In our precious local Blue Mountains area, there are a number of native species that are at risk – including five species known as the Cliffhanging Five. The Save Our Species Program from the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage is in place to protect these species by educating those who frequent the Blue Mountains on how to do their part in the conservation of the native flora . 

Five very special plants cling to existence in tiny niches around the cliffs of the Upper Blue Mountains. They are found nowhere else in the world and some are survivors from the time of the Gondwana supercontinent, before flowering plants even existed and when dinosaurs walked the earth over 200 million years ago.

The Blue Mountains’ Cliffhanging 5 Include:

  1. Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pherosphaera Fitzgeraldii)
  2. Fletcher’s Drumsticks (Isopogon Fletcheri)
  3. Leionema Lachnaeoides
  4. Euphrasia Bowdeniae
  5. Epacris Hamiltonii
Dwarf Mountain Pine leaves being held by two hands.

Dwarf Mountain Pine. Photo: Daniel Parson

Saving Our Species

Australia is home to some of the world’s most peculiar and fascinating species. More than 80% of mammals and over 90% of plants cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Unfortunately, many of these species are threatened. In New South Wales alone almost 1000 plant and animal species are listed as threatened. Given the severity of these figures, the NSW Government has committed to invest $100 million over a five-year period to build and maintain a best practice conservation program called Saving our Species.

Fletchers Drumstick and other plants on a cliff near Govetts Leap in Blackheath

Fletchers Drumstick on a cliff near Govetts Leap, Blackheath. Photo: Jakki Trenbath

Climbers Conserving The Cliffhanging Five

Monique Forestier is a Blue Mountains local and well-known in the rock climbing community. A few months ago National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) approached her to ask if she would like to front a campaign to get fellow rock climbers to be more aware of some incredibly rare plants that live around cliffs in the upper Blue Mountains. She was excited to find out about the plants and very happy to help NPWS because she spends so much time hanging out on cliffs, she feels an affinity for the small hardy plants that share her favourite environment.

See Monique’s involvement in the Cliffhanging Five project in this video.

Monique Forrestier climbing a cliff overlooking the Blue Mountains

Monique Forestier making the most of an early start for an ascent of Checkpoint Charlie (grade 21), on the Katoomba Cliffs (with Mount Solitary in the background), Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia. Photo: Simon Carter

Because there are so few of these plants they are very vulnerable to random events leading to extinction. The Dwarf Mountain Pine lives only in the spray of waterfalls between Wentworth Falls and Katoomba and another Euphrasia bowdeniae, is thought to now number only 60 individuals. Epacris hamiltonii only grows where groundwater seeps through the sandstone walls of cliff overhangs between heights of 810 to 940 metres above sea level in some small creek catchments around Blackheath.

Cliff Hanging Five - Euphrasia Bowdenii

Euphrasia Bowdenii. Photo: Vera Wong OEH

Few people in the world would be able to find and recognise the threatened Leionema lachnaeoides, growing on exposed sandstone cliff tops and terraces between 960 and 1000 meters above sea level even though it has unusual orange flowers in springtime. Then there’s the living fossil, Fletcher’s drumstick, which dates back to the Gondwana supercontinent when the climate was warmer and much wetter than it is today. Now that the planet has dried out, around a couple of hundred of these plants cling to life in just a few areas along north facing cliffs near Govett’s Leap.

Because of their cliff-hanging location, these plants are extremely vulnerable to bushfire as well as to polluted water running down from the nearby townships. According to NPWS Area Manager Vanessa Richardson, there’s another, less obvious threat to the so-called Cliffhanging 5. “Because they live around cliffs they can be easily crushed or trampled by rock climbers, abseilers and bushwalkers,” Ms Richardson said.

“Some of them grow in isolated clumps so their numbers could be drastically reduced by someone crushing them with their climbing gear. Please be mindful when you are out and about in the Blue Mountains – these plants live on the narrow ledges which you might use for a lunch stop or to put down your climbing gear. Enjoy yourself but also consider the beautiful environment you are climbing in and the species you share it with. To the untrained eye these plants look like a lot of others, so treat every plant like it’s the last,” she said.

Dwarf Mountain Pine living in the spray zone of a waterfall near Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains

Dwarf Mountain Pine living in the spray zone of a waterfall near Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains. Photo: Vera Wong OEH

Help us protect the Cliffhanging Five

There are a few simple things you can do while enjoying the Blue Mountains to ensure these threatened plants have the best chance of survival.

  • Keep to main tracks. You may not know, but any steps off formed tracks may damage these threatened plants.
  • Remember that these plants are easy to damage and parts will break off if they are touched or disturbed.
  • Take photos rather than flowers – leave the plants as you find them so they can be enjoyed by other visitors.
  • Be mindful of where you sit, climb and step when enjoying the park. Trampling by bushwalkers, climbers and canyoners is a threat to these plants.
  • Treat every plant like it is the last one! The less disturbance of these plants, the better.


National Park Rangers looking out over a Blue Mountains cliffs

Photo: Daniel Parsons

We are calling for all lovers of the outdoors to educate themselves on protecting our native flora and fauna when out on an adventure and enjoying the wilderness! Watch the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage’s, Saving our Species videos on each of the Cliffhanging 5 and learn how to protect these vulnerable species. Watch the videos below now!







Learn more about the Saving Our Species Program by heading to the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage’s website now, where you will see the great work they are doing to protect NSW’s threatened flora and fauna.

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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