The 29th International Horticultural Congress | Sustaining Lives, Livelihoods and Landscapes | 17-22 August 2014
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Come Walkabout

Covering a total area of 7.69 million square kilometres, mainland Australia is the world’s largest island - but smallest continent.

In distance, the continent stretches about 3700 kilometres from north to south and 4000 kilometres from east to west, making it the sixth-largest nation after Russia, Canada, China, the United States and Brazil.

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Australia is divided into six states and two territories and over the coming months our newsletter will feature interesting facts about your IHC2014 destination.

This edition we will start with the host state Queensland. Queensland is Australia’s second-largest state in size. The state capital is Brisbane, the third most populated city in Australia. Queenslanders enjoy more winter sunshine and warmth than most other Australian states and it’s perfect for all types of outdoor activities and water sports. Queensland is also home to the world famous Great Barrier Reef as well as five World Heritage listed areas.

Floral emblem

The Cooktown orchid became known as Queensland's floral emblem in 1959, during celebrations to mark the state's centenary. Before this, the distinctive native flower had long been popularly considered as Queensland’s unofficial floral emblem.

The State Parliament endorsed the popular choice in the now repealed Badge, Arms, Floral and Other Emblems of Queensland Act 1959.

The Cooktown orchid (Dendrobium bigibbum) is native to Queensland's northern tropics and is named after the northern Queensland town of Cooktown. It grows on trees and rocks in well-watered areas of the Cape York Peninsula.

Each plant flowers for up to six weeks in autumn and winter, with individual flowers reaching between three and six centimetres in width. Similar to the state colour of maroon, the Cooktown orchid is usually purple in colour, although varieties with white or white-spotted flowers have also been found.

The Cooktown orchid is relatively easy to cultivate as a garden specimen in frost-free areas of coastal Queensland. It requires a well-drained, sunny position, protected from cold winds. A bed of loose charcoal or bark is suitable for growing it, and it can also be cultivated on tree trunks or branches

Learn more about the Cooktown orchid here.

Animal (faunal) emblem

The koala was officially named the animal (faunal) emblem of Queensland in 1971, with strong public support for this endearing marsupial.

About the koala

The koala (Phascolarctoscinereus) is commonly located throughout eastern areas of Queensland, south of Townsville, although it has been found as far north as Cooktown and as far west as Cunnamulla.

A popular and renowned icon, the species is known to be shy. However, colonies of koalas often thrive near built-up areas if there is sufficient bushland to provide a suitable habitat.

The koala is a marsupial – an animal that carries its young in a pouch. The newborn, less than two centimetres long, crawls through its mother's fur to her pouch, where it is harboured and suckled for about six months. Normally a gentle creature, the koala spends almost all of its life in the tops of eucalyptus trees, usually dozing during the day and actively foraging for choice leaves at night.

As the species rarely drinks water, the name ‘koala’ originates from the Indigenous word meaning 'no drink', since it usually gains adequate moisture from dew and oily eucalyptus leaves.

Koala Food - Eucalypts

Eucalpts, commonly known as gum trees, form an integral part of the Australian identity with the bush. From the children's song Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree through to the distinctive smell of eucalypts to iconic paintings and photographs, eucalypts are an essential part of Australian culture, featuring in art, music and literature.

The sight and smell of eucalypts are a defining part of Australian life. The sight of the blue haze from the eucalyptus oil arising from the bush in the mountain ranges west of Sydney gave the Blue Mountains their name.

An essential oil extracted from eucalyptus leaves contains compounds that are powerful natural disinfectants and can be toxic in large quantities. Several marsupial herbivores, notably koalas and some possums are relatively tolerant of it.

The close correlation of these oils with other more potent toxins called formulated phloroglucinol compounds (euglobals, macrocarpals and sideroxylonals allows koalas and other marsupial species to make food choices based on the smell of the leaves. For koalas, these compounds are the most important factor in leaf choice.