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simpson desert vegetation, plants and wildflowers

The two most dominant plants in the Simpson desert are the sandhill canegrass Zygochloa paradoxa and the lobed spinifex Triodia basedowii. The dune crests are covered in canegrass, a wiry perennial grass that stabilizes the dunes and provides habitat for desert animals and numerous grass wrens. Plots of this canegrass in Western New South Wales have shown that twenty years after it has died off it still provides binding properties preventing dune sands from blowing away. The lobed spinifex covers the swales and lower dune faces in almost all parts of the desert, save areas where the sand is extremely mobile or the ground is highly saline. Spinifex provides protection for many reptiles and mammals including the speedy spinifex hopping mouse.
Acacia is particularly well represented in the desert. The ubiquitous mulga, Acacia aneura takes on its round sandhill form in the Simpson. The sandhill wattle Acacia dictyophleba with its waxy leaves and golden inflorescence presents in the Simpson as a dense shrub on the flanks of sandhills, quite unlike its shape in the Great Sandy Desert, where it is long and whipstick like. The umbrella bush Acacia ligulata is well represented, and was a staple food source for Aboriginal people. The so called elegant wattle Acacia victoriae appears in a stunted form in the desert, but still puts on a beautiful show when it flowers with its stunning pale yellow inflorescence. The last to survive in a drought – dead finish Acacia tetragonophylla is also common, the harsher the environment the happier it seems to be. The colony wattle Acacia murrayana is an attractive tree seen throughout the desert. On the western edge of the desert there are stands of the gidgee Acacia cambageii, and on the eastern side of the desert there are extensive gidgee woolands of Acacia georginae that appear like olive groves in swales with more clayey alluvial or gypseous soils. When wet or in flower the Gidgee omits a distinctive odor that gives rise to its less than flattering common name of ‘Stinking Wattle’.
The fork leafed corkwood Hakea eyreana is a small but elegant tree with deeply fissured cork like bark and lovely yellow flowers. In the southern desert the needlebush Hakea leucoptra with its needle like leaves and creamy flowers is a common sight. The most widespread grevillea in the desert is the sandhill spider flower or rattlepod, Grevillea stenobotrya. Present but not common is the desert grevillea Grevillea juncifolia.
On dune crests on the eastern side of the desert there grows the parrot bush Crotalaria cunninghamii. With its yellow green beak like flowers. The sinewy stems were used by Aboriginal people to make sandals.
The Simpson Desert is one of the few places in Australia where Eucalyptus is poorly represented. On the floodplains of the Finke, Hale, Hay Rivers and Eyre Creek there are stands of river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis , and on the floodplains there is the small Eucalyptus gamophylla and Eucalyptus pachyphylla. On watercourses at the southern end of the desert, lower Eyre Creek and the Kallakoopah, as well as the lower Macumba, the Diamantina and Warburton there are extensive floodplains containing coolibah Eucalyptus microtheca with an understory of lignum Muhlenbeckia cunninghamii.
The salt lakes support the usual suspects, of Chenopodiaceae, the saltbush family, Atriplex, Nitraria and Halosarcia spp.
What is most striking to the visitor after rains are the carpets of daisies (Asteraceae) which extend as far as the eye can see. The swales and sides of dunes can be fluorescent yellow with senecio daisys, the eastern side of the dunes can be shimmering silver with wild stock Blennodia canescens. You can lie on your back on the sand looking up into a forest of wild parsnip Trachymene glaucifolia. There is parakeelya (genus Calandrinia) with their bright purple flowers and succulent leaves that provided Aboriginal people with moisture. There are billy buttons, bluebells, and the stunning poached egg daisy, Myriocephalus stuartii, with it yellow yolk and creamy white, fine bristles easily dispersed by the wind.

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