Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary is awash with colourful wildflowers, the landscape blanketed in fields of yellow, pink, white and purple in a season that experts have described as the ‘best in a lifetime’. Situated in the mid-west of WA (about five hours drive north from Perth), Mt Gibson sits in a transition zone between the flora of the south-west and the vegetation communities of the arid zone, which is one of the reasons for the sanctuary’s exceptional plant diversity.
This Biodiversity Month, AWC celebrates the thousands of plant species protected across our network of sanctuaries and partnership areas. AWC’s model for effective conservation, which includes managing fire, feral herbivores and weeds, means we’re looking after the vegetation communities which form the foundation of Australian ecosystems.
Southern WA experienced an unusually rainy winter, which triggered the exceptional wildflower season this year. Mt Gibson is on Badimia Country, and local elder Gloria Fogarty (who works as a Ranger on Mt Gibson) says this year is the best wildflower season in decades.
Excitingly, the wildflower boom has also provided new opportunities for an ongoing collaboration with a threatened plant breeding program at Kings Park Botanic Garden in Perth. Senior Plant Breeder Digby Growns collects and develops native plants for cultivation, with a particular focus on rare and threatened plants. It’s the only conservation-based ornamental plant breeding program on the planet. One of the species of special interest to the program is the purple-flowered Hemigenia tichbonii, named in honour of West Australian philanthropist Michael Tichbon. A renowned native plant enthusiast, Mr Tichbon travelled to Mt Gibson in late August and was astounded by the wildflower display, the most impressive he has witnessed in 8 years of visiting the sanctuary.
Mt Gibson also hosts one of the world’s most significant rewilding projects, a 7,800-hectare feral predator-free fenced area into which nine locally extinct mammal species have been reintroduced, including the Bilby, Numbat, and Woylie.