Nothofagus moorei

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Antarctic beech
Antarctic Beech at Comboyne NSW.jpg
Comboyne, Australia
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Nothofagaceae
Genus: Nothofagus
N. moorei
Binomial name
Nothofagus moorei

Lophozonia moorei
Fagus moorei

Nothofagus moorei, commonly known as Antarctic beech, is an important Gondwana relict of the rainforests of the southern hemisphere. It occurs in wet, fire-free areas at high altitude in eastern Australia.


Ferdinand von Mueller described the Antarctic beech in 1866, from material collected near the Bellinger River by Charles Moore.[1]

Once referred to as 'negrohead beech', but now as 'Antarctic beech' (not to be confused with its South American relative, Nothofagus antarctica) is an evergreen tree native to the eastern highlands of Australia. N. moorei proposed to be renamed Lophozonia moorei in 2013.[2] The change in name from Nothofagus to Lophozonia is controversial.[3]

Within the genus, it is part of a lineage of three evergreen species, the other two being silver beech (N. menziesii) of New Zealand and myrtle beech (N. cunninghamii) of Tasmania and Victoria.[2]


These trees typically grow to 25 m (80 ft) tall and have large trunks to 1 m in diameter with scaly, dark brown bark. Maximum height is about 50 m. The leaves are simple and alternate, growing six centimeters long.[4] The leaf color is dark green, with new growth brilliant red, or orange in spring. The tree is deciduous in its native environment, but only partially deciduous in warmer areas, dropping half its leaves in autumn. The leaves are triangular to oblong with fine teeth along the crenate edges. The plants have separate male and female flowers that occur on the same tree. The flowers are small and form inconspicuous clusters near the leaves towards the end of the branches. The fruit, produced from December to February, is a small woody structure of four prickly valves. Each fruit contains three small winged nuts.

Complicated root structures are frequently exhibited. These roots would once have been soil-covered, but have been exposed over the ages by erosion, and covered in moss and lichen. Many of the trees have multiple trunks emanating from a crown, formed by this root structure. Fires are detrimental to the survival of the Antarctic Beech which, unlike many other Australian plants, is slow to recover from fire.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Large Antarctic beech at Cobark Park, Barrington Tops, 50 metres tall

The Antarctic beech grows in cool temperate rainforests from the Barrington Tops plateau in New South Wales, north to the Lamington Plateau and Springbrook Plateau, in southern Queensland, between altitudes of 480 m and 1550 m.[5] It occurs in temperate to cool temperatures and with occasional snowfalls. Antarctic Beech at Comboyne have been recorded at four sites, growing in cool stream side rainforests at elevations ranging from 570 to 630 metres above sea level.[6] Antarctic beech achieves its finest development at Werrikimbe National Park and Mount Banda Banda.[7]


Antarctic beech at Mount Banda Banda

Many individuals are extremely old, some about 12,000 years.[8][unreliable source?] And at one time it was believed that the Eastern Australian populations could not reproduce in present-day conditions, except by suckering (asexual reproduction), being remnant forest from a cooler time. It has since been shown that sexual reproduction may occur, but distribution in cool, isolated high-altitude environments at temperate and tropical latitudes is consistent with the theory that the species was more prolific in a cooler age.[9] The pattern of distribution around the southern Pacific Ocean rim has fed speculation that the dissemination of the genus dates to the time when Antarctica, Australia and South America were connected, the theoretical common land-mass referred to as Gondwana.[10]

Antarctic beech trees in Lamington National Park

It is an ornamental tree and cultivated specimens tolerate −7 °C (19 °F), though wild plants growing on Barrington Tops have withstood record low temperatures of −17 °C (1 °F), no source provenance have been selected from there and other mountains, highlands or plateaus for cultivation.[11]


  1. ^ Mueller, F.J.H. von (1866), Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae, 5, p. 109
  2. ^ a b HEENAN, PETER B.; SMISSEN, ROB D. (2013). "Revised circumscription of Nothofagus and recognition of the segregate genera Fuscospora, Lophozonia, and Trisyngyne (Nothofagaceae)". Phytotaxa. 146 (1): 131. doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.146.1.1. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  3. ^ Hill, R.S.; Jordan, G.J.; Macphail, M.K. 2015: Why we should retain ''Nothofagus sensu lato''. ''Australian systematic botany'', '''28'''(3): 190-193. doi:10.1071/SB15026
  4. ^ "Nothofagus moorei". Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  5. ^ "Barrington Tops". Archived from the original on 2007-03-11. Retrieved 2007-08-17.
  6. ^ "Lost & Found, Nothofagus moorei at Comboyne. authors C.L. Bale & J.B. Williams" (PDF). Cunninghamia. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  7. ^ New South Wales Rainforests - The Nomination for the World Heritage List. Paul Adam. 1987. ISBN 0-7305-2075-7
  8. ^
  9. ^ Observations on Nothofagus in New Caledonia. J. W. Dawson.
  10. ^ The Gondwana Forest Sanctuary: Preserving Earth’s Southernmost Forests
  11. ^ Zoete, T. (2000) Vegetation survey of the Barrington Tops and Mount Royal National Parks for use in fire management. Cunninghamia 6, 511-578.