Charles Darwin

Darwin’s legacy lives on in Western Australia
Everlasting daisies now cover an old sheep paddock on Charles Darwin Reserve.Everlasting daisies now cover an old sheep paddock on Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo by Peter Houghton.

The sheep may be gone from this former pastoral station, but there's no shortage of animals roaming its ancient woodlands and wildflower-strewn plains.

Charles Darwin Reserve, named in honour of the great naturalist, lies to the north-east of Perth, on the northern edge of the Western Australian wheat belt.

The history of extensive clearing throughout south-west Western Australia makes the reserve an important refuge for animal and plant species that were once widespread in the region.

Charles Darwin Reserve falls largely within the Southwest Botanical Province, Australia's only internationally recognised biodiversity ‘hotspot'. However, the reserve straddles the boundary with the more arid Eremean Province to the north, creating an interesting ‘melting pot' of plant species.

Incredibly, plant species diversity in the Southwest Botanical Province is higher than that in Australian tropical rainforests.

All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

What this reserve protects

MalleefowlMalleefowl. Photo: Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies.

Acacia cerrastesAcacia cerrastes. Photo: Catherine Hunt.

Major Mitchell cuckatooMajor Mitchell cockatoo. Photo: Paul Evans.

The mallee scrub of Charles Darwin Reserve provides important habitat for the nationally vulnerable malleefowl, with a number of active nests found there in recent years.

Charles Darwin Reserve also protects these significant species and communities:


  • Bustard
  • Major Mitchell cockatoo
  • Regent parrot
  • White-tailed dunnart
  • Gilbert's dunnart
  • Strophurus michaelseni (a rare gecko)


  • Acacia cerastes (a rare, wiry wattle)
  • Sandalwood
  • Yellow featherflower
  • Leafless ballart
  • Nodding waxflower (Philotheca nutans)
  • Djarnokmurd (Hakea recurva)

Vegetation communities

  • Salmon gum woodland
  • York gum woodland
  • Granite outcrops and fringing vegetation
  • Callitris woodlands
  • Jam and black tamma shrubland on ironstone

What we’re doing on the property

Bush Heritage ecologist Dr Jim Radford measuring a malleefowl nest. Bush Heritage ecologist Dr Jim Radford measuring a malleefowl nest. Photo by Catherine Hunt.

Since the property came into our hands, with help from volunteers and neighbours, we've removed the last stray sheep, and tackled the dozens of species of weeds growing there.

Feral goats are a major threat on Charles Darwin Reserve, damaging plants and exacerbating soil erosion, so we have an ongoing goat control program to reduce their numbers.

And to protect ground-nesting birds (such as malleefowl) and ground-dwelling animals (such as dunnarts and reptiles), we have a regular fox-baiting program. The success of this program is being evaluated through a collaborative project with Edith Cowan University and Earthwatch Australia.

As part of a bigger picture, Charles Darwin Reserve is helping us understand the effects of a changing climate on Australian animals and plants. For the next 30 years, the reserve will be part of the Climate Change Observatory project – an ambitious initiative designed to see how our native species are responding to the expected drier and hotter weather.

Natural selection of a reserve

Chris Darwin and son Erasmus at Charles Darwin Reserve.

Chris Darwin and son Erasmus at Charles Darwin Reserve. Photo by Annette Ruzicka.

The eminent naturalist Charles Darwin had one great regret: that he didn't do more to help his fellow creatures.

Now, his great-great-grandson is doing just that.

A donation from Chris Darwin, Charles's Australia-based descendant, was critical in helping Bush Heritage acquire Charles Darwin Reserve in 2003.

Chris explains his reasons for supporting the reserve: ‘We share this planet with millions of other creatures, it's about time we started to share out the land so the other species can survive.'

‘We encourage like-minded individuals to take the leap: move from wealth to significance, because it is something that you will never regret.'

Cultural values

The reserve lies on the traditional lands of the Badimia, Widi and Binyardi peoples.

Charles Darwin Reserve, also known as White Wells Station, was previously operated as a sheep station. For more information, visit the Charles Darwin Reserve Community History website.

Page Last Updated: Wednesday 18 May 2011

Charles Darwin Reserve
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Quick facts

Established  2003
Area 68 600 ha
Location 355 km NE of Perth
60 km E of Perenjori

More about the reserve

For in-depth information visit the Charles Darwin Reserve Community History website.


Wildflowers of Charles Darwin Reserve

Wildflower bonanza on Charles Darwin Reserve (ABC Online)

Darwin's descendant becomes Bush Heritage Ambassador

RACWA staff volunteer for conservation

Climate Change Observatory project launch


Where we can, we offer opportunities for you to visit the places you've helped protect. We offer visits when conservation and safety considerations permit.

For information about camping at Charles Darwin see the visiting Charles Darwin Reserve page.

For information about visiting other Bush Heritage properties see the visiting our reserves page. 


Thank you to all our supporters, whose donations fund the day-to-day costs of managing Charles Darwin Reserve.

Generous support for the acquisition of this property was provided by the Australian Government under the National Reserve System Programme, and by Chris Darwin and Jacquie Courtney.