The fascinating, ultra-diverse northern mallee shrublands and heaths of western Australia contain one of the richest arrays of Mediterranean-climate flora in the world, markedly different from that found in similar climate areas. Dominated by bristly-stamened shrubs, dense cone-shaped banksias, orange-flowered toxic peas and scrambling carnivorous sundews these heaths also harbour extraordinary orchids and the unique Wreath Flower, whose circular form is ringed by cream-and-rose flowers. Further south are extensive forests of eucalyptus or Wandoo, home to many more orchid species. The Stirling Range National Park is one of the few areas with any altitude in the state and a biological hotspot containing one of the richest floras including the delightful pink bells of various Darwinia species. Immense Tingle Trees can still be found in the Valley of the Giants in the far south, an area also famed for its' scenic coastlines. Our return journey north takes us through more flowery heaths and orchid-rich wandoo, passing the elegance of Wave Rock and finishing with deliciously fragrant sun orchids.
This is one of a series of tours to the worlds’ five Mediterranean climate areas, which as well as the Mediterranean basin and southern Australia include California, central Chile and the Cape region of South Africa. Independently each has solved the same climate issues and developed a tremendous diversity of truly unique flora. Many of the flowers can be seen in our new book Flora of the Mediterranean. We will be offering the chance to experience this areas over the next few seasons.
We arrive in Perth on Saturday 7 September and overnight in the city close to its famous botanic garden. Overnight Perth.
The morning will be spent exploring the well-established botanic garden, which contains a wide variety of native plants to whet our appetites for the coming days. After lunch we’ll travel north experiencing our first taste of the diverse shrub and heath habitats that typify the flora north of Perth. Depending on the season we should find the superb Banksia hookeriana in flower alongside Verticordia grandis, Verticordia nobilis and the silvery plumes of Conosperma unilaterale. Our accommodation is set in a large tract of native bush where the hosts are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the local flora. There are many more orchids at Wireless Hill with Caladenia arenicola growing with C. longicauda, as well as superb stands of Anigozanthus manglesii alongside its smaller, fiery-coloured cousin A. humilis and various colour variants. We’ll look out for the delightful Dancing Spider Orchid Caladenia discoidea with its fringed lip and stands of Lyperanthus serratus. Scattered across the area is the native cycad Macrozamia fraseri. Overnight Perth.
Badgingara is one of the richest botanical areas within an already rich botanical area. The delightful Phoebe Reserve is a superb example with our first native orchids such as Cowslip, Lemon-scented Sun and Blushing Spider Orchid, alongside scrambling Drosera, drifts of pink everlasting flowers Rhodanthe manglesii, pastel blue shades of Orthrosanthus laxus and a rich variety of native shrubs, among which emerge the electric blue of Lechenaultia biloba and the stunning shining Purple Enamel Orchid. Various Isopogon, Dryandra and the first of many confusing orange and yellow Daviesia, Mirbelia and Gastrolobium that colour a habitat peppered with the architectural forms of the Grass Tree Xanthorrhoea preisii. Tufts of Conostylis setigerum, creamy wands of Stackhousia monogyna and the reddish-yellow cat’s-paw Anigozanthus humilis complete the picture. Roadside stops have the stunning Eucalyptus rhodanthe and if we’re lucky the last flowers of the remarkable Northern Queen of Sheba orchid. We’ll return in time for a guided walk in search of more orchids. Overnight Eneabba.
Our second stunning reserve reveals a whole new set of flowers. The roadsides and trails of Mount Leuseur are the richest in the region and include the remarkable Anigozanthus manglesii, dense yellow Banksia attenuata, the orange spikes of Sphaerolobium drummondii and pale pink Lasiopetalum molle. We’ll take a walk through the rocky bush to see soft blue Conospermum nervosum, pink-and-purple belled Thomasia grandiflora, sweet-scented Hakea neurophylla, Purple Enamel Orchids, lacey Verticordia huegelii and also ascending the modest peak for commanding views of the surrounding landscape. The character of the heath frequently changes offering up new species at every turn. Overnight Eneabba.
Today we’ll drive around the areas to north and east of Eneabba, encountering some roadside drifts of Waitzia suaveolens and moist flats dominated by pretty Drosera menziesii. The charismatic Wreath Flower Lechenaultia macrantha is in peak flower now and is our main target but exactly where the best displays are differs from year to year so we’ll look at different areas to get the best. Alongside them are bushes of deep pink Pityroda terminalis, drifts of Lawrencella davenportii and scrambling plants of Thyrsanotus patersonii festooned with delicately-fringed lilac flowers. The striking shrub Grevillea leucopteris has arching branches with heavy spikes of creamy flowers and there are one or two orchid rich sites to visit too. If the season has seen enough rain expect some big drifts of everlasting daisies such as Cephalipterum drummondii in the stark landscapes of Coalseam. Overnight Eneabba.
The remarkable formations of the Pinnacles NP lay to the south and provide a geological diversion today, the multitude of bizarre stone pillars set amidst a stark sandy plain. There is also a large 'forest' of very large grass trees on the way south and flowery roadsides will provide botanical interest throughout the day. The character of the landscape changes from shrub-rich Mallee to Wandoo woodlands, where we will find many orchids over the coming days. Overnight York.
Today and tomorrow will be spent travelling to various woodland sites to sample the outrageous array of unique orchids found in SW Australia. Nearby woodlands to York harbour many orchids and other plants including the peculiar upturned green flowers of Fringed Mantis Orchid Caladenia falcata growing with abundant wands of Stackhousia monogyna and clumps of soft blue Orthrosanthus laxus. The climbing stems of Drosera pallida and fringe lily are common as we search for Rabbit Orchids Leptocera menziesii. Photogenic Eucalyptus wandoo woods contain some fine photogenic trees Another nature reserve has many beautifully coloured Caladenia flava, amidst masses of scrambling Drosera pallida. With luck we’ll find the diminutive and remarkable Slender Hammer Orchid Drakaea gracilis and its cousin King-in-his-carriage Drakaea glyptodon growing next to one another. Overnight Pinjarra or Perth.
Hidden among the woods are more fascinating good orchids including Diuris porrifolius and both Caladenia longiclavata and the superb insect mimic C. barbarosa aka the Dragon Orchid) Caladenia falcata and flava are also common and expect to see Pterostylis recurva, Caladenia denticulata and Thelymitra antennifera and impressive stands of Caladenia longicauda growing with three species of Diuris (donkey orchids). The confusion of spider orchids continues and we’ll finish with the handsome pink Caladenia chapmannii before driving on to the rugged spine of the Stirling Range. Overnight Stirling Range NP with fine habitat all around.
The Stirling Range is one of the few places in Western Australia with any real altitude and we’ll take a walk up towards Bluff Knoll (though not all the way). The route is flower-lined with abundant bushes of Eucalyptus staeri, white Hakea ambigua, orange spikes of Spaerolobium medium, Xanthosia rotundifolia and prostrate Banksia petiolaris with rusty flower spikes and saw-edged leaves. In the leaf litter of the woods are delicate green Snail Orchids Pterostylis nana and along the trail there was also the golden flowered Dryandra formosa and pink Stylidium scandens. But the prize of the morning will be for the delightful pink bells of Darwinia lejostyla growing alongside the bottlebrushes of Beaufortia decussata. There are superb views across the landscape framed by silver-topped Kingia australis. Further exploration of the rich kwongan will bring a confusing succession of woody plants in this ultra-diverse location with Petrophile longifolia, Gompholobium scabrum, Andersonia echinocephala, Banksia grandis, Gastrolobium bilobum, the handsome pea Chorizema glycinifolium and Banksia gardneri. Overnight Stirling Range.
Weeping branches of Eucalyptus caesia can be a buzz with Purple-crowned Lorikeets and various honeyeaters feasting on the nectar. Exploring the heath there are the brownish flowering cones of Banksia gardneri, brightly coloured Gompholobium polymorphum, purple Hovea pungens and the Zebra Orchid Caladenia cairnsiana. The latter hybridised with C. denticulata to produce the sourly named Prisoner Orchid C. x ericksoniae! Proteaceae are plentiful and varied with the Isopogon formosa, Dryandra armata and Hakea prostrata and further afield we will find the lovely Isopogon latifolius and fine flowering bushes of Dryandra formosa with their showy golden flowerheads. Stands of Banksia coccinea are decorated with bright red barrels of flower, whilst Gompholobium scabrum is weighed down with big pink pea flowers. Architectural Kingia australis grow with a mixture of flowering shrubs such as white Sphenotoma dracophylloides and Mirbelia spinosa. Overnight Stirling Range.
Rivalling the Stirling Range in terms of diversity (but not scenery) is Fitzgerald River. On the way to though we will visit a bush camp fast-gaining a reputation as an orchid hotspot. Roadsides have drifts of Patersonia occidentalis, a winged-stemmed Acacia glaucoptera, trailing red Grevillea nudiflora and white Isotoma hypercrateriformis. A guided tour of the camps orchids will reveal the diminutive Little Blue China Orchid, Caladenis flava ssp. sylvestris, Caladenia heberleana, Pale China Orchid Cyanicula gertrudiae, Diuris decrementa, the remarkable duo of Flying Duck Orchid Paracaleana nigrita and Warty Hammer Orchid as well as the more glamorous Custard Orchid Thelymitra villosa. Other flora abounds with neat domes of Lechenaultia tubiflora white daisy-like Actinodium sp., pink-flowered Kunzea, pretty pink Gompholobium venustum and so on. The western fringes of Fitzgerald River NP have the amazing multi-coloured Hakea victoria, elegant bells of Pimelea physodes and Banksia attentuata decorated with yellow cones with ground hugging Petrophile longifolia beneath. Overnight Stirling Range or Mount Barker.
Close to the hotel we’ll spend time among orchid-rich wandoo woods and very flowery heaths with spreading mats of intense scarlet Lechenaultia formosa, scrambling orange Kennedia coccinea, pink Pimelea rosea growing with the stunning purple stars of Calectasia grandiflora, peculiar purple and blue shrublets of Andersonia caerulea, Anigozanthus bicolor, Leaping Spider Orchid and Rattlebeaks. moving on we visit the immense trees of the Valley of Giants where an elevated walkway gives us an excellent insight into the vast canopies. The afternoon will be spent exploring the Banksia-rich heath around Albany and searching for colonies of the extraordinary carnivorous Albany Pitcher Plant Cephalotus folicularis, whose small reddish pitchers line damp banks and marshes. Overnight Mount Barker.
Begin our return north we enter the Wheatbelt and new areas of diverse Kwongan heath with gems such as Lechenaultia tubiflora, Adenanthos obovatus, Petrophile prostrata, the extraordinary Lance-leaved Tinsel Flower Cyanostegia lanceolata, Woolly Coneflower Isopogon villosus, the blue drumsticks of Dampiera wellsiana and pretty Pose Fringe Lily Thysanotus triandrus, as well as some more outstanding orchids with Granite Bee Orchid, Twisted Sun Orchid, Red Thread Spider and most notably Granite Sun Orchid, Thelymitra petrophila, species confined to granite rock sheets. Indeed the over the next few days we hope to find a number of these slightly later flowering showy species. The impressive shrub Grevillea excelsior is common with long spikes of golden-orange flowers. Overnight Hyden.
Florally rich heaths line the road to the east of Hyden and we spent the day in these areas. Sky-blue Dampiera wellsiana colours the roadside and we will stop many times for colourful shrubs such as Acacia lasiocalyx, Calothamnus quadrifidus, Hakea multilineata and Conospermum brownii as well as the fragrant orchid; Thelymitra macrophylla. The dwarf grass tree Xanthorrhoea nana grows near shorter heath with a mosaic of yellow Verticordia chrysanthella and purple Calthrix sp. Road conditions permitting we’ll make a circuit to see carmine Diphyma crassifolium smothering the saline flats to various proteaceae including the handsome plum-pink Grevillea paradoxa and Isopogon divergens.
The famous elegant curves of Wave Rock will be visited early in the morning and then we’ll spend the morning exploring other granite formations in the area and their associated flora before driving onto Perth, stopping at orchid sites and heath on the way. Overnight Perth Airport.
Per person (twin share) : 5500 Euros
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