Christmas Island is home to 237 native plant species, including at least 17 species found nowhere else in the world.
About half of the island’s plants don’t grow anywhere else in Australia.
Stunning evergreen rainforests grow in the deep soils of the island’s plateau and terraces.
The rainforest canopy is around 40 metres in height, with some trees emerging up to 10 metres above the canopy – the preferred nesting spot for the endemic Abbott’s booby. These forests abound with ferns, orchids, lilies and young palms.
The shallower soils of the slopes and coastal terraces (as well as some plateau areas) support semi-deciduous rainforest. Here you’ll find smaller trees measuring 15–30 metres high as well as thicker patches of young palms.
Land crabs (particularly the millions of red crabs) feed on plants growing beneath the canopy, leaving these areas with a relatively bare forest floor.
Deciduous trees, scrambling scrub and vines survive on the steep slopes and inland cliffs where soils are shallow.
Small pockets of herbs, sedges and grasses grow along the coastal cliffs. These species are often exposed to salt spray from crashing waves but have adapted to the harsh conditions.
Other native vegetation
Other types of vegetation grow in small pockets of Christmas Island.
Areas with surface water such as the Dales often have special collections of plants. Another wetland, Hosnies Springs, is home to two species of mangroves, remnants of a time when this part of the island was in contact with the ocean.
There are also small communities of rare endemic ferns growing on limestone cliffs and boulders around the island.
More than 230 plant species have been introduced to Christmas Island by humans since the island was settled. About 80 of these exotic plants are now categorised as noxious weeds or threatening species.