Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network

Brisbane Rainforest - a bit about history, distribution, status, classification...

From The future of Brisbane's Bushland - a Discussion Paper prepared for BCC by Environment Science and Services, February 1989

Reports by explorers such as Cunningham and Oxley indicate that rainforest once fringed the Brisbane River and its major tributaries west of the present city centre. The largest stands coincided with broader floodplains such as the present site of the Queensland University at St. Lucia and Seventeen Mile Rocks. In the Brookfield area, rainforest covered some hillsides where it grew on comparatively deep, fertile soils (derived from metasediments with interbedded basic volcanic or metavolcanic rocks).

Small isolated pockets were scattered around the city elsewhere (e.g., Eagle Farm Flats near the Powder Magazine and Sankeys Scrub near Whites Hill).

The earliest impacts on bushland were the result of logging and clearing for roads, settlements and agricultural purposes. The process of felling/logging the rainforests of Brisbane was well advanced by early this century. For example, by 1910 the aggressive alien weed Lantana had invaded logged rainforests in the Brookfield area (Barker, 1910) and rainforest patches along streams close to the city were badly degraded (Wedd, 1911). The latter eventually became housing estates (e.g., Jubilee Estate on Ithaca Creek). Brisbane pine (the early name for Hoop pine) was the major species logged from Brisbane’s rainforests.

The Brookfield - Pullenvale area was opened up for farming in 1869. The ‘Hoop pine scrubs’ were gradually felled for dairy pasture and cropland. Hoop pine logs were taken to the Rafting Ground on Moggill Creek, near its junction with the Brisbane River, and rafted downstream to sawmills such as Pettigrews near the southeastern end of William St. in Brisbane. Bullock teams were also used. The rainforests of the Brookfield - Gold Creek also yielded Yellowwood, Crow’s ash, and a little Red cedar and White beech (Brimblecombe and Grice, 1980).

The moist lowland subtropical rainforests of the Brisbane district are typical of the communities that were once scattered between Beenleigh and the Upper Mary Valley - Gympie area. Much of this rainforest has been cleared for agricultural (use) and plantation forestry. In the words of McDonald and Elsol (1984), ... "lowland warm subtropical rainforest is the most endangered of all the habitat types in the Moreton Coast and contains the greatest number of threatened species." Work by Young (1985) has confirmed that rainforest stands along Enoggera Creek are of regional conservation significance.

Most of the rainforest of Brisbane City can be broadly classified as "lowland warm subtropical rainforest of the drier type" characterised by the presence of emergent Hoop pine (McDonald and Elsol, 1984). An alternative rainforest classification scheme proposed by Webb (1959, 1978) would type the communities as complex Araucarian notophyll and microphyll vine forest (ANVF/ AMVF). Exceptions are the gully communities in the uppermost catchment of Enoggera Creek above Jolly’s Lookout that are of a cooler, moister type (complex notophyll vine forest or CNVF). A characteristic community, often associated with the lowland rainforests, fringes the larger watercourses where there is a continuous supply of moisture and reasonable depth of alluvium. This community is dominated by Weeping myrtle (Waterhousea floribunda), one of the Lillypilies. It can be classified as a simple type of rainforest. A summary of the different rainforest types is given below.

Vegetation type Distribution in Brisbane Larger surviving examples in good condition Comments
Rainforest - lowland warm subtropical rainforest. Also called Araucarian notophyll & microphyll vine forest or Hoop pine scrub. Narrow floodplains of major watercourses, especially on western side of Brisbane.  Valley floor and some mid to lower slopes of Enoggera Creek catchment above Enoggera Reservoir. Large part of a stream catchment with examples of largely depleted rainforest type in intact/semi-intact state. Several rare and threatened species. 
Hillsides at Brookfield and Enoggera Creek catchment on metasediments containing metavolcanic rock.  Patch of rainforest on Smith’s land and adjacent private land at Upper Brookfield. Remnant of veg. type once widespread in district. Contains large number of species and is mostly intact. Used by scientists from U of Q & CSIRO. There is considerable local interest in retaining and re-establishing rainforest as a reference site.
Warm to cool wet subtropical rainforest. Also called complex notophyll vineforest. Upper reaches of Enoggera Creek. Upper reaches of Enoggera Creek. Example of largely depleted rainforest type in intact/semi-intact state. Several rare and threatened species.

The only substantial tract of surviving rainforest in intact/semi-intact state is in the Enoggera Creek catchment upstream of Enoggera reservoir. Small pockets survive in the Brookfield district and at Sankeys Scrub near Pine Mountain. Many streams on the western side of the city are still fringed by scattered rainforest species but the rainforest structure has been destroyed or badly degraded through clearing or a combination of clearing and invasion by aggressive alien trees such as Camphor laurel and Chinese elm.

The rainforests within Brisbane contain several plants listed by Thomas and McDonald (1987) as rare and threatened. For example within the Enoggera Creek catchment there occurs:

Parsonsia lilacina - slender vine or liane,
Marsdenia micradenium - slender vine or liane, and
Choricarpia subargentea - large tree.
Within Sankey's Scrub at Pine Mountain there occurs;
Cupaniopsis shirleyana - a small tree, and
Macadamia integrifolia - a small tree.

The rainforests around Brisbane were extensively collected by early botanists and naturalists, contributing significantly to knowledge of the rainforest flora of the southern half of Queensland. For example, the rare plant Cupaniopsis shirleyana was first collected at Sankey's Scrub in 1887 on a Field Naturalists excursion and described soon after by F.M. Bailey, the Government Botanist. Sankey's Scrub is therefore known as the type locality for this species. A small area of the rainforest containing C. Shirleyana and another rare plant, the edible Queensland nut, M. Integrifolia, has survived at this locality near the council quarry on the eastern side of the White's Hill Reserve. Other historical localities with some surviving rainforest trees are the Rafting Ground at Pullenvale and Bancroft Park at Newmarket in the vicinity of the old Three Mile Scrub.

The principal values of remaining rainforest areas are associated with education, scientific research, wildlife habitat and catchment protection (in the case of the Enoggera Reservoir catchment). A stand of rainforest in the Enoggera Creek catchment has been reserved by the Department of Forestry for Scientific purposes.


Barker, G.H. (1910), Notes on a visit to Gold Creek Reserve, September 1901. Qld Nat. 1(5): 120 - 123.
Brimblecombe, A.R. and D.E. Grice (1980), The History of John & Stephen Brimblecombe and their descendants, 1858 - 1980, Brisbane. (Settlers of Brookfield).
McDonald, W.J.F. and J.A. Elsol (1984), Moreton Region Vegetation Map Series, Summary Report for Caloundra, Brisbane. Beenleigh, Murwillimbah Sheets. Brisbane: Botany Branch, Qld Dept. of Primary Industries.
Thomas, M.B. and W.J.F. McDonald (1987), Rare & Threatened plants of Queensland. Brisbane: Botany Branch, Qld dept of Primary Industries.
Webb, L.J. (1959), A physiognomic classification of Australian rainforests. J.Ecol. 47: 551 - 570.
Webb, L.J. (1978), A general classification of Australian rainforests. Aust Plants 9: 349 - 363.
Wedd, J. (1911), Excursion to Newmarket, 8th October 1910. Qld Nat. 1(8): 177 - 180.
Young, P.A.R. (1985), Vegetation and Flora, Brisbane Forest Park. Brisbane: Brisbane Forest Park Admin. Auth.