South coast is set to bloom with wildflowers

South coast is set to bloom with wildflowers

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There are more than 2000 species of wildflowers on the spectacular south east coast of Western Australia.

There are more than 2000 species of wildflowers on the spectacular south east coast of Western Australia.

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The 10-day Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show & Spring Festival is in September.

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EACH YEAR thousands of people travel from near and far to admire more than 2000 species of wildflowers on the spectacular south east coast of Western Australia.

However this year's Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival will be a little different due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the only visitors being from within WA.

Putting a positive spin on the event, organiser Sue Leighton said there had never been a better time for WA residents to make the trip and 'wonder out yonder' in their great State.

Scheduled to run over 10 days in September, visitors will be given the opportunity to be guided by the experts through the magnificent landscapes and flora in the Ravensthorpe Shire, which encompasses the Fitzgerald River National Park (FRNP).

Globally recognised by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, the Fitzgerald Biosphere is on par with other natural wonders such as the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest.

A wildflower hotspot tour to the Ravensthorpe Range is one of the many attractions of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival.

A wildflower hotspot tour to the Ravensthorpe Range is one of the many attractions of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival.

Covering 1.5 million hectares of land, the Fitzgerald Biosphere has the national park at its core.

Attracting both amateurs and experts, this year's show will kick off with travel journalist William Yeomen and the show's patron, ABC radio presenter Sabrina Hahn, being the event's MCs.

4WD Tag Along Tours' has been a crowd favourite in previous years, where expert guides lead a convoy of vehicles through the natural rugged beauty of the Fitzgerald Coast and the Fitzgerald Biosphere, which also takes in the Ravensthorpe Range.

With the Ravensthorpe SES supplying the necessary support and radios and equipment, guests are invited to tag along in their own four wheel drives or, if they don't have one of their own, to grab a seat in someone else's vehicle, depending on COVID-19 restrictions.

Landscape ecologist Nathan McQuoid who will return to lead one of this year's convoys, said the four wheel drive tours covered a diverse range of landforms and flora and that guests would be given an insight into why the region was so botanically rich.

"We do one tour on Ravensthorpe Range and kick the other tour off at Hopetoun," Mr McQuoid said.

"The tours include a visit to East Mount Barren - one of the great wildflower meccas on the planet which overlooks the ocean and inlet.

"From Hopetoun we wind our way through sandplains, creek lines and valleys into salmon gum woodlands and end up at the bottom end of Ravensthorpe Range.

"By the end of the day, our guests will have soaked up this incredibly complex place, geologically and land form wise, and discovered the reasons why there is such a spectacular array of wildflowers in the region.

"It's a great adventure and people love it."

Mr McQuoid said he first fell in love with Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun while working as a ranger in Fitzgerald River National Park and took every opportunity to return to the region which "competes with some of the most amazing places on the planet".

With new species of plants still being discovered, Mr McQuoid has a special passion for eucalyptus trees and even had one named after him.

"Eucalypts are so iconically Australian and they tell you about the landscape - its formation, deformation and history," Mr McQuoid said.

"Back in the 1990s The University of Western Australia professor Steve Hopper and Ian Brooker, who is no longer with us, were doing a lot of work on newly discovered plant species in the region and I helped them out a lot by sending specimens etc, so they named one of the species we found after me.

"The Eucalyptus McQuoidii occurs right along the coast west of Hopetoun in an amazing place called Quoinhead."

 A view of the Fitzgerald River National Park which is part of the UNESCO listed Fitzgerald Biosphere.

A view of the Fitzgerald River National Park which is part of the UNESCO listed Fitzgerald Biosphere.

The latest named eucalypt tree in the world, Eucalyptus ravensthorpensis, also grows on the Ravensthorpe Range.

Fellow eucalyptus enthusiast Malcolm French, who launched his book The South West Coast and Ranges, a collaboration with Dean Nicolle at last year's show, said there were more species and subspecies of eucalyptus trees in the Ravensthorpe Shire than anywhere else in the world.

"It is the home of the gumtrees if you like," Mr French said.

The Ravensthorpe Regional Herbarium, which works in partnership with the Western Australian Herbarium all year round, is a central feature of the annual wildflower show.

Initiated by the Regional Herbaria Program in 1997, its volunteers aim to display as many flowering plants as possible for the event, all found in the Ravensthorpe shire.

"Previously the Wildflower Show has successfully displayed roughly 700 botanically identified species all while in flower," Ms Leighton said.

This year, local botanist Dr Gillian Craig will be on hand at the herbarium and will also lead an educational walk that will be focus on the regeneration and non-regeneration of plants after fires.

Environmental scientist Jack Guthrie will guide a coastal walk while local bird and orchid expert, John Tucker will take part in the four wheel drive tours.

Attendees on a walk guided by Fitrzgerald River National Park rangers, checking out the beauty of the coastline.

Attendees on a walk guided by Fitrzgerald River National Park rangers, checking out the beauty of the coastline.

Started six years ago, the Farm Gate Art Trail, which is a Ravensthorpe Regional Art Council community arts project, is not to be missed with 53 items to be found within the Ravensthorpe Shire after 10 new additions this year.

While the events run by the Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe Community Resource Centres tend to be quite different throughout the show, Ms Leighton said it brought the two communities together every September.

"Hopetoun's CRC events are typically more environmentally-focussed due to it being the gateway to the Fitzgerald River National Park," Ms Leighton said.

"Hopetoun CRC hold the annual Wildflower Photographic competition and will host a Sundowner Walk in the Wildflowers to watch the sunset over the FRNP.

"Meanwhile, Ravensthorpe CRC will focus on the Hunt and Gather event which will feature a sausage making workshop to be run by celebrity guest Vince Gareffa."

More than 200 volunteers participated in last year's festival and 2020 is expected to be no different.

Local community groups will take turns running a community kitchen which will ply visitors with fresh scones and hot soup.

"Volunteers from the hospital auxiliary, the local primary school and the lovely CWA ladies have all done their bit, cooking up a storm for our guests," Ms Leighton said.

Exemplifying the wonderful community spirit of the Fitzgerald Coast , the organisers provide a vase of local flowers to all of the town's shops in the days prior to the show's opening.

The Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival will run from September 7- 16 with the final event program still to be confirmed.

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