There are four dominant tree species throughout Australia's South West - jarrah, karri, tingle and tuart. All are unique to Western Australia and support a diverse range of fauna and other flora species in their associated forests. A great way to explore the region’s forests is by following one of the many sign-posted scenic drives. Some sections of these drives are on gravel roads, so please drive carefully and pay attention to road and weather conditions.
The diverse ecosystem of the jarrah forest is named after the dominant tree species 'jarrah' (Eucalyptus marginata). Jarrah trees grow up to 40 metres in height (130 feet) and can live up to 1,000 years. Its long, straight trunk of richly coloured and beautifully grained timber make it perfect for woodworking, and because it’s very durable, it’s also used as a structural material for building. For this reason, around half of the original jarrah forests that covered 3.9 million hectares from Perth to the South West have been destroyed by extensive logging and clearing for agriculture.
The jarrah forests that remain are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna species, including 150 birds, 29 mammals, 45 reptiles and over 1,200 plants and wildflowers. Excellent examples of jarrah forest can be found at the Collie River Valley and around the town of Nannup.
The Southern Forests area of Australia's South West is well known for its majestic karri forests. Typically found between Manjimup and Denmark, the smooth-barked karri tree (Eucalyptus diversicolor) grows up to 90 metres in height, making it the tallest tree in Western Australia and one of the world's tallest hardwood trees.
Other tree species that shelter beneath the mighty karri include the peppermint tree, so-called for the peppermint-like smell of its leaves when crushed, and the delicate karri sheoak. Come spring, a stunning display of wildflowers colours the forest, with the blues of tree hovea and native wisteria contrasting with the cream flowers of old man's beard and star-shaped crowea. The Brockman, Beedelup, Gloucester and Warren National Parks are excellent examples of these beautiful forests.
The Walpole-Nornalup National Park is the only place where the red tingle tree (Eucalyptus Jacksonii) is found. This buttressed, rough barked tree can live over 400 years and grows up to 75 metres in height, and with a girth of up to 26 metres, they have the largest base of all the eucalypts. There is also a yellow tingle tree (Eucalyptus guilfoyle) which doesn't grow as wide as the red tingle tree.
While tingle trees are often hollowed out by fire and fungal attack, their robust structure allows them to continue growing. An excellent example of this is the Giant Tingle Tree near Walpole. The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk gives visitors a different perspective of the tingle forest from 38 metres above the forest floor.
Tuart forest is one of the rarest ecosystems left on Earth and is only found along the Swan Coastal Plain, from Jurien Bay to Busselton in Western Australia. The dominant species within this forest is the tuart tree (Eucalyptus gomphocephala). Tuarts are characterised by grey bark and elongated, spiral-shaped leaves. They can grow up to 33 metres high, 10 metres in girth and live over 500 years. In the 1830s tuart timber was highly valued by millrights, shipwrights and wheelrights, as it is almost impossible to split or splinter the timber.
The tuart forest within Australia's South West is protected by the Tuart Forest National Park and is the largest area of pure tuart remaining in the world. The park is also home to a number of rare and endangered species including the Carnaby's black cockatoo, chuditch, brush-tailed phascogale, western ring-tailed possum and brush wallaby.