Dr Suzanne Prober has dedicated the past 15 years to conserving near-extinct wildflowers in a cemetery near young, NSW.

Story & photos by Margrit Beemster

It’s easy to just drive past Monteagle Cemetery unaware of the treasures it holds. For most of the year, the cemetery, which is 15 kilometres north of Young, NSW, looks pretty much like any other country cemetery in central NSW when viewed from the roadside. There are headstones that link back to a goldmining and agricultural past, grouped according to religious denominations; a scattering of trees, mostly yellow box; and a grassy field, neatly mown around the graves, but for the rest, seemingly uncontrolled.
However Monteagle Cemetery, which services the nearby district and a tiny village that contains a school, a few houses and a tennis court, is indeed a treasure trove. According to plant ecologist Dr Suzanne Prober, it contains Australia’s best intact example of the understorey species once commonly found in grassy white and yellow box woodlands. Each spring the four-hectare site unveils its jewels in hues of yellow and purple with waves of wildflowers, including the striking purple donkey orchids (Diuris punctata), chocolate lilies (Dichopogon fimbriatus) that smell of the finest Swiss chocolate, creamy candles (Stackhousia monogyna) that release a sweet aroma at night to attract the moths they need for pollination, the iconic yam daisies (Microseris scapigera) that were once an important food staple for Australia’s indigenous people and golden clumps of everlasting daisies (Chrysocephalum apiculatum).

This story excerpt is from Issue #46

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2006