'Nameless' Sylvan Reserve

The subtropical rainforest protected at 'Nameless'. The subtropical rainforest protected by ‘Nameless' Sylvan Reserve.

Hidden within the steep entanglement of the NSW Illawarra Escarpment lies a small but magical place – 'Nameless' Sylvan Reserve.

The first Europeans to venture here would have been searching for red cedar, the tall, majestic rainforest trees that turn copper red when flushed with new growth.

Known by sawmillers as 'red gold' during the early days of colonial settlement, the species was highly prized on international markets and for many years was the most valuable tree species in NSW.

Now, along with the Illawarra subtropical rainforests it once dominated, it's a rarity protected only in a handful of places, including 'Nameless'.

This mesmerising place also hides Irwin's Creek, a playground for freshwater crayfish, platypus and swamp wallabies.

Below the rainforest canopy is an understory filled with native vines, lianas, shrubs and scramblers, and high up in the trees perch epiphytic ferns and orchids – plants that take nutrients from the bark and leaf litter of other plants.

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

What this reserve protects

Illawarra subtropical rainforest is an endangered ecological community in NSW and so its ongoing protection on this reserve is crucial. Species endemic to this type of rainforest and protected at ‘Nameless' include red cedar, giant stinging tree, brush bloodwood and native fig trees.

The reserve also protects these significant species and communities:

Platypus.Platypus. Photo: Dave Watts.
Subtropical rainforest.Subtropical rainforest.



  • Red cedar
  • White cedar
  • Native pepper

Vegetation communities

  • Illawarra escarpment subtropical rainforest (threatened)
  • Warm temperate rainforest
  • Escarpment moist blue gum forest
  • Moist coastal white box forest

What we’re doing on the property

Lantana - a real threat to native vegetation at 'Nameless'. Lantana - a real threat to native vegetation at ‘Nameless'. Photo: Wayne Lawler/Ecopix.

Introduced into Australia as an ornamental plant, lantana has become one of Australia's most debilitating invasive weeds.

At 'Nameless' this low, scrambling, woody shrub has smothered areas where there are breaks in the canopy, and is stopping native seeds still in the ground from regenerating naturally.

Removing this noxious weed will give the rainforest a fighting chance of self-renewal and lead to a healthier ecosystem.

With luck, this sort of bush regeneration will also result in the return of the noisy pitta, one of Australia's most spectacular rainforest birds.

Although it's been spotted only a few times in the Illawarra region in recent years, we'd be overjoyed to see it return to 'Nameless'.

What's in a name?

Louise Sylvan, President of the Bush Heritage Board, donated ‘Nameless’ Sylvan Reserve in 2007. Louise Sylvan, President of the Bush Heritage Board, donated ‘Nameless' Sylvan Reserve in 2007. Photo: becwalton.com.au

When this property was generously donated to Bush Heritage by Louise Sylvan, it came with subtropical rainforest, lyrebirds, and platypuses splashing in the creek.

But it didn't come with a name.

The title 'Nameless' was chosen by Louise's late husband Richard, a philosopher and environmentalist, whose foresight secured the land for conservation.

Richard Sylvan was interested in the philosophical question of what it means when we humans assign a name to something in the natural world.

According to Louise, 'the ambiguity of the reserve's name pleased him – the reserve is nameless, yet it does actually have a name'.

Cultural values

The steep terrain around 'Nameless' clearly shows signs of past occupation by local Aboriginal people and Bush Heritage is keen to develop a plan that gives traditional owners an interest in the management of this reserve.

‘Nameless' will always have deep cultural significance for Bush Heritage as the resting place of environmental activist and thinker Richard Sylvan.

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Page Last Updated: Wednesday 4 June 2014

'Nameless' Sylvan Reserve
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Quick facts

Established: 2007
Area: 54 ha
Location: 100km S of Sydney


Unfortunately, this reserve isn't open for self-guided visits.See visiting our reserves for other access opportunities.

Thank you

Thanks to all our supporters, whose donations fund the management of 'Nameless' Sylvan Reserve.

This property was generously donated to Bush Heritage by Louise Sylvan.