Between July and November, vast areas of the State - from the
southern regions to the Pilbara and Kimberley in the north and
the Goldfields to the east - are a blaze of colour as the annual
display of wildflowers burst into bloom. And visitors do not have
to travel far to see them. They're even on the doorstep of the
capital, Perth - just a short walk from the city centre.
The city's flora and fauna treasure - Kings Park - showcases
Western Australia's unique wildflowers which lure visitors just
as much as the stunning panoramic view over the city and the Swan
River. The 400-hectare park's Botanic Garden has more than 1,700
native species and more are grown in display glasshouses and a
rare and endangered flora garden. A new attraction this year is
the refurbished water garden with its beautifully designed landscape
using local native plants.
Kings Park is visited by more than five million people a year,
with its famous annual wildflower show in October a major drawcard.
Now in its 38th year, the festival attracts more than 40,000 visitors
and has become an internationally-known event.
In the Darling Range, east of Perth, the ground in spring is
carpeted with blue lechenaultia, which aboriginal people are
said to have called "the floor of the sky". The blue
lechenaultia, like firewood banksia and Geraldton wax, only grow
naturally in the South West. Western Australia has no less than
21 different lechenaultias - a small, spreading shrub that rarely
grows up more than 50 centimetres high. Its flowers range from
deep purplish-blue through sky blue to pale blue in a wide area,
resulting in massed spring displays.
A short drive inland from Perth, picturesque country roads lead
to historic towns in the Heartlands region which blossoms in spring.
Wander through the Dryandra Woodland, an important area for nature
conservation. Apart from the many wildflowers, Dryandra is one
of the few places occupied by the numbat - a small mammal that
is extremely rare and a highly endangered species. It is also
one of Western Australia's fauna emblems.
WA's southern regions have, by far, the most diverse range of
wildflowers. About 80 per cent of the total estimate for the State
are found in the South West alone. The southern regions are renowned
for the more rare and dainty flowers such as orchids, milkmaids,
honeypots, mountain bells and kangaroo paws - the most famous
of the unique native plants. They are most distinctive plants
with their bizarre plumes - there are 12 species and several colour
combinations. Some are red and yellow, some green and black, others
red and green - the latter being the best-known variety and has
been adopted as Western Australia's floral emblem.
The southern regions are home to more than 150 species of orchids,
165 species of eucalypts, more than 80 species of carnivorous
plants such as the Albany pitcher plant and mistletoes like the
picture-postcard Western Australian Christmas tree.
One of the top viewing spots is the Stirling Range, named after
the first Governor of Western Australia, Captain James Stirling.
The season starts with the Queen of Sheba orchid in August through
to mountain bells in November. More than 1,200 species have been
identified in the national park, where many tracks provide easy
access to the wildflowers. Up to 40 orchid species can be found
in the park, including spider orchids, bird orchids, sun orchids
and greenhoods. There are guided orchid walks each weekday during
the spring from the Stirling Range Retreat.
All six national parks in the Esperance region offer magnificent
scenery - and extraordinary flora. The Fitzgerald River National
Park (1,750 species) is world renowned for the royal hakea, the
pincushion hakea, the four winged mallee, the scarlet banksia.
the Qualup bell and the Barrens regelia.
The Kalgoorlie-Goldfields region is not only rich in gold but
also in wildflowers with its fields of everlastings, as well as
wattles (acacia,) hakea and Sturt's Desert Pea.
North of Perth, the Mid West region is the window for everlastings
- and a great many other species of coastal and inland wildflowers.
Dr Atkins said the Mid West and the Central South Coast (between
Albany and Hopetoun) were regarded as "areas of high species
In the Mid West, there are never-ending fields (and roadside
verges) of pink, yellow and white lollipop-shaped everlastings.
There are marvellous displays from mid-August, depending on the
amount of rainfall received prior to June/July.
The region is also well known for its wreath flower, Lechenaultia macrantha (it looks handmade but is perfectly natural). Lesueur
National Park has more than 800 flora species. So rich are some
areas of heath here that they are referred to as coral reefs out
Visitors to the Mid West can also experience a wildflower tour
with a man who is a walking encyclopaedia on native flora. Allan
Tinker, who runs the Western Flora Caravan Park at Eneabba, south
of Geraldton, is so passionate about wildflowers, he has had two
species named after him - the Diuris tinkeri donkey orchid and
the Melaleuca tinkeri. Apart from his wildflower walks, Allan
can project images from a microscope to a TV monitor to show some
of the most fascinating characteristics in his park. Allan, who
has even had the rare honour of a visit from Sir David Attenborough,
believes there are about 2,000 species within a 40-kilometre radius
of his park, which itself covers about 65 hectares.
While hooking a fish is the aim of most people visiting Kalbarri,
they also get hooked on the wildflowers such as kangaroo paws,
banksias, eucalypts and grevilleas, to name just a few. Kalbarri
National Park claims 800 species and on any day of the year visitors
will find a bloom of some description.
Further north, the Gascoyne region - which includes the areas
of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and Cape Range National Park
- is famous for its whale sharks and the bottle-nose dolphins
at Monkey Mia. But as well as the fantastic marine life, there's
plenty of floral life too - Shark Bay daisies, for instance, and
wattles, hakeas, purple peas and dampiera.
Brimming with wildflowers are the Pilbara and Kimberley regions
in the north of the State. Both provide yet another range of species
- the Pilbara boasts yellow native hibiscus, northern bluebells,
sticky cassia, mulla mulla, native fuschias and more than 50 species
of wattles, while the Kimberley has its own rose - the Kimberley
rose - and many other floral treasures abound.
So what makes Western Australia such a flower power in anybody's
Experts say the following factors have led to WA being one of
the great centres of flowering plant diversity in the world:
- Early isolation of Australia from the rest of the world.
- The secondary isolation of the South West of Western Australia
from the rest of Australia.
- Cycles of wet and increasingly arid conditions.
For visitors who prefer not to drive themselves, there is a wide
range of escorted wildflower tours from Perth to all the major
wildflower growing regions. They operate mainly from early August
to late October.