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Flora and vegetation of banded iron formations of the

Yilgarn Craton: Mount Forrest – Mount Richardson







Science Division, Department of Environment and Conservation, PO Box 51,

Wanneroo, Western Australia, 6946. Email: Rachel.Meissner@dec.wa.gov.au

Current Address: Avon Natural Diversity Alliance (ANDA), Department of Environment

and Conservation, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre WA 6983.


A study of the flora and plant communities of the banded ironstone range of Mount Forrest – Mount Richardson

found 114 taxa, with a single introduced taxon. Four priority taxa and 5 taxa with significant range extensions

(> 100km) were found. Fifty one quadrats were established to cover the major geographical, geomorphological and

floristic variation across the range. Data from 51 of these quadrats were used to define seven community types.

Differences in communities were strongly correlated with soil fertility, landform and underlying geology. The

communities described were not similar to those found on nearby ironstone ranges. None of the plant communities

found on the Mount Forrest – Mt Richardson are currently in secure conservation reserves.


 Science W. Aust. 7 (2) : 377–389 (2009)


Regional surveys of the eastern goldfields (Milewski &

Dell, 1992; Keighery et al. 1995) and previous studies on

the Archaean ironstone and greenstone ranges in the

Goldfields area of the Yilgarn Craton have found patterns

of high plant endemism and restricted plant communities

(Gibson  et al. 1997; Gibson & Lyons 1998a, 1998b;

Gibson & Lyons 2001a, 2001b; Gibson 2004a, 2004b).

More recent surveys of the banded iron formation ranges

of the northern Yilgarn Craton have also shown these

patterns (Markey & Dillon, 2008a, 2008b; Meissner &

Caruso, 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). These ancient ranges are

also of significant interest for base metals and recent

growth in iron ore exports to China has resulted in an

increase in exploration and mining activities on these


This study covers the Mount Forrest - Mt Richardson

ironstone range, partly located in the proposed Ida Valley

- Mt Forrest Conservation Park, and formerly a part of

the Bulga Downs pastoral lease. The proposed

Conservation Park is approximately 84 000 ha and located

about 100 km southeast of Sandstone within the

Murchison Bioregion (Interim Biogeographic

Regionalisation of Australia - IBRA); Department of the

Environment and Water Resources 2004). In addition,

the proposed park currently includes active exploration


The Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson ranges occur

on the Youanmi Terrane and are part of the northern

section of the Illaara Greenstone Belt, which extends

southwest approximately 100 km. The ranges are

characterized by strike ridges and subrounded hills, with

prominent ridges of banded iron formations and chert

(Chen 2004, Cassidy et al. 2006). Mt Forrest and Mt

Richardson have the thickest unit of banded iron formation

and are the highest points in the belt, at 596 and 554 m

above sea level respectively (Stewart et al. 1983). In

addition, the banded iron formation is often intercalated

with tuffaceous mafic and ultramafic rocks (Stewart et al.


The climate of the region is semi-desert Mediterranean

with mild wet winter and hot dry summers (Beard 1990).

Mean annual rainfall at Cashmere Downs Station (ca.

30km west of the range) is 252.9 mm, with moderate

seasonal variation over the 83 years of record (1919–2002:

decile 1, 128.5 mm; decile 9, 426.9 mm). Mean rainfall

is spread throughout the year, with little difference

between winter and summer. The highest maximum

temperatures occur during summer, with January as the

hottest month (mean maximum temperature 36 °C and

mean 6.2 days above 40°C). Winters are mild with lowest

mean maximum temperatures recorded for July of 17.5°C.

Temperatures occasionally fall below 0 °C in winter (a

mean 0.9 days below 0°C), with a mean minimum of 5.9°

C in July.

Floristic sur veys in the eastern goldfield have

described the vegetation of the ironstone ranges at a very

coarse scale. Beard (1976) mapped the range, as well as

several other ironstone ranges in the region, as shrublands

of mulga and Acacia quadrimarginea scrub at a scale of

1:1 000 000. At a scale of 1:500 000, Payne et al. (1998)

described the Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson range

© The Government of Western Australia, 2009


R. Meissner 

et al.

as part of the Brooking Land system. This system was

composed mainly of ridges, hill slopes and stony plains of

stony ironstone Mulga shrublands, composed of Acacia

aneura occurring with other Acacia spp. (Acacia burkittii,

A. quadrimarginea

Acacia ramulosa and

Acacia tetragonophylla) over an understorey of Eremophila

spp. (Eremophila forrestii and Eremophila latrobei),

Rhagodia eremaea,  Scaevola spinescens and Sida


Recent more detailed vegetation mapping (c. 1:35

000) in the Mt Forest – Mt Richardson area covering both

the ranges and the surrounding sandplain identified a

number of structural units on the three major landforms,

sandplain (7 units), stony plains and low hills (6 units),

band ironstone ridges (4 units) and two minor units

associated with drainage lines (Outback Ecology Services

2007). A total of 118 taxa were recorded in this July survey.

This study also includes an analysis of the composition of

presence/absence data of 30 quadrats sampling all three

major landforms and reported significant compositional

difference between them. The resultant ordination shows

the sandplain units to be distinct but the difference

between the stony plains and hill and the banded ironstone

ridges is less clear.

The aim of the current survey was to document further

the flora and the plant communities that occur on the

ironstone range of Mount Forrest and Mount Richardson

area. This was done through compiling detailed flora lists

and community descriptions based upon 51 permanently

established quadrats on the range. This survey is part of a

continuing series investigating the flora and vegetation of

banded iron formation ranges across the Yilgarn.

Figure 1. Location of the study area and distribution of the 51 quadrats ( ) on the Mount Forrest – Mount Richardson range.

Mount Forrest is the highest peak (

Δ) on the range. Shaded area represents the proposed conservation park. The 500m contour is


Flora and vegetation of Mount Forrest–Mount Richardson Range



The methodology employed in this survey follows the

standard procedure used in previous vegetation surveys

of other ironstone and greenstone ranges in Western

Australia (Gibson and Lyons 1998a, 1998b, 2001a,

2001b; Gibson 2004a, 2004b; Markey and Dillon 2008

a, 2008b). Fifty one 20 x 20 m quadrats were established

on the crests, slopes and foot slopes of Mount Forrest -

Mount Richardson ranges in August 2006 (Figure 1).

These quadrats were established strategically in the

vegetation on the BIF and adjacent geologies to cover

the major geographical, geomorphological and floristic

variation found in the study area. Each quadrat was

permanently marked with four steel fence droppers and

their positions determined using a GPS unit. All vascular

plants within the quadrat are recorded and collected for

later identification at the Western Australian Herbarium


Data on topographical position, disturbance,

abundance, size and shape of coarse fragments on surface,

the amount of exposed bedrock, cover of leaf litter and

bare ground were recorded following McDonald et al.

(1990). Additionally, growth form, height and cover

classes were recorded for dominant taxa in each stratum

(tallest, mid- and lower). The quantitative data were used

to describe the plant communities following McDonald

et al. (1990).

Twenty soil samples were collected from the upper 10

cm of the soil profile within each quadrat. The soil was

bulked and the 2 mm fraction extracted using the Mehlich

No. 3 procedure (Mehlich 1984). The extracted samples

were analysed for B, Ca, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, K, Mg, Mn,

Mo, Na, Ni, P, Pb, S and Zn using an Inductively Coupled

Plasma - Atomic Emission Spectrometer (ICP-AES). This

procedure is an effective and cost efficient alternative to

traditional methods for evaluating soil fertility and has

been calibrated for Western Australian soils (Walton and

Allen 2004). pH was measured in 0.01M CaCl


 at soil to

solution ratio of 1:5. Organic carbon was measured on

soil ground to less than 0.15 mm using Metson’s

colorimetric modification of the Walkley and Black method

6A1 (Metson 1956; Walkley 1947). It involved wet

oxidation by a dichromate-sulfuric acid mixture, which

produced enough heat to induce oxidation of the organic

carbon (Rayment and Higgenson 1992). Total nitrogen

was measured using the Kjeldahl method 7A2 (Rayment

and Higgenson 1992). The nitrogen was measured as




-N by automated colorimetry by the nitroprusside/

dichloro-S-triazine modification (Blakemore et al. 1987)

of the Berthelot indophenol reaction reviewed by Searle

(1984). Electrical conductivity (EC) was based on a 1:5

soil/deionised water extract and measured by a

conductivity meter at 25° C (Rayment and Higgenson


Quadrats were classified on the basis of similarity in

species composition on perennial species only. This was

to facilitate comparison and to be consistent with other

analyses of banded ironstone ranges (Gibson & Lyons

1998a, 1998b, 2001a, 2001b; Gibson 2004a, 2004b;

Markey and Dillon 2008a, 2008b) as surveys in semi-arid

regions can occur in years with below average rainfall

resulting in a patchy distribution of annuals (e.g. Gibson

& Lyons 1998a). The quadrat and species classifications

were undertaken using the Bray - Curtis coefficient

followed by Flexible UPGMA (Unweighted pair-group

mean average; 

β = –0.1; Belbin 1989) clustering. The Bray

– Curtis coefficient is commonly used in ecological studies

especially in presence/ absence datasets (Belbin 1989;

Clarke et al. 2006) while Flexible UPGMA is an effective

method of recovering true group structure (Belbin &

McDonald 1993). PATN uses a beta value of -0.1 in

Flexible UPGMA to dilate and counteract the known

underestimation of larger association values (Belbin 1989;

Belbin  et al. 1992). Indicator species and species

assemblages characterising each community were

determined following Dufréne and Legendre (1997) using

INDVAL routine in PC-ORD (McCune and Mefford

1999). Quadrats were ordinated using SSH (semi-strong

hybrid multidimensional scaling), a non parametric

approach and does not presume any underlying model of

species response gradients. Correlations of environmental

variables were determined using PCC (Principal

Component Correlation) routine and significance

determined by MCAO (Monte Carlo Attributes in

Ordination) routine in PATN (Belbin 1989). PCC uses

multiple linear regressions of variables in the three

dimensional ordination space (Belbin 1989). Statistical

relationships between quadrat groups were tested using

Kruskal-Wallis non parametric analysis of variance (Siegel

1956), followed by Dunn’s Multiple comparison test (Zar


Nomenclature generally follows Paczkowska and

Chapman (2000).



A total of 114 taxa were recorded from Mount Forrest -

Mount Richardson range, from quadrats and opportunistic

collections. The flora were represented by 29 families in

60 genera (Appendix 1) covering both the banded iron

formation and associated mafic substrates but largely

excluding sandplain. The dominant families were

Myrtaceae (21 taxa), Poaceae (15), Myoporaceae (13),

Mimosaceae (9) and Amaranthaceae (5), while the

representative genera were Eremophila (13 taxa), Acacia

(9), and Eucalyptus (7). A single introduced taxon to the

State, Pentaschistis airoides subsp. airoides, was recorded.

Rare and Priority Flora

Four priority flora were recorded within the survey area.

• Aluta teres is a Priority 1 taxon in the Myrtaceae and

was first collected in 1992 on Bulga Downs pastoral

lease. Prior to this survey, this species was known

only from the holotype. It is closely related to Aluta


R. Meissner 

et al.

aspera but is easily distinguished by prominent

recurved apicula on the leaves and bracteoles (Rye

& Trudgen 2000). It was restricted to the northern

end of the range.

• Beyeria lapidicola belongs in the Euphorbiaceae and

is Priority 2 taxon. It was first collected in the 2005

survey of the Mt Forrest - Mt Richardson range

(Outback Ecology Services 2007). It appears to be

an ironstone endemic with other recent collections

of the taxon on Weld Range and the banded ironstone

range west of Wiluna.

• Baeckea sp. Melita Station (H. Pringle 2738)

 is a Priority 3 myrtaceous shrub to 2.5 m with

distinctive pointed and hooked golden green leaves.

The nearest population located 100 km to the east,

and represents a significant range extension.

• Euryomyrtus patrickiae is a Priority 3 taxa in the

Myrtaceae. A shrub to 1 m with light pink flowers.

A single specimen was collected from the northern

part of the range growing in red sand.

Range Extensions

In addition to new records of priority flora, the survey

extended the range of four taxa, including one Priority

taxon, Baeckea sp. Melita Station (H. Pringle 2738).

• Cheilanthes adiantoides is a small rhizomatous,

perennial fern often associated with rocky sites.

Recent collections in previous ironstone surveys

extended it’s range to the Yalgoo IBRA region. The

collections from this survey extend the taxon’s eastern

extent, with the nearest population approximately

300 km to the west.

• Cheilanthes brownii is another distinctive perennial

fern found growing in cracks within the rocky

outcrops on the range. It is a small fern with densely

woolly fronds and can be confused for Cheilanthes

sieberi subsp. pseudovellea, the latter having twisted

hairs on the pinnules. An additional collection was

made at the nearby Cashmere Downs Range, 30 km

to the west Both collections extend the eastern range

by 300 km.

• Leptospermum fastigiatum is a myrtaceous shrub to

3m with white flowers. It was an opportunistic

collection from the sandplains north of the range

which increased the taxon’s northwest extent. The

nearest population is approximately 200 km south


Plant Communities

A total of 103 taxa (including 80 perennials) were recorded

in the 51 quadrats. Sixty eight taxa occurred in more than

one quadrat. Final analysis was conducted using perennial

species occurring in two or more quadrats. Preliminary

analysis showed high correlations between the dissimilarity

matrix derived from the full data set and that with the

annual species and singletons were removed (r = 0.981).

This indicates that with the removal of annuals and

singletons, there is little difference between the two

dissimilarity matrices and therefore the outcome would

be similar. In the final analysis, 57 perennial species from

51 quadrats were analysed.

Six communities were elucidated from the

classification, based upon groupings that were ecologically

sound (Figure 2). Communities 2 and 3 (upland sites)

were distinguished from Communities 4 and 5

(communities on colluvial or mafic sites), as well as two

species poor sites. These sites were then separated from

the species poor mulga sites on lower slopes (Community

1). From the dendrogram, Community 6, a spinifex

community found in northern part of the range, was clearly

separated from the other communities. The two species

poor quadrats were found on a lower slope and crest of

banded ironstone, the latter heavily grazed by feral goats.

The two quadrats can not be confidently described as a

community type, with only two shared perennial species.

Figure 2. Dendrogram of 7 group level classification of the 51

quadrats established on Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson

range. * represents the species poor quadrats (BULG39 and

BULG48). Dissimilarity is based upon the Bray-Curtis

dissimilarity measure (dilated using 

β = –0.1).

Flora and vegetation of Mount Forrest–Mount Richardson Range


Community 1 – The community is found on lower slopes

of banded iron formation ridges and hills. It can be

described as open shrublands and mallee shrublands of

Acacia aneura and Eucalyptus kingsmillii subsp.

kingsmillii over sparse shrublands of Eremophila forrestii

subsp. forrestii over isolated grassland and shrublands of

Monachather paradoxus and Sida calyxhymenia. It is

characterised by Species Group A and D. Indicator species

are  E. forrestii subsp. forrestii,  M. paradoxus,  Sida

chrysocalyx,  Acacia aneura var. microcarpa,  Acacia

ramulosa var. ramulosa and E. kingsmillii subsp. kingsmillii

(Table 1). This community had low mean species richness

with 8.3 (± 2.3 SE) taxa per quadrat.

Community 2 – This was the most common community

found on the range, occurring mainly on the upper slopes

and crests of banded ironstone. It can be described as

open woodlands and shrublands of A. aneura,  A.

quadrimarginea,  Acacia cocker toniana,  Callitris

columellaris and Grevillea berryana over sparse to open

shrubland of Eremophila glutinosa,  Drummondita

microphylla,  Thryptomene decussata,  Baeckea sp. Melita

Station (H. Pringle 2738), Dodonaea petiolaris,  Aluta

aspera subsp. hesperia over sparse fernland of Cheilanthes

sieberi subsp. sieberi. It is characterised by Species Groups

A and B, and characterised by indicator species C. sieberi

subsp. sieberiE. glutinosaD. petiolaris and T. decussata

(Table 1). It had a mean species richness of 12.9 (± 2.8

SE) taxa per quadrat.

Community 3 – This community occurred on the crests

and slopes of the banded ironstone range. It is described

as shrublands to open shrublands of A. quadrimarginea,

A. cockertonianaC. columellaris over shrubland to open

shrublands of Eremophila spp. (E. glutinosaEremophila

georgei,  Eremophila conglomerata and E. forrestii subsp.

forrestii), D. microphyllaOlearia humilis and A. aspera

subsp. hesperia over sparse to open shrubland and fernland

of C. sieberi subsp. sieberi and Prostanthera althoferi subsp.

althoferi. It is characterised by taxa from Species Groups

A, B and F. Indicator species were S. chrysocalyx,  E.

glutinosaA. cockertoniana and P. althoferi subsp. althoferi

(Table 1). It had a mean species richness of 10.4 (± 2.5

SE) taxa per quadrat.

Community 4 – Communities of lower slopes of banded

ironstone found mainly in the valley between the two strike

ridges (Figure 1) and found on colluvial soils. Shrublands

of  A. aneura,  Acacia ramulosa var. ramulosa and A.

quadrimarginea over shrublands of Eremophila spp.

(Eremophila oldfieldii subsp. angustifoliaE. conglomerata

and E. georgei), Dodonaea adenophoraD. microphylla and

Ptilotus obovatus var. obovatus over grassland and fernland

of  Eriachne pulchella and C. sieberi subsp. sieberi.

Characterised by taxa from Species Groups A, B and D

(Table 1). Indicator species were Acacia exocarpoides and

D. adenophora with a mean species richness of 13.6 (±

2.9 SE) taxa per quadrat.

Community 5 – This community was located on the

midslopes of Mount Forrest growing on metabasalt

bedrock. It is described as open mallee shrublands of

Eucalyptus spp. (Eucalyptus carnei and Eucalyptus

gypsophila) and A. aneura over of Eremophila pantonii,

D. adenophoraDodonaea lobulata and Philotheca brucei

subsp.  brucei over sparse shrubland of P. obovatus var.

obovatusD. microphylla and D. petiolaris over fernland of

C. sieberi subsp. sieberi. It is characterised by taxa from

Species Group A, B and H. Indicator species were P.

obovatus var. obovatusD. lobulataE. pantoniiE. carnei

and P. brucei subsp. brucei (Table 1), with a mean species

richness of 13.6 (± 5.2 SE) taxa per quadrat.

Community 6 – This community occurred in the northern

area of the range where the sandplain was accumulating

against the side of the range. It is described as sparse to

open mallee shrublands and shrublands of Eucalyptus

oldfieldiiA. quadrimarginea and A. aneura over sparse

to open shrubland of Calothamnus gilesii and characterised

by Species Group I. Indicators species were Aluta teres,

Verticordia helmsiiTriodia lanigeraHibbertia arcuata,

E. oldfieldii and C. gilesii over shrubland and hummock

grassland of H. arcuataA. teres and T. lanigera (Table

1). It had a mean species richness of 11.7 (± 4.2 SE) taxa

per quadrat.

Environmental Parameters

Given the large floristic differences between Community

6 and the other communities, the ordination excluded

these quadrats in order to better elucidate the relationships

between the remaining quadrats. The patterns in soil

chemistry found in the univariate analyses were also

correlated with the location of sites in the three

dimensional ordination (stress = 0.18, Figure 3A).

Calcium, magnesium, nickel, manganese, cobalt, pH and

ECEC all increased toward Community 5, in the lower

left quadrant (Figure 3B). Organic carbon, iron and

maximum surficial rock size higher in the upper left

quadrant, corresponding to sites of Community 2, while

conversely, these were all lower in Communities 1, 3 and

4 (Figure 3B).

All soil chemical parameters, except cadmium, showed

significant differences between communities in the non-

parametric univariate analysis. Community 6, the spinifex

community, occurred on sandy soil with the poorest soil

nutrition, with the lowest phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen

and organic carbon (Table 2). It is also has the lowest

values of calcium, cobalt, copper, manganese,

molybdenum, sodium, nickel, sulphur, zinc, eCEC and


Aside from Community 6, the main differences in soil

chemistry occurred between the Eucalyptus community

on meta basalt (or mafic) bedrock (Community 5) and

the communities 1, 2 and 3. Soils at Community 5 were

the most fertile and had a significantly higher pH and

greater concentration of molybdenum than Communities

1, 2 and 3. Community 1 tended to occur on less fertile

soils and lower concentrations of micro nutrients than

Community 5. Community 3 showed a similar pattern to

Community 1 except for significantly lower concentrations

of potassium, copper and nickel than Community 5.

Community 2, occurring on the crests and slopes of the

ranges, was lower in cobalt, copper, manganese and nickel

than Community 5, but was significantly higher in


R. Meissner et al.

Figure 3. A. Three dimensional ordination showing Axis 1 and 2 of 47 quadrats, excluding community 7, established on Mount

Forrest – Mount Richardson range showing community type. “ represent species poor sites (BULG39 and BULG48). B. Best

fit linear correlated variables (P<0.05) shown as lines representing the strength and direction of the correlation.

phosphorus to Community 4, significantly higher in iron

than Communities 1, 3 and 4 and total nitrogen to

Community 1.

In general, Community 4 was intermediate in soil

nutrients between Community 5 and Communities 1, 2

and 3, except for lower concentrations of phosphorus and

iron when compared to Community 2 and lower organic

carbon than Community 5. Community 4 differed from

7 in percentage organic carbon, otherwise the remaining

soil chemicals were not significantly different in the post-

hoc tests (Table 2).

Only four of the eight site parameters were significantly

different between community types (Table 3). Community

5 occurred at significantly higher elevation than

Community 1. Community 5 was only located on the

midslopes around Mount Forrest while Community 1

primarily occurred on the lower slopes of the range.

Community 1 and 4 had smaller surficial rock size than

Community 2. Community 2 also had lower amount of

leaf litter than Community 5 and occurred on much

steeper slopes than Communities 1 and 3.


In this survey, a total of 114 taxa were recorded, this

included 65 taxa not recorded in an earlier survey of this

range (Outback Ecology Services 2007). However the

present survey was restricted to the range and did not

include the sandplain that formed a large area of the

previous survey.

The banded ironstone range on Cashmere Downs

pastoral lease some 30 km to the west were also surveyed

in 2006 (Meissner et al. 2009), where 139 taxa were

recorded. These figures contrast with 287 taxa that were

previously recorded from the Hunt Range, Yendelberrin

and Watt Hills, approximately 160 km south (Gibson &

Lyons 2001b) and 238 taxa on the Mount Manning

Range, 140 km south east (Gibson 2004a). Both the

Mount Manning and Hunt Range floras had higher

numbers of annuals represented due to good winter and

spring rains. In contrast, the Mount Forrest – Mt

Richardson and Cashmere Downs Ranges had below

average rainfall, with less than 20 mm in the two months

preceding the survey. Twenty percent of the flora were

annuals, compared with nearly 30% and 40% of flora as

annuals recorded on Mount Manning and Hunt Range

respectively (Gibson & Lyons 2001b, Gibson 2004a).

The Mount Forrest – Mount Richardson Range also

had a lower number of perennial taxa (93 taxa cf. 142 and

148 on Mount Manning and Hunt Range respectively).

These latter ranges are at the northern extent of the South

West Interzone, where floral elements of the Southwest

and Eremaean Botanical Provinces intermingle (Beard et

al. 2000). This boundary also marks the transition from

low shrublands of Acacia (mainly mulga) in the drier north

to euclaypt woodlands in the more mesic south. The

differences between Mount Forrest and the ranges further

south highlights this transition and may possibly explain

the difference in the number of perennials and total

number of taxa.

Several priority species were recorded in the survey.

However no new taxa were discovered. Prior to the survey,

Aluta teres was known only from the type specimen. In

this survey, it was only found growing in Community 7,

the spinifex community in the northern section of the


Previous surveys of ironstone have shown high plant

endemicity (Markey & Dillon, 2008 a, 2008b; Meissner

& Caruso, 2008 a, 2008b, 2008c) on individual ranges.

Flora and vegetation of Mount Forrest–Mount Richardson Range


In this survey, Beyeria lapidicola was found only in the

Mount Forrest area on the crests of the ironstone range.

Additional surveys by consultants have confirmed that it

is restricted to a 700 m area of the banded ironstone

ridgeline (Outback Ecology Services 2007). This species

appears to be an ironstone endemic. However it is not

restricted to the Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson

Range, as other specimens were collected from other

ironstone ranges on the Yilgarn Craton, namely the Weld

Range, northwest of Cue, and an ironstone range west of

Wiluna. This survey also increased collections of A.

cockertoniana, a species largely restricted to other ironstone

ranges in the region.

The soil substrate and chemistry was the major factor

separating the floristic communities on the range, the

spinifex community (Community 7) growing on sandy

soils located in the northern end of the range on the

poorest soils, while the Eucalyptus community

(Community 5) found on soil derived from mafic bedrock

in at higher elevations around Mount Forrest occurs on

the richest. Both these communities are restricted on the

range. The spinifex community appears to be a transitional

community, growing where sandplains to the north meet

and overlays the banded ironstone. The community

contains floral elements from the sandplain community

(ie. the T. lanigera, C. gilesii and E. oldfieldii) and those

from ironstone communities (e.g. A. aneura,

A. quadrimarginea,  A. cockertoniana,  Eremophila


The soil chemistry of the Eucalyptus community

(Community 5) is characteristic of soils derived from mafic

bedrock. Mafic rocks are generally higher in phosphorus,

manganese, potassium, calcium, zinc, and magnesium

(Gray & Murphy 2002). The difference in soil chemistry

clearly limits the species that can grow there, as shown by

the high constancy of several species such as D. lobulata

and E. pantonii (Table 1).

In contrast, the main Communities 2 and 3 on the

range possess intermediate soil nutrition between the

communities on poor, sandy soils and the rich, mafic sites.

These two communities are characterised as shrublands

of  A. aneura,  A. quadrimarginea over shrublands E.

glutinosa and E. latrobei subsp. latrobei, and occurred from

the midslopes to crests across the entire range. The

relationship between these two communities is close, as

shown in the dendrogram and ordination, and differed

only in several indicator species i.e A. cockertoniana and

P. althoferi subsp. althoferi (Community 3) and D. petiolaris

and T. decussata (Community 2). As well as differences in

floristic composition, Community 2 occurs on slightly

richer soils than Community 3, with higher organic

carbon, phosphorus, iron and potassium.

The present survey shows that the communities on

the Mount Forrest – Mount Richardson Range show the

same soil - landscape patterns as described for other banded

ironstone ranges with characteristic communities occurring

on the crest and slopes of ironstone (Markey & Dillon

2008 a, 2008b; Meissner & Caruso 2008a, 2008b,

2008c). The communities described also fall within the

broad category of the stony Acacia shrublands (Payne et

al. 1998), except for the Eucalypt Community 5 and the

sandplain Community 7. The latter falls within the

sandplain spinifex hummock grassland habitat group,

found within the Marmion Landsystem (Payne et al.

1998). In comparison to recent survey work, all

communities except Community 5 occur within the broad

categories as described by Outback Ecology Services (2007).

The lower slope and colluvial communities 1 and 4 are

consistent with Acacia woodlands on stony plains/ low hills,

Communities 2 and 3, found on the crests and slopes of

the range correspond to the Acacia Woodland on Banded

Ironstone Ridge, while the sandplain community

(Community 7) corresponded to Eucalypt Tree Mallee on

sandplain (Outback Ecology Services, 2007).

Currently, none of this range is in secure conservation

reserve. However, part of the Mount Forrest – Mount

Richardson Range is within a proposed conservation park,

the Ida Valley – Mt Forrest Conservation Park.


We would like to thank the following people: Dave Allen,

WA Chemcentre for Soil Analysis; Dave and Vicky

McQuiew at Bulga Downs for their cooperation and help

during the field survey and the staff at the Western

Australian Herbarium (especially Karina Knight and Phil

Spencer), as well as Rob Davies, Malcolm French, Mike

Hislop, Bruce Maslin, Frank Obbens,, Barbara Rye,

Malcolm Trudgen, and Paul Wilson for their taxonomic

expertise. And finally, Neil Gibson, for his advice and

support. Permits for flora collection were issued by the

Western Australian Department of Environment and

Conservation. This project is part of the Biodiversity

Conservation Initiative (BCI) of the Saving Our Species

(SOS) Program, and has been funded by the Department

of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia.


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et al.

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banded iron formations of the Yilgarn Craton: the

central Tallering Land System. Conservation Science

of Western Australia 7, 121–149

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banded iron formations of the Yilgarn Craton: the

Weld Range. Conservation Science of Western Australia


, 153–178.

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banded iron formations of the Yilgarn Craton: Jack

Hills. Conservation Science of Western Australia 7, 89–


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R. Meissner 

et al.

Table 1

Sorted two-way table of quadrats established on Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson range showing species analysed

by community type (+ represent the species poor quadrats). Taxa shaded grey within a community are indicator species

identified by INDVAL >17 (Dufrene and Legendre 1997) at the 7 group level (* indicates p< 0.05; ** indicates p<0.01;

statistical significance tested by randomisation procedures).

Flora and vegetation of Mount Forrest–Mount Richardson Range


Table 2

Plant community mean values for soil chemistry parameters (measured mg/kg except eCEC, pH, Total N, Org C and

EC). Differences between ranked values tested using Kruskal - Wallis non-parametric analysis of variance. Standard

error in parentheses. a,b,c denote significant difference between groups by post hoc test (P < 0.05). (P = probability, n

= number of quadrats, ns = not significant). Post-hoc tests undertaken on all communities except Community 5 due to

low sample size.

Community Type










4.3 (0.0)b

4.4 (0.0)b

4.3 (0.0)b

4.8 (0.2)ab

4.8 (0.5)

6.3 (0.4)a

4.7 (0.1)ab



2.0 (0.0)b

3.1 (0.2)ab

2.6 (0.2)b

6.4 (2.5)a

3.5 (1.5)

18.8 (9.4)a

1.0 (0.0)b


Total N

0.04 (0.00)b

0.07 (0.00)a

0.07 (0.01)ab

0.05 (0.01)ab

0.1 (0.0)

0.08 (0.01)a

0.01 (0.01)b



5.5 (0.9)ab

14.7 (1.9)a

6.3 (0.6)b

4.8 (0.9)b

57.5 (52.5)

9.8 (1.5)ab

2 (0.6)b



93.3 (8.0)abc

135.8 (10.4)ab

91.3 (8.2)bc

154 (11.7)ab

185 (75)

172 (17.7)a

36 (2.1)c


Org C

0.5 (0.0)c

1.2 (0.1)ab

1.0 (0.1)abc

0.7 (0.1)bc

1.1 (0.5)

1.5 (0.2)a

0.4 (0.1)bc



20.3 (3.4)bc

42.3 (3.9)ab

22.2 (2.6)c

77.8 (22.2)a

53 (32)

261.8 (68.4)a

17.3 (2.2)bc



0.85 (0.12)bc

1.74 (0.13)abc

1.01 (0.12)c

2.58 (0.49)ab


9.02 (2.40)a

0.70 (0.06)c



89.0 (14.9)b

205.0 (17.5)ab

119.8 (16.8)b

298 (51.7)ab

343.5 (246.5)

1256 (393.6)a

95.7 (8.7)b



0.01 (0.0)

0.01 (0.0)

0.01 (0.0)

0.01 (0.0)

0.01 (0.0)

0.02 (0.0)

0.01 (0.0)



0.1 (0.0)ab

0.1 (0.0)b

0.1 (0.0)ab

0.6 (0.3)a

0.0 (0.0)

1.7 (0.4)a

0.0 (0.0)b



0.8 (0.1)ab

0.8 (0.0)b

0.8 (0.0)ab

0.9 (0.1)ab

0.9 (0.1)

3.2 (0.6)a

0.2 (0.0)b



26.5 (1.8)b

60.6 (4.1)a

40.5 (2.9)b

35.2 (4.6)b

72.5 (47.5)

45.8 (3.1)ab

27 (3.2)b



28.3 (14.0)b

25.4 (2.6)b

27.3 (3.6)ab

38.6 (10.7)ab

18.5 (5.5)

116 (30.5)a

5.3 (0.7)b



0.005 (0.000)b

0.007 (0.010)b

0.007 (0.001)b 0.008 (0.003)ab

0.005 (0.000)

0.018 (0.002)a

0.005 (0.000)b



2.5 (0.0)b

4.1 (0.5)b

2.7 (0.2)b

16 (10.2)ab

2.5 (0.0)

30.2 (11.2)a

2.5 (0.0)b



0.1 (0.0)abc

0.2 (0.0)bc

0.1 (0.0)c

0.3 (0.1)ab

0.2 (0.1)

1.3 (0.2)a

0.1 (0.0)c



15.5 (0.6)a

11.8 (0.4)ab

14.4 (0.8)a

12.2 (1.7)ab

11.5 (1.5)

13.2 (3.8)ab

5.7 (0.9)b



0.7 (0.2)bc

1.0 (0.1)ab

0.8 (0.1)bc

1.0 (0.1)abc

3.2 (2.4)

2.2 (0.6)a

0.2 (0.0)c










Table 3

Plant community mean values for physical site parameters; aspect (16 cardinal directions), slope (degrees), coarse

fragment (CF) abundance (0 – no coarse fragments to 6 very abundant coarse fragments), maximum size of coarse

fragments (1 – fine gravely to 7 large boulders), rock outcrop (RO) abundance (0 – no bedrock exposed to 5 – rockland),

runoff (0 – no runoff to 5 – very rapid), % leaf litter (1 - >70% to 4 - <10%). Differences between ranks tested using

Kruskal –Wallis non-parametric analysis of variance. Standard error is given in parentheses. a, b and c represent

significant differences between community types at P < 0.05 (n = number of quadrats, P = probability, ns = not significant).

Community Type










12.3 (1.3)

8.9 (0.9)

8.5 (1.3)

10.4 (2.8)

5.0 (0.0)

7.8 (2.8)

15.0 (0.6)



3.8 (1.4)b

14.4 (1.7)a

5.8 (0.9)b

5.8 (2.7)ab

8.5 (6.5)

13.4 (2.5)ab

6.3 (0.9)ab


Elevation (m)

453.5 (15.6)b

510.1 (7.8)ab 510.6 (13.8)ab

491.8 (8.7)ab

496.5 (43.5)

538.6 (6.5)a

496.3 (2.2)ab



1.5 (0.3)

2.7 (0.3)

1.8 (0.2)

1.8 (0.5)

1.5 (0.5)

2.8 (0.2)

2.3 (0.3)


Rock Outcrop*

0.3 (0.3)

2.4 (0.3)

1.3 (0.6)

0.4 (0.2)

2.0 (2.0)

1.2 (0.4)

1.7 (0.3)


CF Max Size

4.0 (0.4)b

5.6 (0.1)a

4.5 (0.3)ab

3.8 (0.2)b

4.5 (0.5)

5.4 (0.2)ab

4.0 (0.0)ab


CF Abundance

3.5 (1.0)

4.9 (0.2)

5.0 (0.2)

4.6 (0.5)

4.5 (0.5)

5.4 (0.2)

3.3 (0.3)


% Leaf Litter

1.7 (0.3)ab

1.2 (0.1)b

1.8 (0.2)ab

1.6 (0.4) ab

1.5 (0.5)

2.2 (0.2)a

1.3 (0.3)ab










* post hoc pairwise comparison not significant


R. Meissner 

et al.


Floristic list for Mount Forrest - Mount Richardson, including all taxa from the sampling quadrats and from adjacent

areas. * indicates introduced taxon to the State. Vouchers for each taxon were lodged at Western Australian Herbarium



Eremophila conglomerata

Eremophila forrestii subsp. forrestii

Eremophila georgei

Eremophila gilesii subsp. variabilis

Eremophila glutinosa

Eremophila granitica

Eremophila cf. jucunda

Eremophila latrobei subsp. latrobei

Eremophila oldfieldii subsp. angustifolia

Eremophila oppositifolia subsp. angustifolia

Eremophila pantonii

Eremophila platycalyx subsp. platycalyx

Eremophila simulans subsp. simulans


Aluta aspera subsp. hesperia

Aluta teres

Baeckea sp. Melita Station (H. Pringle 2738)

Calothamnus gilesii

Calytrix strigosa

Eucalyptus carnei

Eucalyptus cf. oldfieldii

Eucalyptus gypsophila

Eucalyptus kingsmillii subsp. kingsmillii

Eucalyptus leptopoda subsp. elevata

Eucalyptus lucasii

Eucalyptus oldfieldii

Euryomyrtus patrickiae

Leptospermum fastigiatum

Melaleuca leiocarpa

Melaleuca xerophila

Micromyrtus flaviflora

Micromyrtus sulphurea

Thryptomene decussata

Verticordia helmsii

Verticordia interioris


Daviesia sp.

Swainsona sp.


Dianella revoluta var. divaricata


Bursaria occidentalis


Aristida contorta

Austrostipa scabra

Digitaria brownii

Enneapogon caerulescens

Eragrostis dielsii

Eragrostis eriopoda

Eragrostis lacunaria

Eragrostis pergracilis

Eriachne cf. mucronata

Eriachne helmsii

Eriachne pulchella

Monachather paradoxus


Cheilanthes adiantoides

Cheilanthes brownii

Cheilanthes sieberi subsp. sieberi


Ptilotus aervoides

Ptilotus exaltatus

Ptilotus helipteroides

Ptilotus obovatus var. obovatus

Ptilotus polystachyus


Marsdenia australis


Olearia humilis

Olearia muelleri

Olearia subspicata


Senna artemisioides subsp. filifolia

Senna cardiosperma


Chenopodium melanocarpum

Rhagodia sp.

Sclerolaena fusiformis


Callitris columellaris


Hibbertia arcuata


Beyeria lapidicola

Euphorbia boophthona

Euphorbia drummondii subsp. drummondii

Euphorbia tannensis cf. subsp. eremophila

Phyllanthus erwinii


Goodenia havilandii

Scaevola spinescens


Haloragis trigonocarpa


Newcastelia hexarrhena

Prostanthera althoferi subsp. althoferi

Wrixonia prostantheroides


Sida sp. tiny green fruits (S. van Leeuwen 2260)

Sida sp. Golden calyces glabrous (H.N. Foote 32)

Sida ectogama


Acacia aneura

Acacia cockertoniana

Acacia erinacea

Acacia exocarpoides

Acacia ligulata

Acacia minyura

Acacia quadrimarginea

Acacia ramulosa var. ramulosa

Acacia tetragonophylla

Flora and vegetation of Mount Forrest–Mount Richardson Range


Paspalidium basicladum

*Pentaschistis airoides subsp. airoides

Triodia lanigera


Grevillea berryana

Grevillea didymobotrya subsp. didymobotrya


Psydrax cf. rigidula

Psydrax suaveolens

Synaptantha tillaeacea var. tillaeacea


Drummondita microphylla

Philotheca brucei subsp. brucei


Exocarpos sparteus

Santalum spicatum


Dodonaea adenophora

Dodonaea lobulata

Dodonaea petiolaris

Dodonaea rigida


Nicotiana cavicola

Solanum ashbyae

Solanum ellipticum


Brachychiton gregorii


Stylidium induratum


Zygophyllum iodocarpum

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