrence.  They are characterised by their diversity and complexity; well developed tree canopies support a myriad of life forms.

Although opinions amongst experts varies considerably, Eucalypt trees are generally considered not to grow in true rainforests (there is considerable debate in this area, for example, some taxonomists classify species such as E.grandis, Flooded Gum, as occurring in rainforests).  Typically, rainforest trees have lush, glossy foliage, broad canopies, large trunks, and buttressed roots.  There are many exceptions to this type of growth though.
Notable rainforest trees include: 

  • Toona australis   Red Cedar
  • Stenocarpus sinuatus   Firewheel Tree
  • Acmena smithii   Lilly pilly
  • Brachychiton acerifolius   Flame Tree
  • Buckinghamia celsissima
  • Castanospermum australe   Black Bean
  • Diploglottis australis   Native Tamarind
  • Ficus macrophylla   Moreton Bay Fig
  • Grevillea robusta   Silky Oak
  • Macadamia tetraphylla
  • Melia azedarach   White Cedar

The rainforest is seen as one of the ultimate environments to duplicate in the garden for a private retreat.  It can be a home for many wild animals or a place for food.  It is easily "constructed" provided a few requirements are met to satisfy plant growth.  Protection from direct sunlight and strong wind and an abundant supply of mulch or leaf matter are three of the most important necessities for the establishment of a rainforest.  Understandably, if you already have a shaded site it makes your rainforest garden one step closer to completion.

There are many misconceptions about rainforests and the suitability of the plants that grow for domestic purposes. Let us look at some of them:

  • Rainforest trees grow too large for gardens in the rainforest many trees will grow to heights exceeding 20 metres because they have to fight and grow to the light.  In garden situations, there is more light available and consequently, many of the same trees will only grow to about half their rainforest height.
  • Full shade is essential for rainforest development many rainforest trees will grow in full sun and others may require some shade while young. As a result of more sunlight, these trees become more rounded with fuller canopies.  Understorey plants, however, require more shade than trees.
  • A large area is required to develop a rainforest many people have successfully developed miniature rainforests in a 10 m x 10 m area.  The larger the area available the better the ecosystem can be developed.  However, the larger the area the more plant numbers will be needed to fill in the area.
  • Perfectly drained deep volcanic soil is needed, once again this is a major misconception.  Provided a bit of extra pre-plant preparation is performed, any soil can be made suitable for a rainforest garden.  The better your soil is to begin with, the easier and quicker will be your established rainforest.
  • High rainfall is essential for a rainforest with adequate compost or leaf litter, water is retained better in the soil, therefore, less hosing will be required.  With a dense canopy, evaporation is reduced therefore the need for extra water is not present.
  • Only North Queensland has rainforests there are about six main rainforest systems throughout Australia from the tip of Queensland to the mountains of Tasmania.
  • They are difficult to grow, many rainforest plants are extremely easy to grow, so much so that many are used as indoor plants (eg. Castanospermum australe) and others have been available throughout nurseries for decades (eg. Archontophoenix alexandrae).

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Genus, Species
    • Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons
    • Characteristics of main Australian Plant Families
    • General characteristics of native trees
    • Information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
    • History of nomenclature
    • International Code
    • Ranks of Taxa
    • Principle of priority
    • Selection and spelling of plant names
    • Changing names
    • Hybrids
  2. Culture
    • Planting Procedure
    • Planting on slopes
    • Fertilizer
    • Time of planting
    • Staking
    • Mulching
    • Pruning native trees
    • Steps in removing a branch from a tree
    • Soils (Physical, chemical, biological structure)
    • Soil profile
    • Improving soil profile
    • Colloids
    • Water and air
    • Soil temperature
    • Soil life
    • Soil Problems (Loss of soil fertility, Erosion, Salinity, Soil compaction, Soil acidification, Build up of dangerous chemicals)
    • Improving soils (soil additives etc)
    • Limestone Underlay Technique
    • Fertilisers
    • Fertilising established trees
    • Plant Nutrition
    • Water Problems
    • Drainage
  3. Choosing the right propagating technique
    • Seed
    • Seed sources
    • Hybrid seed production
    • Storing seed
    • Difficult seeds
    • Dormancy facftors
    • Maintaining genetic identity
    • Propagating Media
    • Propagating Eucalypts
    • Propagating Acacias
    • Cuttings
    • Improving cutting success rates
    • Grafting
    • Top graft
    • Whip & Tongue graft
    • Irrigated graft
    • Grafting selected plants¦ Eucalypts, Grevilleas, Banksias, Hakeas
    • After care of seed and cuttings
    • Transplanting (seedlings, cuttings)
    • Potting up plants and Growing on
  4. Most Commonly Grown Varieties
    • Review dozens of relevant genera
    • Allocasuarina
    • Casuarina
    • Melia
    • Pittosporum
    • Acacia
  5. More About Important Groups
    • Eucalyptus
    • Banksia
    • Brachychiton
    • Grevillea
    • Diagnosing Tree Problems
    • Tree Surgery Techniques
  6. Other Varieties
    • Rainforest Trees
    • Constructing a Rainforest
    • Acmena
    • Eugenia
    • Mallotus
    • Melicope (Euodia)
    • Neolitsia
    • Nothofagus
    • Schefflera
    • Stenocarpus
    • Syzygium
    • Araucaria
    • Agathis
    • Actinostrobus
    • Callitris
    • Podocarpus
    • Adansonia
    • Agonis
    • Albizzia
    • Alstonia
    • Alphotinia
    • Angophora
    • Barklya
    • Buckinghamia
    • Castenospermum
    • Elaeocarpus
    • Ficus
    • Macadamia
    • Melia
    • Nuytsia
    • Tristania/Lophostemon
  7. Making The Best Use of Native Plants
    • Why plant trees in the Landscape
    • Problems with trees
    • Biological controls
    • Parasitism
    • Symbiosis
    • Planting Techniques (Pocket planting, slope serration, Wattling, Planting arid sites, Direct seeding, Spray seeding)
    • Edible Australian Tree Crops (Davidsonia, Quandong, Backhousia, Citrus, Acacia, Syzygium, Tasmannia, Kunzea)
    • Australian indigenous timber trees
    • Essential oils
    • Useful Australian Conifers (Actinostrobus, Athrotaxus, Agathis, Araucaria, Callitris, Podocarpus)
    • Australian Indigenous Palms
  8. Special Assignment
    • You select and conduct an in depth study of one plant genus or group (eg. Timber trees, conifers, trees from a particular region).


  • To identify Australian Native Trees
  • To describe the culture of Australian Native Trees.
  • To propagate Australian Native Trees
  • Compare characteristics and cultural requirements of different commonly grown species of Australian Native Trees.
  • To compare characteristics and cultural requirements of conifer and rainforest species of Australian Native Trees.
  • To describe a range of uses for Australian native trees.
  • To study one type of Australian Native Tree in depth.


Eucalypts or Gum trees are undoubtedly the most recognizable Australian indigenous trees. There are of course lots of other native trees (which we cover in this course as well)

Eucalypts can be grown across a very wide range of climates, provided you choose the right cultivar for the situation in which it is grown. Some will grow in arid areas and tolerate extended droughts, others grow in swamp land; some tolerate very cold conditions and can survive months of snow every year; while others do well in high humidity and tropical conditions.

  • In optimum conditions the growth rate fan be fast; but in poor circumstances a plant may survive but take a long time to reach full size.
  • Most species live for a long time, commonly well over a hundred years, sometimes several hundred years.
  • Most species respond well to a variety of soil and climatic conditions.
  • Root systems generally deep and vigorous.
  • Should not be transplanted as large plants.
  • If pollarded (ie: the top cut out to reduce height etc.) once, then this must be redone at least every 2 to 3 years to avoid branches falling.
  • Established trees respond to feeding and deep watering in dry seasons.
There are around 800 species of Eucalyptus known to exist, and acknowledged by at least some experts; although the overall classification and naming of Eucalyptus species has been, and continues to be uncertain. Not all experts agree.
Originally, when first named in 1789, all Eucalypts were classified into the same genus; “Eucalyptus”. In 1797 seven of the species (all native to NSW or Qld) were split off and placed in a different genus that was given the name “Angophora”. The main and most obvious differences are:
  • Eucalyptus –flowers have no petals; flower buds have an operculum (ie. Cap)
  • Angophora –flowers have tiny petals; flower buds have no operculum
Note: the operculum on a eucalypt flower bus detaches as the flower opens. You may differentiate angophoras from eucalypts by the presence of large numbers of bud caps on the ground, under a tree, when it is flowering.

In 1934 W. F. Blakely (from the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens), classified Eucalyptus into 606 different species and varieties. In 1971, L.D. Pryor and L.A.S. Johnson revised Blakely’s classification and divided the genus into seven sub genera. This work was not formally published though.

Some authorities followed seven sub genera, while others acknowledged more than seven; and up to thirteen. Up to six of these 13 sub genera are represented by only one species each; and as such are not particularly significant across the entire genus. In 1995 a scientific paper was published (by Hill & Johnson) which argued that Bloodwoods and Ghost Gums were more closely related to Angophora than to Eucalyptus. On the basis of this argument, the proposition was advanced that a new genus called “Corymbia” be formed to embrace those sub genera).  Other papers have been published since, that have suggested further changes in the naming of Eucalypts.



Most students will study this course primarily to improve their plant knowledge. At the conclusion of your studies, you will certainly know more about trees that are indigenous to Australia. You will have a raised awareness of the nature and scope of Australian trees and their commercial potential in the world today. You will be able to identify more genera and consider more species when making decisions about what to grow where.

This course may be a one off study program for people with a passion for native trees, perhaps an amateur native plant enthusiast, or maybe someone working with native trees already.

The course can enlighten and vastly improve the way you select, plant, grow and use native trees in a wide range of situations, including:

  • Parks and Gardens
  • Land Conservation and Rehabilitation
  • Farms
  • Street Trees and Roadside Plantations
  • Cut Flower Production
  • Landscaping
  • Forestry

Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason has been a member of the International Society of Horticultural Science, since 2003

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

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