Kangaroo Island’s wildflowers

Kangaroo Island Bush Pea - Pultenaea trifida

One of the many joys of living on Kangaroo Island, and in particular on its western end, is to witness the delightful annual display of wildflowers.  From late winter onwards, as the days grow longer and warmer, the heath-land and forests burst into colour.  The greatest variety of flowers obviously occurs in the Spring, but there are in fact some native plants in flower on the island all year round.

Massed flowering of Island Boronia

We are fortunate to live on a property with over 200 acres of native bushland, featuring a variety of habitats – damp creek-lines, mallee-heath  growing on ironstone (laterite) soils, and old-growth Sugar Gum and Stringybark forest.  As a result we have a wide range of vegetation; some large, some tiny, much in between.  Upon first venturing into our bush, we discovered that many of our plants are prickly, even the ones that look soft and welcoming!  We also found, to our amazement, that most of them burst into bloom at one time or another.

Kangaroo Island has been separated from the Australian mainland for around 10000 years, allowing many unique species, and sub-species to evolve.   There are also species and sub-species found uniquely on the western end of the island, where we live.  It is quite a thrill to discover a flower unique to this small area growing in our ‘backyard’.

Kangaroo Island has poor soils, like most of Australia, but native plants have evolved to thrive in these.  It is interesting to see so many exotic plants (including in our vegetable garden) struggle to survive when surrounded by many healthy native plants.

The island has a Mediterranean climate strongly influenced by its position in the Southern Ocean.  Winters are wet and cool, while summer months are generally hot and dry.  It can be quite breezy all year round.  Generally, conditions are milder overall when compared with adjacent mainland areas.  The western end of KI, where we live, usually receives higher rainfall and stronger winds than the eastern end of the island.

The absence of rabbits from Kangaroo Island has saved local plants from the devastation experienced on the mainland.  The feral goat population has been largely eradicated, another plus for local vegetation.

There is a feral pig population, unfortunately well entrenched upon KI, that has a detrimental effect on vegetation.  It is believed pigs were first released here by French explorers in the early 1800s. Whilst the pigs cause mainly localized damage around creek lines, they are also believed to spread the deadly Phytophthera cinnamomi (Cinnamon fungus – although it is in fact a water mould).  Phytophthera lives in the soil and attacks the roots and stems of plants, preventing them from absorbing water and nutrients.  Unfortunately, Phytophthera is present on our property and in this region of KI.  Whilst it affects many plant species, the most visibly affected are the banksias, conebushes and xanthorrhoea (grass-trees).  If you are visiting KI, there is plenty of information that will help you to stop the spread of this insidious pest.
I have separated the following photographs into broad categories.  I have also tried wherever possible to name the species (or least the genus), but I have doubtless made a number of errors.  To help identify species, I relied heavily on Ann Prescott’s wonderful book “It’s Blue With Five Petals – Kangaroo Island Field Guide” and on Bev and Dean Overton’s lovely “Discover Kangaroo Island’s Native Plants”.  Even with these texts, at times I found the task of separating the many yellow-coloured pea flowers beyond me.  Let’s not even talk about the Eucalypts or Hibbertias!  Most of the photographs were taken on our property, some on the adjacent Flinders Chase National Park, and a few further afield; I have identified where.

Enjoy the photos, and better still, come explore Kangaroo Island and experience our beautiful flowers were they are best seen – in the wild.


Our Eucalypts, or gum trees, include the largest plants on Kangaroo Island.  I have postiviely identified a number of species on our property – the Brown Stringybark, Messmate Stringybark, Cup Gum, Sugar Gum and the KI Mallee-Ash – though I am certain there are more.  Eucalypt species are notoriously difficult to separate, so as a novice I don’t hold out a lot of hope.  Nonetheless, I have captured a number of photographs of their flowers, even if I don’t know the species!

One of KI's famous Ligurian bees on a Eucalyptus blossum - possibly Cup Gum

Red-tinged eucalyptus blossom


I have grouped these native plants together, which form roughly the next size down in the understory.  All are hardy natives with delicate-looking flowers.  Out two  banksia species – the Silver Banksia and the Desert Banksia - bloom all year round, ensuring there is always colour in the bush.

Silver Banksia - Banksia marginata - old and new

Desert Banksia - Banksia ornata

The Enigma Hakea (Hakea aenigma) is a rare species found only on our western end of the island.  Its name relates to the fact that its pollen is sterile, and its means of reproduction was uncertain for a long time.  It is now known that it spreads by  suckering alone. Sterile though its pollen may be, it has a gorgeous flower.  Nirbeeja and I were involved with our local Friends of Parks group in mapping populations of this hakea in Flinders Chase National Park.

Hakea aenigma - in full flower

The Five Veined Grevillea is another plant found only on western KI.  It has a beautiful flower with a delightfully sweet perfume.  The lpant is reasonably common across our property.

Five Veined Grevillea - Grevillea quinquenervis

Flowering branch of a Five Veined Grevillea

There are other lovely flowers in this grouping, including Rogers Spider Flower, another plant only found on KI.

Rogers Grevillea - Grevillea-rogersii

Crimson Bottlebrush under the close attention of a New Holland Honeyeater

KI Oak Bush - Allocasuarina muelleriana ssp.- Notocolpica


No blog on Australian wildflowers would be complete without some photographs of wattle.  The wattle is our national floral emblem after all.  Commonplace though they may be, nothing stirs the heart of this Aussie quite like the sight of those beautiful, glowing golden globes.

Narrow Leaf Myrtle Wattle in full bloom

Narrow Leaf Myrtle Wattle - Acacia myrtifolia var angustifolia - common out our way but beautiful

Golden Wattle - Acacia pycnantha -with its unusual broad leaves

Prickly Moses Wattle - Acacia verticalia ssp. ovoidea - growing near one of our creeks


I am reasonably confident that I have identified fourteen separate species of native pea so far in the area.  The task of separating species is pretty tricky; most Bush Peas feature a variation on the yellow flower and are determined by way of their foliage, while the Parrot Peas and others have red/orange/pink flowers that are similar.

Anyway, enjoy the photos!

Massed flowering of the KI Bitter-pea - Daviesia asperula

Closeup of Red Parrot Pea

Showy Parrot Pea - Dillwynia serica

One of the Bush Peas - Pultanaea sp.

A cluster of Holly Leaf flat Peas

Another Kangaroo Island Bush Pea

Three Nerve Bush Pea, I think,  Pultenaea trinervis

Hardenbergia violaecea - Native Lilac


Kangaroo Island has 81 recorded native orchid species and 1 weed orchid.  It damp forest areas are idea habitat for orchids.  I have barely touched the surface of the orchid population, so to speak, but will add new photos as they come.

Blue Fairy Orchid - Pheladenia deformis

Pink Fingers - Caladenia carnea

Donkey Orchid - Diuris orientis

Pink Fairy Orchid - Caladenia latifolia

Closeup of two Veined Helmet Orchids

A collection of Greenhood orchids

Parsons Bands orchid - Eriochilus cucullatus

Mayfly orchid - Acianthus caudatus

Fire orchid - Pyrorchis nigricans


Aside from the many images above, there remains an extraordinary range of wildflowers on Kangaroo Island.  Some plants, such as the Riceflower and the Tea Tree, grow to above head-high, while other plants are tiny, and the wonderful intricacy of flowers such as the Shrub Violet, Rosy Baeckea and the Bearded Heath only becomes apparent under the magnification of a macro-lens.  Enjoy them!

These Fringe-lily flowers are widespread across our mallee-heath

Shrub Violet-Hybanthus floribundus

Tiny Violet - Viola sieberiana

A good specimen of Twiggy Guinea-flower - Hibbertia virgata

The brilliant yellow of a Guinea-flower - Hibbertia sp.

Common Heath - Epacris impressa - in mass flower

Another Common Heath

Common Heath framed by Prickly Grevillea

A lovely cluster of Bearded Heath flowers

Closeup of Bearded Heath Leucopogon concurvus

Rosy Baeckea - everywhere in late winter and early spring

Smooth Heath-Myrtle - Calytrix glaberrima

Asterolasia muricata - a rare plant from the western end of KI

Scented Sundew - Drosera whittakeri in full bloom

Not yet in flower a Sundew - Drosera sp. covered in morning dew

Orange Bell Climber - Marianthus bignoniacea

Closeup of Fairy Fanflower

Native Primroses all lined up

Island Boronia - Boronia edwardsii

Closeup of Horny Cone-bush - Isopogon ceratophyllus

A lovely group of of KI Conesticks

Spiny Mintbush - Prostanthera spinosa

Heath Tea-tree

A mass of KI Tetratheca - Tetratheca insularis and Bearded Heath

KI Tetratheca and one of the many Hibbertias (Guinea flowers)

Bushy Candles - Stackhousia aspericocca ssp. 'cylindrical inflorescence'

Slender Smoke-bush

Closeup of Flinders Chase Spyridium

Short Purple Flag - Patersonia fragilis

The elegant KI Riceflower

Closeup of KI Riceflower - Pimelea macrostegia

A mass of Golden Pennant flowers

Closeup of Golden Pennants - Glischrocaryon behrii

KI Silverbush - Adenanthos macropodiana the small flowers grow on the branch-tip

Closeup of Yellow Glandflower - Adenanthos terminalis

The tiny flower of the Buckbush - Gyrostemon australasicus - at Flinders Chase National Park

Blue Spike Milkwort  in flower - Comesperma calymega

Slender Honey Myrtle - Melaleuca gibbosa

Spiked Sourbush - Choretrum spicatum - a rare plant

A lovely specimen of the Grass Trigger-plant - Stylidium graminifolium

Closeup of Wiry Bauera - Bauera rubioides

The bush around our home is a mass of colour in the Spring

Believe it or not, I haven’t shown all the images above.  For anyone especially keen, the following thumbnails contain many other photographs of our local wildflowers.

Till next time.

17 August 2013