How do plants grow on Fraser Island?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 04/17/2019

Reading time: 2 mins

The local Butchulla people of Fraser Island call the land K’gari, which translates to ‘paradise’, and this comes to no surprise to those who visit it.

An ancient sand island stretches out 123 kilometres down, and 23 kilometres across. It is the only sand island in the entire world which has a rainforest growing on it. But why? What makes Fraser Island so special?

The formation of Fraser Island

The island is estimated to be millions of years old, forming around about the same time to the Ice Age. Years of wind, ocean currents, and waves slowly pushed large clumps of deep siliceous sand from the south-east coast of Australia into the deep ocean. With more and more sand being pushed out, great sand dunes began to mould, slowly becoming so large they rose above sea levels. Forming what we know today as Fraser Island.

How plants grow

The island is famous for having stunning and prehistoric wildlife stretching across the sand. This is very unusual as it is the only known sand island that is home to a large rainforest system. What makes this so rare is due to sand notoriously low on nutrients, making it a very harsh environment for plant life. For Fraser Island, however, the sand offers a perfect atmosphere for plants, and this is all due to the mycorrhizal fungi present in the sand. These fungi aid in nutrients to appear and survive in the sand for long periods of time, providing the perfect setting for plant growth. This has turned the once bare sand island into a lush rainforest area that we know and love today.

What plants can you see?

Around the island’s sand dunes, salt-tolerant plants can be scattered about. Including Spinifex, she-oaks, and coastal pandanus plants. Within the Pine Valley further inland of the island, you can see the ancient Satinay plants and brush box forests. They are the main species covered within, promising exceptional sights of natural beauty. As well, you can visit the oldest trees on Fraser Island at the Valley of the Giants. With these satinay and brush box trees estimated to be around 1200 years old.

Related article: The Ancient Forests of Satinay and Brush Box Trees on Fraser Island

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.