Skip to Content

Once in a lifetime - the Blue Mountains turn pink! My weekend adventure

Matthew Taylor (Philanthropy Executive)
Published 09 Mar 2021 
about   

Pink flannel-flower (Actinotus forsythia) – flower bud and open flower.  A cluster of individual florets surrounded by white feathery bracts.<br/> Pink flannel-flower (Actinotus forsythia) – flower bud and open flower. A cluster of individual florets surrounded by white feathery bracts.
Pink flannel-flower <em>(Actinotus forsythia)</em> – en masse.<br/> Pink flannel-flower (Actinotus forsythia) – en masse.
A scorched Banksia bush with a carpet of Pink Flannel Flowers beneath.<br/> A scorched Banksia bush with a carpet of Pink Flannel Flowers beneath.
View of Mount Solitary (left) and the end of Narrow-neck (right) near Katoomba in Blue Mts, NSW (taken with ultra-wide-angle lens).<br/> View of Mount Solitary (left) and the end of Narrow-neck (right) near Katoomba in Blue Mts, NSW (taken with ultra-wide-angle lens).
These are the cliffs the early explorers came up against as they tried to find a route west over the Blue Mts from Sydney in search of land for their stock.<br/> These are the cliffs the early explorers came up against as they tried to find a route west over the Blue Mts from Sydney in search of land for their stock.
As companion to this view a lovely Cunningham’s skink emerged from a rock shelf and casually hoovered up a few ants.<br/> As companion to this view a lovely Cunningham’s skink emerged from a rock shelf and casually hoovered up a few ants.
Whilst there weren’t many birds about (a consequence of the terrible fires) there were some splendid fungi,  insects and amazing plants in flower.<br/> Whilst there weren’t many birds about (a consequence of the terrible fires) there were some splendid fungi, insects and amazing plants in flower.
Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) – a classic Aussie shrub of heathlands and open woodlands. Quite spiny.<br/> Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) – a classic Aussie shrub of heathlands and open woodlands. Quite spiny.
A sundew (Drosera sp.) in flower. Those shiny sticky globules trap insects and other invertebrates. The plant then exudes digestive enzymes and absorbs vital nutrients from their bodies.<br/> A sundew (Drosera sp.) in flower. Those shiny sticky globules trap insects and other invertebrates. The plant then exudes digestive enzymes and absorbs vital nutrients from their bodies.
A Trigger plant (Stylidium sp).  Pollination is achieved through the use of a sensitive "trigger", which comprises the male and female reproductive organs fused into a floral column that snaps forward quickly in response to touch.<br/> A Trigger plant (Stylidium sp). Pollination is achieved through the use of a sensitive "trigger", which comprises the male and female reproductive organs fused into a floral column that snaps forward quickly in response to touch.
One of the many species of Blue butterflies resting on Slender Violet bush Hybanthus monopetalus.<br/> One of the many species of Blue butterflies resting on Slender Violet bush Hybanthus monopetalus.

This slightly overstated headline nevertheless captures the excitement of the weekend’s adventure in which I headed to the hills in search of a plant that was last seen (at this spot — Narrow neck near Katoomba, NSW) in 1957.  The Pink Flannel Flower (Actinotus forsythia) is found along the Great Dividing Range, south from Katoomba as far as northern Victoria. However! It's only ever seen after catastrophic fires followed by big rains, both of which are required for the long-lasting seeds to germinate.

The disastrous bushfires of early 2020 that burnt 80% of the Blue Mountains National Park, whilst decimating populations of many creatures, had created the perfect conditions for Pink Flannel Flowers with the subsequent good rains during spring and summer. Alerted to the display by my botanical buddies and realising this was potentially the only chance I’d ever get to see this plant, I made plans.

Realising I might never get the chance to see Pink Flannel Flowers again added to the tension of trying to find it.

Fortunately, there were lots of other people looking for them and plenty of National Parks staff to guide you.  And in their preferred habitat, in damp areas in eucalypt forests and heaths on shallow soils on sandstone, they can be locally abundant. Here it is, singly and en-masse.

The National Parks chap I talked to told a great story of a lady in her 90s coming to see them who told him the last time they had flowered here had been 64 years ago in 1957 when she was in her 30s, following a terrible fire that burnt down most of the township of Leura.

After the excitement of the Pink Flannel flowers a walk was in order and a trek along Narrow neck to Chapel Hill lookout provided the best views I’ve ever had in the Blue Mountains. Unlike the well-known lookouts where you can fall out of your car within 10 paces of the view, this one required a yomp through beautiful bush full of blooming wildflowers.

Arriving at the unfenced cliff edge I was greeted with a gob-smacking view. I was able to sit on the edge of the precipice dangling my legs into the void beneath with gentle breezes cooling my cheeks and the calls of Lyrebirds and Whipbirds floating up from the wet forests at the foot of the cliff below.  All the while watching delicate waterfalls plummet hundreds of metres from the escarpment edge against a backdrop of cumulus clouds. Heaven!

Pink flannel-flower <em>(Actinotus forsythia)</em> – en masse.<br/> Pink flannel-flower (Actinotus forsythia) – en masse.
A scorched Banksia bush with a carpet of Pink Flannel Flowers beneath.<br/> A scorched Banksia bush with a carpet of Pink Flannel Flowers beneath.
View of Mount Solitary (left) and the end of Narrow-neck (right) near Katoomba in Blue Mts, NSW (taken with ultra-wide-angle lens).<br/> View of Mount Solitary (left) and the end of Narrow-neck (right) near Katoomba in Blue Mts, NSW (taken with ultra-wide-angle lens).
These are the cliffs the early explorers came up against as they tried to find a route west over the Blue Mts from Sydney in search of land for their stock.<br/> These are the cliffs the early explorers came up against as they tried to find a route west over the Blue Mts from Sydney in search of land for their stock.
As companion to this view a lovely Cunningham’s skink emerged from a rock shelf and casually hoovered up a few ants.<br/> As companion to this view a lovely Cunningham’s skink emerged from a rock shelf and casually hoovered up a few ants.
Whilst there weren’t many birds about (a consequence of the terrible fires) there were some splendid fungi,  insects and amazing plants in flower.<br/> Whilst there weren’t many birds about (a consequence of the terrible fires) there were some splendid fungi, insects and amazing plants in flower.
Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) – a classic Aussie shrub of heathlands and open woodlands. Quite spiny.<br/> Mountain Devil (Lambertia formosa) – a classic Aussie shrub of heathlands and open woodlands. Quite spiny.
A sundew (Drosera sp.) in flower. Those shiny sticky globules trap insects and other invertebrates. The plant then exudes digestive enzymes and absorbs vital nutrients from their bodies.<br/> A sundew (Drosera sp.) in flower. Those shiny sticky globules trap insects and other invertebrates. The plant then exudes digestive enzymes and absorbs vital nutrients from their bodies.
A Trigger plant (Stylidium sp).  Pollination is achieved through the use of a sensitive "trigger", which comprises the male and female reproductive organs fused into a floral column that snaps forward quickly in response to touch.<br/> A Trigger plant (Stylidium sp). Pollination is achieved through the use of a sensitive "trigger", which comprises the male and female reproductive organs fused into a floral column that snaps forward quickly in response to touch.
One of the many species of Blue butterflies resting on Slender Violet bush Hybanthus monopetalus.<br/> One of the many species of Blue butterflies resting on Slender Violet bush Hybanthus monopetalus.