Ayers Rock Resort
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of a trip to Australia's Outback is how green it can be! Most people can't believe that there are over 416 species of native plants in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park alone. The Aboriginal people have used the plant life of Central Australia for thousands of years to supplement their diet of native game as well as for medicines, weapons, clothing and shelter.
For a much more comprehensive look at the plant life in the area, make sure you visit the Visitors Centre in Ayers Rock Resort while you're on your trip. In the meantime here's information about some of the more common species you'll notice when you're here.
Tjanpi - Spinifex "Spiky Donuts"
The spiny leaves of Tjanpi (Spinifex) are rolled into needles to conserve valuable moisture. Young plants are round. As a clump grows outwards the outer leaves take root. Eventually as the plant expands, the centre dies, producing rings. Old clumps become metres wide.
Tjanpi cools the sand for animals, provides food for grazing insects and mammals, and gives spiky protection. Your fingers or shins may have already told you how effective that protection is.
Kaliny - Kalinypa Honey Grevillea "Sweetshops"
The spectacular flowers of grevilleas make them popular in Australia gardens. But in the Central Desert they have a more important role. The flowers of Desert and Honey Grevilleas are full of nectar, attracting a host of insects and honeyeater birds. Look for beads of nectar glistening on these flowers in the early morning before the day shift of sweet tooths have their fill.
Kurkara - Desert Oak
One of the most distinctive and impressive trees of the pila and tali habitats is the Kurkara. Like many plants in the Central Desert, the Kurkara has modified leaves to reduce water loss. Its needles are made up of thin striped segments, leaf stalks, linked by a ring of projections, each of which is a tiny leaf.
This tough shrub is the most common shrub in puti and probably the most common in all of Australia. It is well equipped to survive dry hot conditions. Like most acacias, it has leaves that aren't really leaves at all but flattened leaf stalks called phyllodes. These reduced leaves lose less water vapour when the plant breathes than more traditional leaves. They are also silvery to reflect the heat and hang vertically to minimise the sunlight falling on them.