It is commonly accepted, both in popular opinion and in scientific literature that the Illawarra was once covered in its entirety In luxuriant rainforest. This view is incorrect, as is clearly evidenced by the vegetation which remains in the area today, The original vegetation cover of the Wollongong area consisted of a diverse mosaic of plant groupings, ranging from wind-swept coastal dune communities to luxuriant sub-tropical rainforest. This diversity, which can be seen in terms of both floristic characteristics (plant species) and structural characterisitcs (growth forms: trees, shrubs, ferns vines etc. and their spatial arrangement), is dependent on variations in topography, soil characteristics, rainfall and proximity to the sea, in addition to more subtle environmental influences. Changes in one or more of these factors can produce, over a few metres a complete transformation in the vegetation present. The key to understanding the distribution of vegetation communities lies with an appreciation of the environmental conditions under which these communities developed.