The structure of the South East Coastal Plain Grassland ranges from closed tussock grassland to open grassy woodland with a sparse canopy of woody species (Frood, 1994; FFG-SAC, 1994; DSE, 2004a; DSE, 2008). Shrubs may be occasionally present (DSE, 2005), sometimes associated with drainage lines or depressions in the grassland (Frood, cited in FFG-SAC, 1994). The ground layer vegetation can be variable and covers an ecological range from kangaroo grass dominated on drier, non-saline plains, to common tussock grassdominated on sites that are wetter or subject to brackish influence (DSE, 2008). Some sites in wetter areas, particularly those in depressions, show dynamic variation between seasonal wetland and the drier grassland community over the course of fluctuations between normal conditions and prolonged wetter or drier periods (Lester, pers. comm., 2013).
1.4.1Trees and large woody shrubs]
Trees and large shrubs are generally absent to very sparse in South East Coastal Plain Grassland. They may occur as scattered individuals within the grassland or may be more prevalent at grassland fringes, where the vegetation intergrades into grassy woodland or shrubland communities. Shrubs also may occur as pockets of scrub associated with locally wetter depressions or drainage lines that may occur within the grassland. Where these pockets are more substantial in size, they represent a shift towards shrubland communities. The cover of larger woody plants should amount to no more than five per cent projective foliage cover2 across the grassland patch.
Eucalypt species that occur in the ecological community include Eucalyptus viminalis (manna gum), E. ovata (swamp gum), E. radiata (narrow-leaf peppermint), and/or E. bosistoana (coast grey box) (DSE, 2008). Eucalyptus tereticornis (Gippsland red gum), which is characteristic of threatened woodlands in the Central Gippsland Plains further north and east, does not extend into South Gippsland and is absent from this grassland ecological community. Other tree and large shrub species that may be present include Acaciamelanoxylon (blackwood), Acacia mearnsii (black wattle), Allocasuarina verticillata (drooping sheoak), Leptospermum continentale (prickly tea-tree), Melaleuca ericifolia (swamp paperbark) and Viminaria juncea (golden spray) (FFG-SAC, 1994; Frood, 1994; DSE, 2004a; DSE, 2005; DSE, 2008).
1.4.2Ground layer [grasses, forbs and low (
< 1 m tall) shrubs and herbs]
The South East Coastal Plain Grassland is characterised by a grassy ground cover that commonly includes a range of tussock and non-tussock grasses, other graminoids, and forbs. As the ecological community exhibits some degree of inundation, several species are characteristic of moist sites, though not necessarily considered to be wetland species, e.g. Rytidosperma semiannulare (heath wallaby-grass). However, the wettest sites may intergrade with seasonal wetlands, as indicated by an increased presence of ‘true’ wetland species such as Amphibromus spp. (swamp wallaby-grasses),Eleocharis spp. (spike-sedges), Baumea spp. (twig-sedges), Carex tereticaulis (poong'ort), Craspedia paludicola (swamp billy-buttons), Lobelia pratioides (poison lobelia), Isolepis fluitans (floating club-sedge) or Eryngium vesiculosum (prickfoot).
The dominant grasses usually present are Themeda triandra (kangaroo grass), which is more abundant on drier sites, and Poa labillardierei (common trussock grass), which becomes more prevalent at wetter sites. Other grasses present in the ecological community include: Hemarthria uncinata (mat grass), Microlaena stipoides var. stipoides (weeping grass), Rytidosperma laeve (smooth wallaby-grass), Rytidosperma semiannulare (heath wallaby-grass), Austrostipa rudis (spear-grass) and Lachnagrostis spp. (blown grasses) (Frood, 1994; FFG-SAC, 1994; DSE, 2004a; DSE, 2008). The forbs that are present include lilies such as Tricoryne elatior (yellow rush-lily), Burchardia umbellata (milkmaids), Arthropodium strictum (chocolate-lily) and Dianella laevis (pale flax-lily) (DSE, 2008), and other herbs such as Leptorhynchos tenuifolius (wiry buttons), Gonocarpus tetragynus (common raspwort), Dichondra repens (kidney-weed), Centella cordifolia (centella), Drosera peltata subsp. auriculata (tall sundew), Hypericum gramineum (small St John’s wort) and Linum marginale (native flax). Other graminoids that may be present include Lomandra longifolia (spiny-headed mat-rush), and sedges and rushes such as Schoenus apogon (common bog-sedge), Juncus holoschoenus (joint-leaf rush) and Juncus subsecundus (finger rush) (DSE, 2008). Low to prostrate shrubs such as Bossiaea prostrata (creeping bossiaea) may also be occasionally present (DSE, 2005; DSE 2008).
A list of flora species considered to be characteristic of the South East Coastal Plain Grassland ecological community is at Table 2. A more comprehensive list of plant species recorded within the South East Coastal Plain Grassland community is at Table A1 in Appendix A.
Table 2. Characteristic flora species for the South East Coastal Plain Grassland and their known presence at key sites.
Sources: Based on site flora surveys (Taylor, 1991; MacLennan and Taylor, 1994; Cook and Yugovic, 2003; Brett Lane & Associates, 2006; Yugovic, 2006; Imbery, 2007; Sinclair, 2007; Biosis Research, post-2009; Dwyer, 2013) and citations in FFG-SAC (1994); Frood (1994); DSE (2004a); DSE (2005 and the Benchmark for EVC 132_62 in the Gippsland Plain). Note that the presence of an indicative species can depend upon season, method of survey and changes in state since past surveys, given the generally dynamic nature of grassland and seasonally wet communities.
Legend:* Graminoids are grass-like herbs and include grasses, sedges, rushes and similar groups. Grasses are members of the plant family Poaceae. The other graminoids are classified as members of other plant families.
# Forbs are are non-graminoid herbs and include broad-leaved plants, such as daisies and peas, and some strap-leaved plants, such as orchids and lilies.