Our Coastal Heath

Coastal Plant Communities

The coastal cliffs from Christison Park at Vaucluse to South Head at Watsons Bay are natural hosts for a plant community known as Sydney Coastal Sandstone Headland Heath.

Coastal heath with a banksia, acacia and grevillea flowering.

What plants belong on our headland reserves?

These headland locations are windswept and salt-sprayed with thin sandy soils that prevent the growth of tall trees. The plants that naturally occur along Sydney's headlands include a great diversity of shrubs such as banksias, acacias, kunzeas, hakeas and epacris, along with ground covers, vines and a few grasses. Depending on the landform there may also be a few small or stunted trees. Headland heath supports a range of threatened species, such as Acacia terminalis subsp. Eastern Sydney (Sunshine Wattle).

A display of heathland wildflowers from different seasons. 

Why is heathland vegetation important?

Heathland species provide a spectacular display of wildflowers that are enjoyed by our community and the local wildlife. The plentiful supply of pollen and nectar from these plants attracts an array of nectar-feeding birds and mammals, which also feed on insects drawn by the abundance of flowers. The dense and sometimes prickly growth of heathland plants also provides protection for small birds, reptiles and ground-dwelling mammals.

Image: David CookRed Wattlebirds are often seen and heard feeding in the banksias at Lighthouse Reserve.

What birds live here?

Our coastal heathland reserves provide havens that help to ensure many species of small birds remain in our area. Superb Fairy Wrens, Eastern Spinebills, Pardalotes, Grey Fantails. White-browed Scrub Wrens and Red Wattlebirds are just some of the local birds that rely on these thickets of dense vegetation. Next time you’re visiting Gap Park take a few moments to sit quietly near Jacobs Ladder lookout and you’re likely to hear and see some of these small bird species.

Several striking species of Banksias are found in our coastal heath including Banksia ericifolia.

Why are we planting in these areas?

Much of our heathland has been cleared for development and remnant areas are impacted by weeds, changes in natural fire cycles and trampling by people and dogs. By extending the remaining heathland areas and reintroducing plants for greater diversity and density we strengthen the habitat value and beautify our area.

Over the last 5 years our National Tree Day planting sites have been supporting revegetation of these heathland areas. Several dense plantings around Christison Park and Lighthouse Reserve have been planted by dozens of volunteers and cared for by our Bushland Maintenance team.

Before and after: seedlings planted at Christison Park in July 2022 and well-established by July 2023

What species are we planting?

Below is a list of local heathland species our community will be planting at Christison Park on National Tree Day 2023.

If you're interested to learn more and help care for our heathland plant communities consider joining one of our Bushcare volunteer groups.




Acacia myrtifolia

Red-stemmed Wattle

Shrub 0.3–3 m high, pale yellow to white flowers

Actinotus helianthi

Flannel Flower

Herb 30–90 cm high, white flowers

Astroloma pinifolium/humifusum

Pine Heath

Shrub, 50–100 cm high, red and yellow flowers

Baeckea imbricata

Heath myrtle

Shrub to 1 m high, white flowers

Banksia aemula

Wallum Banksia

Shrub or tree to 8 m high, pale yellow to greenish cream flowers

Banksia ericifolia

Heath-leaved Banksia

Small tree or shrub to 6 m high, golden-brown flowers

Banksia marginata

Silver Banksia

Small tree or shrub to 12 m high, pale yellow flowers

Banksia spinulosa

Hairpin Banksia

Shrub to 3 m high, yellow or golden flowers

Bauera rubioides

River Rose

Shrub to 2 m high, pink flowers

Correa alba

White Correa

Shrub to 1.5 m high, white flowers

Dianella congesta

Beach Flax Lily

Herb to 1 m high, flowers dark blue

Dichelachne crinita

Longhair Plume Grass

Perennial grass to 1.5 m tall

Gonocarpus teucrioides


Herb or subshrub, usually 20–40 cm high, flowers green to red

Grevillea buxifolia

Grey Spider Flower

Shrub 0.5–2 m high, flowers grey-brown

Grevillea speciosa

Red Spider Flower

Shrub 0.4–3 m high, red flowers

Hakea gibbosa


Shrub 1–3 m high, yellowish white flowers

Hakea teretifolia


Shrub 1–3 m high, white to yellowish flowers

Imperata cylindrica

Blady Grass

Perennial grass to 1.2 m tall

Indigofera australis

Australian Indigo

Shrub up to 2.5 m tall, mauve flowers

Isopogon anemonifolius

Broad-leaf Drumsticks

Shrub 1–1.5 m high, yellow flowers

Kunzea ambigua

Tick Bush

Shrub to 3.5 m high, white flowers

Leptospermum laevigatum

Coast Teatree

Small tree or shrub to > 4 m high, white flowers

Lobeliaalata(Lobelia anceps)

Angled lobelia

Herb to 50cm long, flowers blue to white

Lomandra longifolia

Spiny-headed mat-rush

Perennial herb 50-100 cm tall

Melaleuca armillaris

Bracelet Honey Myrtle

Shrub to 5 m high with hard or corky bark, white flowers

Melaleuca hypericifolia

Hillock Bush

Shrub to 6 m high, red flowers

Olearia tomentosa

Toothed Daisy-bush

Shrub to 2 m high, flowers blue or white

Platysace lanceolata

Shrubby Platysace

Shrub 60–150 cm high, white or cream flowers

Scaevola ramosissima

Purple Fan-flower

Herb to 40 cm high, flowers pale violet to purple

Sporobolus Virginicus

Sand Couch

Perennial grass to 70 cm tall

Westringia fruticosa

Coastal Rosemary

Shrub to 1.5 m high, white flowers

Woollsia pungens

Snow wreath

Shrub usually 20–100 cm, flowers white to dark pink

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