Marvelous Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Festival

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Royal Hakea in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Royal Hakea at “The Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival” in Western Australia. Sue Leighton Photos.

A Celebration of Western Australia’s Stunning Environment

By Megan Mentuck

Queen of Sheba wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Queen of Sheba wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia. John Tucker Photos.

On a cold winter evening here in Massachusetts, a woman named Sue Leighton stood halfway across the world looking over the Fitzgerald River National Park in Western Australia and told me about something very important to her… wildflowers.  Of course, it’s the middle of the Australian summer so this all makes sense.

The Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun region is home to about 25% of Western Australia’s wildflowers and about 2000 different species of wildflowers.

This stunning environment attracts both wildflower enthusiasts and flora alike, making it the perfect place to host the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival.

Held in the Ravensthorpe Town Hall, visitors can also visit the regional herbarium which is right next door.

The regional herbarium is the largest of its kind outside of the state’s herbarium and is home to around 1700 different species.

Started 39 Years Ago

Wildflower Show in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
A young visitor holds a vase of flowers at the wildflower show in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia. Sue Leighton Photos.

The show and festival, started 39 years ago by flower-enthusiast Jim McCulik, showcases wildflowers in the month of September.

Although there are wildflowers alive 365 days of the year in this region, September is thought to be the best season to witness their blooms.

The Ravensthorpe Show and Spring Festival enlist help from about 200 volunteers in the area who help cultivate the show.

In order to obtain the thousands of different wildflowers species that are displayed, licensed “pickers” scour the region while making sure to steer clear of the national parks in the area where wildflower picking is prohibited.

The Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun region is quaint, with a population of only a few thousand people.

Many people in the area work within some field tied to environmentalism like herbology or botany.

What should you do?

Although the area is not densely populated, the show itself attracts all kinds of different visitors from as far as Japan to London.

This may be because, as Sue Leighton put it, “We do offer a different wildflower show than anywhere else. We have so many events happening at the same time.”

Wildflower Show, Fitzgerald River National Park 10km Walk
The guided 10km walk through the Fitzgerald River National Park is a popular event at the wildflower show. Sue Leighton Photos.

One of the most popular events that are offered is the two-hour hot spot bus tours.

Royal Hakea wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Royal hakea wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia. Sue Leighton Photos.

These tours take visitors around the area to see the flowers in their natural habitat with an expert on board to answer any questions and tell them a bit about the plants.

Other events include everything from a community art exhibition to a book launch for local authors.

The Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival is not only a celebration of the region’s unique environmental setting—but also its connection to the community and the creativity which these wildflowers inspire.

Art & Wildflowers

At last year’s festival and show, the artist Jude Taylor came to run workshops and participate in the wildflower festivities. What makes Taylor’s work especially unique and fitting for the celebration is that she draws inspiration from the region’s environment, using western strain wildflowers to create her art.

Painting of a wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Hayley’s first attempt at a painting workshop led by an artist at the show inspired her to continue doing art and floristry. Sue Leighton Photos.

When I asked Sue Leighton about the connection between art and the wildflower show, she put it quite simply saying, “Nature has beautiful things to present to an artist who can then try to represent these things in their own way.”

The Festival has also branched out to include festivities in Hopetoun, the town next to it.

In Hopetoun, visitors of the festival can enjoy champagne while seeing the sunset over the Fitzgerald River National Park where many of the wildflowers bloom.

Bees!

Beyond being a celebration of the wildflowers in the area, the Festival honors everything in nature that allows that wildflower to survive.

One thing essential to these wildflowers’ survival is the bees in the area.

This year, Kit Pendergast will be at the show and festival. Kit Pendergast is a young scientist who focuses on researching native bees.

In conjunction with the upcoming show and festival, Kit Pendergast plans to visit a few different schools in the area to make “bee hotels”, which are a great way to attract local pollinators.

Wildflower Chandeliers

The show and festival aim to interest children in the area as well as adults. Sue Leighton told me about an eleven-year-old girl with whom she worked quite closely.

The girl’s mother and grandmother had both been involved in the herbarium and wildflower shows of the past. This little girl and Sue Leighton spent time together creating wildflower chandeliers for the show.

These wildflower chandeliers are stunning to visitors not only because of their beauty but also in their scent.

It’s the perfume of the flowers in the show that first greets visitors when they enter.

Wild Flower Chandelier, Western Australia, Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun
Wildflower chandelier at “The Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival.” Sue Leighton Photos.

Crowd Favorites at “The Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival”

Wildflower in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Royal hakea captured in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia. Sue Leighton Photos.

Visitors can appreciate the sight and smell of the flora and even look for specific species if they want to. The Queen of Sheba is an orchid native to the region admired for its bright coloring.

This orchid tends to get a lot of attention at the show. The Hakea of Victoria or “royal hakea” is another popular attraction for visitors.

Generally, visitors tend to flock toward the terrestrial orchids that vary in size, color, and shape—each has its own unique beauty.

Some of these orchids stand at less than half an inch high and therefore are fairly hard to find in the wild.

Some visitors will pull over in their cars and do their own wildflower hunt. As Sue Leighton put it, “Looking for that tiny, little flower is what people love to do.”

Eucalyptus Too!

Although the wildflowers are definitely the main attraction at the

Wildflower Show in Western Australia
Visitor Sarah Belli checks out the royal hakea. Sue Leighton Photos.

Festival it is also worth noting that the region is known as the “eucalyptus epicenter of the universe.” There are around 150 species of eucalyptus in the area.

The Eucalyptus Coranata is currently flowering. Although this type of eucalyptus is currently flowering, there are not many around so finding one of these gems is especially exciting.

The Importance of Community

In Ravensthorpe, wildflowers are an integral part of the community. They are part of what makes this region so special.

However, it’s clear to me that the draw of the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show and Spring Festival is not just the opportunity to see these unique beauties blooming in their natural habitat, but also meeting the flower enthusiasts of this region who make it all happen.

Painting wildflowers in Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
Toni painting, inspired by the wildflowers. Sue Leighton Photos.

This show and festival would not be possible without the passionate people who create it and the community which supports it. Leighton put it quite simply, saying, “[The] wildflower show is kind of our lives. It’s what we do.”