How plants survive in Uluru’s surrounds

How plants survive in Uluru’s surrounds

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 05/24/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

When imagining the famous red rock of Uluru, most will picture a completely bare dessert. What might surprise you is how much life is actually there!

Undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises for tourists when travelling is the smorgasbord of natural plant life. With over 416 species of native plants in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park alone. But how do these plants survive the scorching hot sun at Uluru?

How do they survive?

Although we all know of the typical plants that require an endless supply of water and a perfect amount of sunlight to survive, desert plants are much different. They have adapted to the extremes of heat and aridity by using both physical and behavioural mechanisms to endure. Some store large amounts of water, such as cacti. Others have a limited or narrowly shape leaves to reduce their transpiration. Others have grown extremely long roots to allow them to acquire moisture at nearby lakes or rivers.

What kinds can you see at Uluru

  • Mulga

    Being one of the most common trees around Uluru, you are guaranteed to see a Mulga during your trip. They are a greyish green colour and are roundly shaped with bright yellow flowers on the branch tips. They are perfectly adapted to the Australian desert, as their needle-like leaves point upwards to catch the morning and evening light, avoiding the hot midday sun perfectly. For the dry season, the trees drop their leaves to produce an extra layer of mulch. Standing up 5 to 12 metres high, these stunning trees are strong survivors for the Aussie outback.

  • Desert heath myrtle

    Desert heath myrtle, or also known as pukara, is a small woody shrub which produces beautiful white flowers with spots of orange and reds. To survive the outback heat, they form compact leaves with no stems, to reduce the transpiration. They sit on slopes of sand dunes, with their branches crossing over one another until they are densely built into the land. The aboriginal people used to collect the dew of the flowers, which contained sweet nectar that they used to flavour foods.

  • Blue Mallee

    Growing up to three metres high, these trees are covered in blue to green leaves and thrives. It has an extremely thick bark, with their underground roots capable of re-sprouting several trunks after fires. As well, the tree can store a large amount of water in its root system, which aboriginals used to extract in very dry times.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.