Botanical bucket list: wildflowers of the mid-west
WESTERN AUSTRALIA IS well-known for its wildflowers – its ancient soils and varied landscape giving rise to unique flowers that can be seen nowhere else in the world.
From mid-winter to late spring, the wildflower season sweeps through the state, starting in the arid north, and making its way through the mid-west and southern coast as the months progress.
The mid-west hosts a particularly spectacular display – with everlastings, wreath flowers, acacias, orchids and feather flowers just some of the blooms responsible.
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions botanist Rob Davis says the diversity in the area is truly spectacular.
“We’re really lucky – it’s just amazing,” he says.
“We have people travel from all over the world to WA and one of their main aims is to come here and look at our flora – they really are blown away by the variety of it.”
The region’s multiple national parks and nature reserves are found across a variety of landscapes – including salt lakes, laterite ridges, sandstone and remnant sand dunes – and bear a diverse variety of woodlands, heathlands and perennial herbs.
“It’s extraordinary,” Rob says. “Places like Mt Lesueur towards Jurien Bay, you can have 60-70 species in a 10m2 area – there’s enormous diversity.”
Due to late winter rains, the famed everlastings are not expected to flower this year, however, Rob says the rest of the region’s flora will still be in bloom, and it is still worth the trip.
“I think the rain came just in the nick of time – we won’t have everlastings this year, but there is plenty more to see up there,” he explains.
With much of the region’s vegetation knee-high, Rob encourages people to head out onto the walk trails and get a closer look at what’s flowering.
“It’s funny, the everlastings put on this enormous display and it is really striking, but you probably only find 10-15 species in those huge carpets – the real diversity is in our shrubs. But you have to get out of the car to see that.”
“People might drive past and think ‘it all looks the same,’ but it’s not, there’s striking beauty, if you look at them a little closer. Some of the structures, patterns and colours are extraordinary,” Rob says.
A bucket list item for many flora enthusiasts, the unusual Wreath Leschenaultia (Lechenaultia macrantha) is endemic to the mid-west, and brings people from far and wide to areas of the state they may otherwise never go.
“Anyone heading up there it’s a prerequisite – a must see,” Rob explains. “They’re beautiful.”
Not only are they unusual with their wreath-like shape, but as a ‘disturbance’ species, they are often found in peculiar locations – the most well-known being a gravel road ten km north of Pindar – sometimes blooming in the hundreds.
Wreathflowers. (Image Credit: Shannon Verhagen)
Places to Visit
Rob suggests taking your time while you visit the mid-west, to ensure you see what it really has to offer. “You definitely want to give yourself a week, even more,” he says.
“There are so many small reserves throughout the whole region – just stop in.”
These are some of his suggested stop offs to make the most out of a road trip in the region:
Mt Lesueur National Park
This 26,987ha biodiversity hotspot lies 21km north east of Jurien Bay, and boasts a massive 900 species of flora. From late winter through to spring, the park becomes a mosaic of colours, from yellow acacias, to blue leschenaultias, and orchids and melaleucas in an array of hues.
Look out for the range of fauna that call the park home, with 122 bird species, 52 reptile species, 15 species of mammal and 29 species of jewel beetles living amongst its array of habitats.
There is no camping within the park, but two day use areas allow for a picnic stop before ascending the 313m Mt Lesueur.
Red pea flower.(Image Credit: Lennix/Wikicommons)
If everlastings are on your bucket list, Mullewa is the way to go. In good seasons, carpets of pink and white everlastings can be found off gravel roads, tucked away amongst sprawling farmland. The visitor centre provides mud maps to direct you to the best spots.
Pink everlastings.(Image Credit: Shannon Verhagen)
This town along the Brand Highway and its surrounding reserves are renowned for their wildflowers. Wattles, orchids, and bottle brush amongst others transform the bush in spring. Another spot worth visiting is Beekeeper’s Nature Reserve, a 20 minute drive west.
Coalseam Conservation Park
This 754ha park 50km south of Mullewa lives up to its name, being one of the only places in the world where coal can be seen at the Earth’s surface. The Irwin Lookout provides views over the Irwin River floodplain, which – when winter rains are good –is transformed into a golden spectacle by acacias and everlastings.
A 20 minute drive south east from Badgingarra will take you to Pheobe Reserve. A number of everlasting species and orchids can be found along the walk track. Keep a look out for spider orchids, donkey orchids and custard orchids at ankle height.
Badgingarra National Park
Home to the rare Badgingarra mallee and black kangaroo paw, this park is well worth a visit. The park’s 90 minute nature trail gently ascends a small rise dotted by white smoke bush, purple starflowers and yellow hibertias.
This tiny town is the site of one the mid-west’s most curious blooms – the wreath flower. A drive 30km east from Mullewa will get you to the heritage listed Pindar Hotel, but it’s the 10km journey out of town, north along Pindar-Beringarra road that will bring you to the blooms.
Wreath flowers. (Image Credit: Shannon Verhagen)