Australia wildflowers
Australia Hiking Travel Ideas Northern Territory Oceania

Why you shouldn’t climb Uluru but walk around it

The Anangu traditional owners of Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) in Australia’s magnificent Red Centre  hold this unique rock formation sacred and prefer that people don’t climb it. Along with the obvious environmental damage that comes from climbing Uluru, this is an obvious reason to walk around Uluru rather than walk to the summit.

Visiting the beautiful Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is a wonderful experience and climbing ‘the Rock’ should not be part of that. I felt my experience in Australia was in no way compromised by doing the base walk and here’s why. Uluru is surrounded not by a barren desert but by a lushly-green, fecund variety of trees, plants and wildflowers of Australia.

I visited Uluru  in late July, at the end of the coolest time of the year (still hot enough during the day) and the beginning of the season of growth. This is called piriya by the local aboriginal people, when animals breed and plants flower. The usually bone dry ‘Red Centre’ of Australia’s Northern Territory blossoms.

When I did the hike around the base of Uluru I could not resist taking many photos of wildflowers. The red monolith is surrounded by a garden that offers a huge variety of exquisite flora.

There are so many flowers, including the carpets of Billy Buttons (Yunpayi-Yunpayi in the Warlpiri language – Calocephalus platycephalus if you’re botanically minded) around the rock pictured here:

Australia wildflowers

In the morning the air smells sweet as honey and that’s thanks to the Honey Grevillia (Kaliny-kalinypa is the common name  – Grevillea eriostachya), which casts its golden candles on long arms above the bleached white Soft Spinifex or Tjanpi (Triodia pungens). In fact the flowers of the Grevillea plants contain honey – you can just suck it out. Local Australian Aboriginal people use it to sweeten water.

Australia wildflowers

The Waputi or Desert Thryptomene (Aluta maisonneuvei) is another source of honey sweetness in central Australia.

Australia wildflowers

The unusual and appropriately named Upside Down Plant or Ikulyukulyu (Leptosema chambersii) shows its red flowers crouching against the red soil, protected by the cushiony green plant above. It’s pretty dramatic against the red earth.

Australia wildflowers

The pom-poms and fruit of what is probably a broad leafed Mulga Wanari (mulga – Acacia aneura). I found this specimen not far from where the Sounds of Silence Dinner is held each night at Uluru.

Australia wildflowers

This little pink number was decorating a path near the Kings Canyon Resort.  It’s a Turkey Bush (Calytrix exstipulata.)

Australia wildflowers

Next is a Mulla Mulla or pussytail (Ptilotis sp. or possibly P. obovatus).

Australia wildflowers

These gorgeous flowers which look distinctly un-desertlike were growing in great banks both at Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It is a Rosy Dock or Bladder Dock, also known as Wild Hops (Rumex vesicarius).

It’s a plant that is native to the deserts of north Africa and central Asia. It was brought in as saddle padding and feed for camels and now generally has the same distribution as camels in Australia.

Australia wildflowers

This is one of the varieties of Solanum or Bush Tomato. It’s a type of nightshade, the fruit of which is an important traditional plant food source in central Australia.

Australia wildflowers
This is another type of Pussytail Mulla Mulla plant, maybe Featherheads (Ptilotus macrocephalus).

Australia wildflowers

And finally an everlasting daisy at the foot of Uluru. I hope you can see what a wonderful experience you can have at Uluru without climbing the Rock!

Many thanks to @OwentheWorld for assistance on plant identification in this post about the wildflowers of Australia and general fantastic knowledge of Australia’s natural environment.

Reference acknowledgement also to Peter Latz’s Bushfires & Bushtucker: Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia and Arid Shrubland Plants of Western Australia by AA Mitchell and DG Wilcox.

By Natasha von Geldern

If you’re planning a trip to Australia take a look at my Ultimate Australia Travel Guide. Also see my post on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk near Uluru.

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  1. Stunning photos, felt I was walking with you, beautiful post, thank you for sharing.

  2. Great post and amazing images! Living here in Western Australia, every spring is juts full of so much colour from the wildflowers. Just don’t get caught picking them, major fines 🙂

  3. Beautiful shots. I have fond memories of visiting this area many years ago.

  4. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos and this post with the world. I’m lucky enough to live and work in outback Australia (Alice Springs) and get to see these and may other amazing displays of desert wildflowers every year.

    My favourite is the Ptilotus (mulla mulla). There are so many different kinds and colours – from white, to green to deep purple. I’m forever finding new varieties that wow the senses.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Thanks Amanda, I like your Outback Australia site. I realised how many types of Mulla Mulla there are when researching – they are the prettiest things!

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