Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Critically Endangered
Listing and Conservation Advices Commonwealth Listing Advice for Norfolk Island Flora - 11 Critically Endangered Species (Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), 2003o) [Listing Advice].
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Norfolk Island Region Threatened Species Recovery Plan (Director of National Parks (DNP), 2010) [Recovery Plan].
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008adh) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Information Sheets What the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) means for Norfolk Islanders (Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH), 2004i) [Information Sheet].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Inclusion of species in the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (03/11/2003) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2003a) [Legislative Instrument].
Scientific name Abutilon julianae [27797]
Family Malvaceae:Malvales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author Endl.
Infraspecies author  
Reference Prodromus Florae Norfolkicae: 75 (1833).
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Other illustrations Google Images

Scientific Name: Abutilon julianae

Common Name: Norfolk Island Abutilon

Norfolk Island Abutilon is a small shrub to about 1 m tall or more, with grey, downy, heart-shaped leaves 3–9 cm long (Green 1994; Sykes & Atkinson 1988). The solitary flowers are yellow, with the petals less than 1 cm long, and the young stems are covered in dense stellate hairs (Green 1994).

Norfolk Island Abutilon is endemic to the Norfolk Island Group. This species occurs on Phillip Island and Norfolk Island.

Norfolk Island Abutilon was originally discovered on Norfolk Island, but the species disappeared from the Island in 1913 due to grazing by feral rabbits (de Lange & Murray 2003) and was considered extinct. A program to exterminate feral browsing animals began on Phillip Island in 1981 (de Lange & Murray 2001). In 1985, when the goats, pigs and rabbits had been removed, seedlings of Norfolk Island Abutilon were found there, though it had not previously been recorded on the Island (Wittenberg & Cock 2001; de Lange & Murray 2003). The species had presumably survived on isolated cliff ledges of Phillip Island which were inaccessible to the browsing animals (DEH 2003). It has now recolonised parts of Phillip Island, and has been reintroduced to Norfolk Island, with restoration plantings along the road to the Cascades and along the track from Mt Bates to Mt Pitt (de Lange & Murray 2003).

The distribution of Norfolk Island Abutilon can be considered severely fragmented as it occurs only as isolated subpopulations on two small islands.

A study of the rare and endangered plants of Norfolk Island was commissioned by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and undertaken in 1987 (Sykes & Atkinson 1988).

In 2003, there were fewer than 50 mature plants surviving on Phillip Island (TSSC 2003).

There is no quantitative data on the population trend for this species. The population on Phillip Island is growing since the eradication of feral rabbits, and a reintroduction program is establishing and increasing a population on Norfolk Island.

The Phillip Island population is key to the long-term survival and recovery of Norfolk Island Abutilon. The lack of grazing animals on the island since the eradication program has provided a suitable habitat for the species' comeback. In addition, the isolated cliff ledges surrounding the island provide some habitat for the plant that is inaccessible to grazing animals, thus enabling the species to survive on the island in the event of feral rabbit colonisation (DEH 2003c).

Both subpopulations (Norfolk Island and Phillip Island) occur within the Norfolk Island National Park.

Norfolk Island Abutilon has been recorded growing in open situations among grass, and on rocky cliffs (Green 1994).

The volcanic soils of Norfolk Island are nutrient rich, friable and porous (Director of National Parks 2008). The Norfolk Island Group has a sub-tropical climate, with an annual mean rainfall of 1312 mm. There are occasional tropical cyclones, usually in the early months of the year (BoM 2008).

The major threat to Norfolk Island Abutilon in the past has been grazing and habitat degradation by feral goats, pigs and rabbits on Norfolk and Phillip Islands. Since these animals have now been exterminated from the islands they are no longer a threat to the species (Green 1994).

Phillip Island has lost almost all of its vegetation due to grazing by feral animals, and as a result has lost most of its topsoil through erosion (Director of National Parks 2008; Hyder Consulting 2008). This reduces the ability of Norfolk Island Abutilon to colonise the island.

There is increasing tourism in the Norfolk Island Group. Impacts from tourism (such as trampling) and tourist infrastructure demands can have a negative impact on the Islands' flora (Director of National Parks 2008; Hyder Consulting 2008).

Exotic weeds are a problem on parts of the Island and pose a threat to the native vegetation. The most significant weeds are Red Guava (Psidium cattleianum var. cattleianum); African Olive (Olea europaea subsp. africana); Hawaiian Holly (Schinus terebinthifolius); Lantana (Lantana camara); William Taylor (Ageratina riparia); Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum); Wild Tobacco (Solanum mauritianum); Formosan Lily (Lilium formosanum); Bleeding Heart (Homolanthus populifolius); and Morning Glory (Ipomoeia cairica) (Director of National Parks 2008).

The soil near Mt Pitt is prone to landslip after heavy rain (Hyder Consulting 2008). This may potentially affect Norfolk Island Abutilon, as it grows along the path leading from Mt Pitt to Mt Bates.

Norfolk Island Abutilon could potentially be threatened by any further weeds, predators, competitors or pathogens introduced to the Norfolk Island Group (Director of National Parks 2008).

Norfolk Island is known to experience cyclones (BoM 2008). These have the potential to cause habitat damage that could have a negative impact on the survival of Norfolk Island Abutilon. The lack of vegetation on Phillip Island and the severe erosion make the island more vulnerable to cyclone effects (Hyder Consulting 2008).

Revegetation is currently being carried out on the islands in the Norfolk Group (Director of National Parks 2008), which will help to stabilise the habitat of Norfolk Island Abutilon. The plant nursery on the Island propagates nearly all of the Island's endemic species, and transplants some of them to the national park (Mosley 2001). Erosion is also being reduced by the placement of barriers along watercourses on Phillip Island, which decrease soil loss during heavy rainfall (Mosley 2001).

Some pest species that occur on Norfolk Island, such as the Black Rat (Rattus rattus), the Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), and feral fowl (Gallus gallus) are not found on Phillip Island. Quarantine measures are in place to prevent the spread of weeds, pathogens and pest animal to Phillip Island. Strategies are also in place to minimise the chance of further pest species being introduced to Norfolk Island from mainland Australia (Director of National Parks 2008).

The Park management is currently working to control invasive weeds in the park, including species that have a negative impact on Norfolk Island Abutilon. Weed infestations have been reduced by removal of weeds and replanting with native species (Mosley 2001). A weed management guide is available for Lantana, outlining a range of techniques that can be used in combination to control the species. Recommended methods include the use of herbicide, mechanical removal, fire, biological control and revegetation (ARMCANZ 2001). All major weed species in the Norfolk Island Group can be controlled by the use of herbicides, and some can also be controlled by manual removal. Biological control had been trialled for Lantana and William Taylor on Norfolk Island, but was found to have limited success against Lantana (Ziesing 1997).

Studies of current land use patterns and rehabilitation needs on the Islands, and development of a plan for soil rehabilitation, are recommended by Mosley for the conservation of the biodiversity of the Norfolk Island Group (Mosley 2001).

Management strategies relevant to the conservation of Norfolk Island Abutilon can be found in:

  • Norfolk Island National Park and Norfolk Island Botanic Garden Management Plan 2008-2018 (Director of National Parks 2008)

  • Weeds of National Significance: Lantana (Lantana camara) (ARMCANZ 2001)

  • Island on the Brink: A conservation strategy for Norfolk Island (Mosley 2001)

  • Norfolk Island Weed Control Manual: for selected weeds occurrng in Norfolk Island National Park (Ziesing 1997).

  • The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

    Threat Class Threatening Species References
    Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Norfolk Island Region Threatened Species Recovery Plan (Director of National Parks (DNP), 2010a) [State Recovery Plan].

    Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Forestry Ministers (2001a). Weeds of National Significance: Lantana (Lantana camara) Strategic Plan. [Online]. Available from:

    Braysher, M. (2000). Development of an Alert List for Alien Mammals and Reptiles. Final Project Report for Environment Australia. [Online]. Available from:

    Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) (2008). Climate of Norfolk Island. [Online]. Commonwealth of Australia. Available from:

    de Lange, P.J. & B.G. Murray (2001). A new Achyranthes (Amaranthaceae) from Phillip Island, Norfolk Island group, South Pacific Ocean. New Zealand Journal of Botany. 39:1-8.

    de Lange, P.J. & B.G.Murray (2003). Chromosome numbers of Norfolk Island endemic plants. Australian Journal of Botany. 51:211-215. [Online]. Available from:

    Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2003c). Norfolk Island Botanic Garden. [Online]. Available from:

    Director of National Parks (2008). Norfolk Island National Park and Norfolk Island Botanic Garden Management Plan 2008-2018. [Online]. Canberra. Available from:

    Director of National Parks (DNP) (2010). Norfolk Island Region Threatened Species Recovery Plan. [Online]. Canberra, Director of National Parks Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from:

    Green, P.S. (1994). Norfolk Island & Lord Howe Island. In: Flora of Australia. 49:1-681. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Publishing Service.

    Hyder Consulting (2008). The Impacts and Management Implications of Climate Change for the Australian Government's Protected Areas. [Online]. Department of Climate Change. Available from:

    Mosley, J.G. (2001). Island on the Brink: A Conservation Strategy for Norfolk Island. Norfolk Island Conservation Society, Melbourne, Victoria.

    Sykes, W.R. & I.A.E. Atkinson (1988). Rare and endangered plants of Norfolk Island. New Zealand: Botany Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

    Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) (2003o). Commonwealth Listing Advice for Norfolk Island Flora - 11 Critically Endangered Species. [Online]. Available from:

    Wittenburg, R. & Cock M.J.W., eds. (2001). Invasive Alien Species: A Toolkit of Best Prevention and Management Practices. [Online]. CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, UK. Available from:

    Ziesing, P.D. (1997). Norfolk Island Weed Control Manual: for selected weeds occurring in Norfolk Island National Park. Environment Australia, Biodiversity Group, Parks Australia (South).

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    This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

    Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Abutilon julianae in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:16:38 +1000.