Skip to content

Introducing the Cumberland Plain Woodland

The Cumberland Plain Woodland is the original vegetation that once covered much of western Sydney.

Introducing the Cumberland Plain Woodland

Cumberland Plain Woodland is a unique type of woodland. The trees have spaces between them allowing light to reach the ground so there is a high proportion of understorey plants such as shrubs, herbs and grasses. Cumberland Plain Woodland grows on deep clay soils with low rainfall.

Once thought of by many as unsightly scrub, this bushland is now being recognised for its importance – a unique type of woodland not found anywhere else in Australia, which is threatened with extinction.

Both Federal and State governments have listed the Cumberland Plain Woodland as an Endangered Ecological Community – the first time a whole plant community has been recognised as being in danger of extinction.

Only 6% of the original 107,000 hectares of Cumberland Plain Woodland remains. The woodland was heavily cleared in the past for farming and it still being cleared today to accommodate much of Sydney’s population growth. In some areas, the woodland is also being badly affected by weeds, fertiliser run-off and litter.

Why is Cumberland Plain Woodland important?

•    It is unique to western Sydney
•    It provides habitat for native birds, animals and plants
•    It helps to keep our creeks clean
•    It provides interest and beauty to urban and agricultural areas
•    There is very little of it left

What is Cumberland Plain Woodland?

At the Australian Botanic Garden the woodland comprises of three main tree species:

•    Grey Box, Eucalyptus moluccana
•    Forest Red Gum, Eucalyptus tereticornis 
•    Narrow-leaved Ironbark, Eucalyptus crebra

It also consists of several shrubby species, including Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa) and over 120 small herbs and grasses. 

Virtual woodland wander

Take a virtual walk through the Cumberland Plain Woodland protected by the Australian Botanic Garden. View the variety of plant species and learn about animals that use them. Please note, the Virtual Woodland Wander is currently compatible with Google Chrome only.

Also view the video, Layers of life (1:50min), that introduces the plant layers in the woodland.

Layers of life

When there is a wide range of plants (trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs) we also find a wider range of birds, mammals, invertebrates and microfauna.

For example:

  • the canopy layer and lower tree canopy is used by bats, sugar gliders and larger birds
  • the understorey shrub layer is used by small birds for feeding and shelter
  • the ground cover layer is used by reptiles and invertebrates.

Did you know that birds can be used as ‘indicator species’ when assessing the health of an ecosystem? An environment with a rich diversity of birds will also have a relatively high diversity of trees, shrubs, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates.


Introducing the Cumberland Plain Woodland activities

  • Explore the woodland in the 360º virtual experience. Use the visible thinking strategy, see-think-wonder, to record observations of the plants, animals and environment of the Cumberland Plain Woodland. Make inferences on the interconnections in the woodland and list questions for investigation. Please note, the Virtual Woodland Wander is currently compatible with Google Chrome only.
  • Draw a vegetation profile diagram of the Cumberland Plain Woodland. Add labels, notes or sketches that indicate the animals that use the specific layers. Note how these animals use the different layers e.g. shelter, nesting, food. Alternatively, annotate a photograph of the vegetation layers with images and descriptive labels. Vegetation layers:
    • canopy layer
    • lower tree canopy
    • understorey shrub layer 
    • ground cover layer
  • Draw a photo sketch from one of the views in the virtual woodland experience. Photo sketches are similar to field sketches but are from a photograph. Sketch in landscape view and divide the view into a grid of nine. This makes it easier to draw in the foreground, middle ground and distance. Label the human and natural features and vegetation layers.
  • Create a set of short written or verbal instructions for a visitor guide or simple app for each of the main stops on the woodland 360º virtual experience. Compose the text with the purpose of guiding the visitor where to look or what to listen for, for example, 'Look down, you might notice a trail of ants marching along. They’re the clean-up crew of the woodland'.