The Illawarra Escarpment is home to a wide range of native flora and fauna. Take the monthly Sunrise Walk and you may be lucky enough to see a resident wombat scurrying back into its burrow. You may spot the treetop habitats of possums, gliders and the intriguing Powerful Owl, and if you don’t see him you’ll definitely hear the calls of the majestic Lyrebird. From your perch high in the treetop it’s obvious there’s an abundance of flora too. Interpretive signs along the walk provide useful information on the local flora and fauna. Here’s just a taste of what you might uncover along the way…
Wildlife of the Illawarra
- Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)
- Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae)
- Short Beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
- Sugar Glider (Petaurus breviceps)
- Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii)
- Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinis)
The Illawarra Flyers
- Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus)
- Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans)
- Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)
- Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua)
- Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus)
- White-naped Honeyeater (Melithreptus lunatus)
- Eastern Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria australis)
Blackwood Acacia melanoxylon
Blackwood or Acacia melanoxylon is a long-lived wattle that reaches a height of 20 metres in this region. As well as growing in the forest, it also colonises cleared land, so you will notice it springing up here and there, particularly along the edge of the forest. This tree does not have real leaves, instead it has modified stems called “phyllodes”. The balls of light yellow flowers can be seen from late winter to spring. Blackwood produces a dark timber often used in the manufacture of furniture.
Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants but do not harm them. They also grow on rocks. Unlike parasitic plants that feed directly on the host tree, epiphytes obtain their nutrients from fallen leaves and other organic debris caught in the bark of trees, and from the air. The epiphytes in this forest consist of ferns, orchids, mosses and lichens.
Two large eucalypt tree species grow in the forest along the Illawarra Fly. Brown Barrel, or Eucalyptus fastigata, is the most common, with rich brown bark on the trunk and smooth bark on the upper branches. At maturity level and in ideal conditions they can grow to more than 40 metres. The other large eucalypt species, Gully Gum or Eucalyptus smithii, can be seen near the edge of the escarpment. It has a hard lower bark, with smooth bark higher up that falls off in long streamers and gets caught up in the branches.
Musk Daisy-bush, Olearia argophylla, grows as a bushy shrub or small tree to a height of about six metres. It is always easy to identify because it has large clusters of small white daisy flowers in spring, its leaves are silvery underneath and it has a slightly musky smell. In this region, this plant only grows in or nearby rainforest at high altitudes.
Native Mulberry (Hedycarya angustifolia ) grows as a shrub or small tree to a height of about six metres. The species can be identified by its shiny opposite leaves, which have very prominent veins. Parrots and other birds love the yellow fruit that appear in summer.
Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras)
Sassafras is one of the most common rainforest tree species along the Illawarra Escarpment. It is a medium sized tree with dark green glossy serrated leaves and can be seen along most of the walking track. The leaves have a strong spicy fragrance, especially when crushed. Sassafras is a larval food plants for the Macleay’s Swallowtail and Blue Triangle butterflies. These beautiful, brightly coloured butterflies can be seen fluttering around the Sassafras trees in spring and summer.
The lush and decorative fronds of the tree ferns seen below the Illawarra Fly reflect the cool, moist forest growing in this area. Two tree fern species can be seen from the Illawarra Fly, the Soft Tree Fern or (Dicksonia antarctica) and the Rough Tree Fern or (Cyathea australis). The name gives the game away.
Vines and creepers
These plants are often associated with rainforest, where they twine and climb over shrubs and other plants and up into the trees. Some have tendrils and some have thorns to help them climb high, towards the sunlight, while others simply twine around and around the tree trunk.
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