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Perth and the Swan Coastal Plain, Western Australia

Overview

Located in the Swan Coastal Plain, Perth is the capital of Western Australia and the state’s most populous city. Perth enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. While much of the metropolitan area has been cleared for development, a few pockets of remnant bushland have been preserved to protect some of the region’s unique flora and fauna.

Perth
View across the Perth CBD and the Swan River from Kings Park.

Rottnest Island

Located about 20 km off the coast, Rottnest Island is one of the prime holiday destinations near Perth. The island’s white, sandy beaches are popular with tourists and locals alike. Several sheltered bays provide perfect conditions for snorkeling, with numerous colourful corals and fish inhabiting the shallow waters surrounding the island.

Rottnest Island
Little Salmon Bay on Rottnest Island is a popular snorkeling spot.

Rottnest Island is most famous for its Quokkas (Setonix brachyurus). These small kangaroos were once widespread across south-western Australia, but are now restricted to just a few remote areas and offshore islands as a result of predation from introduced pests. Rottnest Island is one of the last refuges for this iconic species. In fact, the island’s name literally means “rat nest”, a name created by early Dutch explorers who thought that the numerous Quokkas they had encountered on Rottnest Island were large rats.

Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) Quokka (Setonix brachyurus)
Quokka (Setonix brachyurus).

Other animals

Among the numerous parrots found in Perth the most colourful one is the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus). Originally from eastern Australia, Rainbow Lorikeets were introduced to Western Australia in the 1960s and are now regarded as a common and widespread pest in the Perth area. As with many parrots, they are rather noisy and often assemble in small groups to feed on seeds and fruits during the day.

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus).

The most iconic among the many reptiles in the Perth area is undoubtedly the Bobtail Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa), also known as the Shingleback. This curiously looking creature is abundant in bushland in and around Perth and is often seen basking in the sun during the day. When they feel threatened, Bobtail Lizards will widely open their mouth and reveal their blue tongue to scare off predators.

Bobail Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa)
Bobtail Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa).

Butterflies

While there are generally very few butterflies in Western Australia, Perth is blessed with a surprisingly large variety of species, some of which are endemic to south-western Australia. Among the more commonly encountered butterflies are several species of Blues and Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae), including the beautiful Long-tailed Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus) which is a regular visitor to suburban parks and gardens.

Long-tailed Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Long-tailed Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus).

Other Blues are restricted to remnant bushland in and around Perth, including the Blotched Dusky Blue (Candalides acasta), the uncommon Copper Dusky Blue (Candalides cyprotus) and the Rayed Blue (Candalides heathi). All three species are widespread throughout the temperate regions of Australia and display spectacular iridescent colours on the upperside of their wings. Another common species of native bushland is the Western Australian subspecies of the Fringed Heath Blue (Neolucia agricola occidens).

Blotched Dusky Blue (Candalides acasta) Copper Dusky Blue (Candalides cyprotus) Rayed Blue (Candalides heathi) Fringed Heath Blue (Neolucia agricola)
Top-left: Blotched Dusky Blue (Candalides acasta). Top-right: Copper Dusky Blue (Candalides cyprotus). Bottom-left: Rayed Blue (Candalides heathi). Bottom-right: Fringed Heath Blue (Neolucia agricola occidens).

A real treasure of remnant native bushland in Perth is the Turquoise Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus). This spectacular butterfly is endemic to Western Australia, and Perth marks the southern limit of its geographic range. Turquoise Jewels display spectacular iridescent colours on the upperside of the wings, while the orange underside is covered with a characteristic pattern of silvery patches.

Turquoise Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus) Turquoise Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus) Turquoise Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus)
Turquoise Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus).

Another species endemic to Western Australia is the Varied Hairstreak (Jalmenus inous) which can be found in large numbers in coastal areas where the caterpillars feed on different Acacia species. While the underside looks relatively inconspicuous, the iridescent blue suffusion on the upperside of the wings creates a spectacular display, in particular on sunny days.

Varied Hairstreak (Jalmenus inous) Varied Hairstreak (Jalmenus inous) Varied Hairstreak (Jalmenus inous)
Varied Hairstreak (Jalmenus inous).

Another common butterfly of the Perth area is the Western Xenica (Geitoneura minyas). It is endemic to south-western Australia and usually abundant in native forests and woodland. The Western Xenica is closely related to the very similar Marbled Xenica (Geitoneura klugii) which is common and widespread across southern Australia. In the Perth area, both species are often found in the same locations and at the same time of the year, making identification difficult. Fortunately, there is an easy way to tell the two species apart: the Western Xenica has black eyes, whereas the eyes of the Marbled Xenica are grey-brown. Another endemic butterfly of Western Australia is the Silver-spotted Ochre (Trapezites argenteoornatus) which is found along the west coast of WA and is common in coastal heathland around Perth during the spring.

Western Xenica (Geitoneura minyas) Western Xenica (Geitoneura minyas) Marbled Xenica (Geitoneura klugii) Silver-spotted Ochre (Trapezites argenteoornatus)
Top-left and top-right: Western Xenica (Geitoneura minyas). Bottom-left: Marbled Xenica (Geitoneura klugii). Bottom-right: Silver-spotted Ochre (Trapezites argenteoornatus).

Another characteristic species of Skipper (Hesperiidae) found in Perth is the White-banded Grass Dart (Taractrocera papyria). While this species is also found throughout south-eastern Australia, the Western Australian populations belong to a different subspecies, Taractrocera papyria agraulia.

White-banded Grass Dart (Taractrocera papyria)
White-banded Grass Dart (Taractrocera papyria agraulia).

Orchids

The numerous parks and bushland areas in and around Perth are a paradise for native orchids. One of the most common orchids of Perth is the Pansy Orchid (Diuris magnifica), a species of Donkey Orchid, which can be found in large numbers in remnant bushland across the metropolitan area. Their beautiful yellow and purple flowers are a delight to see during springtime, often forming large colonies of sometimes hundreds of individual plants.

Pansy Orchid (Diuris magnifica) Pansy Orchid (Diuris magnifica)
Pansy Orchid (Diuris magnifica).

Among the most spectacular orchids of Perth are the Spider Orchids (Caladenia). A characteristic species of native bushland across the Perth metropolitan area is the Antelope Orchid (Caladenia discoidea) with its magnificent green and red flowers. Despite its unique appearance, the Antelope Orchid is easily overlooked as its flowers perfectly blend in with the surrounding vegetation. Another common species found in remnant bushland across Perth is the White Spider Orchid (Caladenia longicauda) with its long, almost purely white petals and sepals. White Spider Orchids are common and widespread across all of south-western Australia and often form hybrids with other species of Spider Orchid.

Antelope Orchid (Caladenia discoidea) White Spider Orchid (Caladenia longicauda)
Left: Antelope Orchid (Caladenia discoidea). Right: White Spider Orchid (Caladenia longicauda).

One of the most beautiful Spider Orchids of Perth is undoubtedly the Carousel Spider Orchid (Caladenia arenicola). This magnificent species is still common in remnant bushland throughout the Perth area and comes in a variety of different colours. The Carousel Spider Orchid often hybridises with other Spider Orchids, including the White Spider Orchid (Caladenia longicauda) and the Tuart Spider Orchid (Caladenia georgei), making identification of individual specimens difficult.

Carousel Spider Orchid (Caladenia arenicola) Carousel Spider Orchid (Caladenia arenicola)
Carousel Spider Orchid (Caladenia arenicola).

Two of the most abundant orchids of Perth are the Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava) and the Pink Fairy Orchid (Caladenia latifolia). Both are very common and widespread in native bushland and often form large colonies. The Cowslip Orchid can be found in a variety of habitats, while the Pink Fairy Orchid grows in forests, usually in the vicinity of large trees.

Pink Fairy Orchid (Caladenia latifolia) Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava)
Left: Pink Fairy Orchid (Caladenia latifolia). Right: Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava).

As their name suggests, Greenhood Orchids (Pterostylis) are almost entirely green and for that reason easily overlooked as they blend in with the vegetation. The two most common species in the Perth area are the Coastal Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis sp. ‘coastal’) and the uniquely shaped Jug Orchid (Pterostylis recurva). Both can be found in large numbers in native forests and woodlands throughout the city.

Dark Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea) Jug Orchid (Pterostylis recurva)
Left: Coastal Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis sp. ‘coastal’). Right: Jug Orchid (Pterostylis recurva).

The spectacular Rattle Beaks (Lyperanthus serratus) are common across the higher-rainfall areas in the south-western corner of the state, with Perth being at the northern limit of their geographic range. Yet this magnificent orchid can still be found in good numbers in some of the remnant native bushland reserves across the city. Probably the most abundant of all orchids in Perth is the Common Mignonette Orchid (Microtis media). This inconspicuous species can be found almost anywhere in large numbers, including suburban gardens and parks, flowerbeds, and even roadsides and car parks.

Rattle Beaks (Lyperanthus serratus) Common Mignonette Orchid (Microtis media)
Left: Rattle Beaks (Lyperanthus serratus). Right: Common Mignonette Orchid (Microtis media).

Wildflowers

Each year, in late winter and early spring, large numbers of colourful wildflowers emerge across Perth after decent winter rainfalls. A small selection of some of the most colourful flowers of the region is shown below. Not all of Perth’s wildflowers are native, though, as many exotic species have been accidentally introduced into the wild, usually as garden escapes originating from South Africa.

Tinsel Lily (Calectasia sp.) Starfish Lily (Ferraria crispa) Granny Bonnet (Isotropis cuneifolia) Pixie Mops (Petrophile linearis) Eremophila
Top-left: Tinsel Lily (Calectasia sp.). Top-centre: Starfish Lily (Ferraria crispa). Top-right: Granny Bonnet (Isotropis cuneifolia). Bottom-left: Pixie Mops (Petrophile linearis). Bottom-right: Eremophila sp.

Among Perth’s most unique and spectacular wildflowers are the Cat’s Paw (Anigozanthos humilis) and the Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii), the latter of which is the official state flower of Western Australia. Both species grow in well-drained, sandy soils and are abundant in native woodland during late winter and spring.

Cat’s Paw (Anigozanthos humilis) Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii)
Left: Cat’s Paw (Anigozanthos humilis). Right: The magnificent Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) is the official state flower of Western Australia.