Cauliflower Soft Coral

Scientific NameCauliflower soft coral on sandy substrate

Dendronephthya australis

Status in NSW



Cauliflower soft colour is usually a bright reddish pink colour and forms bushy colonies with the branching stems supporting densely placed polyps. The colonies usually have a rough or prickly feel from the sclerites - the thin spiny pieces of calcium carbonate which support its soft bodied structure.

The Cauliflower Soft Coral is distinguished by

  1. Branching stem
  2. Lobes
  3. Polyps

Species similar in appearance



Cauliflower Soft Coral usually grows to 20 – 30 cm tall but it can reach heights of up to 1 m


Cauliflower Soft Coral is a temperate soft coral species endemic to eastern Australia.

The only estuaries where Cauliflower Soft Coral is known to grow in abundance are Port Stephens and the Brisbane Water area of Hawksbury River, New South Wales. They have been found sporadically in other locations in NSW waters including, Sydney Harbour, Terrigal, Botany Bay and Jervis Bay.


The species is predominantly found in estuarine environments in NSW at depths of 1 – 15 m, however, it occasionally occurs offshore down to depths of 30 m. It is generally found in areas of sandy seabed where there is high current flow.

Why is the Cauliflower Soft Coral threatened?

  • Changes to sediment fluctuation and movement due to coastal development can smother existing habitat
  • Habitat damage from boat anchors and moorings
  • Predation from the heterobranch seaslug
  • Extreme weather events such as large storms

Cauliflower Soft Coral on sandy substrate

More information

Watch an underwater video of Cauliflower Soft Coral (1:05 mins)