Where the wildflowers are

Stephen Scourfield, Travel Editor
Grady Brand with the big Sturt's Desert Pea. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

There, on the side of the Great Central Road, is the biggest Sturt's Desert Pea I have ever seen. It sprawls out green over this big all-weather road's shoulder, its fringe coloured by blood-red flowers with shiny black eyes.

I am north-east of Laverton, which proudly calls itself "the Sturt Pea Shire" and has adopted Sturt's Desert Pea as its floral emblem. Indeed, its online newsletter is called "The Sturt Pea".

And I am on the way back, with companions Grady Brand, senior curator of Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, and partner Lesley Hammersley, who is the director of horticulture and conservation at Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, and my wife, artist Virginia Ward, from a trip deep into the Great Victoria Desert.

But everything stops for the Sturt's Desert Pea.

Swainsona formosa was first collected by buccaneer and explorer William Dampier in August 1699. Those specimens are held in Oxford University Herbaria, England.

Sturt's Desert Pea is named for Captain Charles Napier Sturt, an Englishman born in Bengal in 1795, when the British were still in India, and who saw action with the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War.

He escorted convicts to New South Wales, arriving in 1827, and began explorations of the continent. His final expedition, in 1844, was to follow his belief there was an inland sea in the middle of Australia. With 15 men and 200 sheep, he set off along the Murray and Darling rivers and eventually into the Simpson Desert.

He recorded seeing many of the desert peas during the expedition into Central Australia.

And this particular plant is a precursor of what promises to be an unusually good wildflower season in WA, not only because of good rain but also its timing.

The season moves south from July to November, from the Pilbara through the Murchison and Gascoyne, inland to the Goldfields and down the Coral Coast, and down to the south coast.

But it is the displays of everlastings on the latitude from Kalbarri east through Cue to Leinster, and from Northampton east through Mullewa to Paynes Find, which are usually seen as the most dramatic spreads of WA's 12,000 wildflower species.

A spokesperson for Kalbarri Visitor Centre says: "With substantial rain this year, we are starting to see the onset of a fantastic wildflower season here in Kalbarri.

"On the eastern approach to Kalbarri you will find a lovely display of Yellow Plume Grevillea, Yellow Leschenaultia, various wattles and Lambs Tail."

At Natural Bridge and Castle Cove, there are already Murchison Rose, Pink Thryptomene and Sandhill Grevillea. At Nature's Window and Z-Bend, Flame Grevillea, Bird Beak Hakea and more.

Wreath flowers are starting to flower on the Morawa-Yalgoo Road and some everlastings are appearing. Perenjori is a little further behind but wreath flowers are forming.

In Mingenew, there are reports of pink and yellow everlastings showing their heads in Coalseam Conservation Park and in Mullewa, everlastings are along the sides of the roads on the Mullewa-Gascoyne Junction Road.

Yes, it looks like a big year for the carpets of everlastings - something to look forward to.

But not at this moment, because I am looking at the biggest Sturt's Desert Pea I have ever seen.

Don't miss Stephen Scourfield's wildlife photography tips, HERE.