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Johnson's Grass Tree

Xanthorrhoea johnsonii


Xanthorrhoea johnsonii, commonly known as "Johnson's grass tree", a large plant in the family Asphodelaceae. The Xanthorrhoea genus contains roughly 30 species, and this particular species is endemic to eastern Australia. Full height is attained at about 3 metres, although some sources say up to 5 metres, and individual trees can be hundreds of years old. It survives in the poorest soils with a shallow root system, enabling easily access to nutrients from decaying litter, while storing all the food reserves in its stem. Older foliage is very strong, hence one of the common names being "steel grass", and is often used in floral design where it can be bent and looped without breaking.


They are drought and frost tolerant, and occur mainly in soils that are very free draining and consequently low in nutrients - sandstone in this case. Toohey Forest is a eucalyptus woodland reserve of approximately 655 hectares. The forest is situated within an urban area on the south side of Brisbane, within the city limits. These grass trees were spotted along the bush tracks running off the main Toohey Ridge Track. PS: A very handy PDF that I'll file away here for safe keeping -


With this spotting I wanted to show some of the characteristics of grass trees that you wouldn't normally see all at once, and that means seeing plants at the various stages of decay and/or regrowth. As the grass trees die and disintegrate, the last growth of long and spiky leaves collapse around the trunk, then continue to peel away in large folds as the base of each leaf separates from the trunk itself. The dead leaves virtually turn themselves inside-out. This reveals the 'inner' trunk which has a hard, pored exterior surface and fibrous core. The 'outer' trunk is made up of accumulated older growth leaf bases. Nutrient transport is via aerial roots that run down the centre. Fire has also been through this area, hence some trunks are black, but the outer leaves have insulated the inner trunk. There are also signs of regeneration with new shoots already appearing. Unfortunately, flowering and fruiting isn't occurring at this time.

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Neil Ross
Neil Ross 4 years ago

They need to be hardy, Kelly. It's pretty tough out there in the bush atm. Thanks for reading my post.

Kelly38 4 years ago

They are very hardy indeed! Great to read your post.

Neil Ross
Spotted by
Neil Ross

QLD, Australia

Spotted on Jan 6, 2019
Submitted on Jan 6, 2019

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