Plants & animals

Though a desert environment, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to a surprising number of plants, birds and animals. We even have frogs at Uluru! Below are some of the plants and animals you might see when visiting our park.
You can also download our Uluru birds app for a full list of birds and their songs - a great introduction to Birdwatching in our park.

  • Plants

    There are over 400 different plants found at Uluru. Many of these plants are culturally important, providing a source of food, medicine and fuel to traditional owners. Below is a selection of some of the plants to see. Find out more about flora with our fact sheet. You can also find out more about plants that are used for food, medicine and tools on our bush foods and tools page.

    • Mulga

      We call it:Wanari Sounds like: wah-nah-ree
      Mulga is Australia's most common tree, so you are likely to see it in the park. It is five to 12 metres high and a grey to green colour. The tree produces seeds that were roasted and ground into an edible paste, similar to peanut butter. Also edible are the mulga apples that form around wasp eggs and the sweet honeydew eaten straight off the branch. The hard wood of the tree is good for making tools like boomerangs and digging sticks.

    • Desert oak

      We call it: Kurkara Sounds like: coor-carr-ah
      A slow-growing tree found in the deep sands of the park. Found in large numbers, the young trees look like Christmas trees, while the mature trees form massive spreading limbs. Children would make necklaces from desert oak leaves. The seeds can be extracted from the woody cone, roasted and eaten. In warmer months, the cones exude a sweet, white fluid that is good for drinking.

    • Striped mintbush

      We call it: Karingana Sounds like: Car-n-gah-nah
      You'll find the beautiful flowers of the striped mintbush on our Walpa Gorge walk. It's a medicinal plant whose leaves are mashed up and used as a poultice or rubbing medicine. It can relieve cold and flu symptoms and dry out sores.

    • Desert bloodwood

      We call it: Murr-muurpa Sounds like: more-more-pa
      You should be able to spot this tree as it's about the tallest in the park. This eucalypt has a distinctive thick, rough bark that helps protect it from fire. In harsh times, the tree can drop branches reducing the energy it needs to survive. The wood of trunk is good for wooden tools like bowls. If you peel the red sap off the tree, grind it and mix it with water it makes a good antiseptic gum for cuts and sores.

    • Honey grevillea

      We call it: Kaliny-kalinypa Sounds like: cull-in-cull-in-pah
      This shrub's bright yellow and green bottlebrush head flowers can be seen in the spring and winter. You can collect nectar from the flowers, without picking them. Suck the nectar directly from the flower or simply soak them in water to make a sweet cordial drink.

    • Desert quandong

      We call it: Mangata Sounds like: mung-ah-dah
      This tree grows up to four metres and is highly prized for its distinctive red fruit. Excess fruit could be ground into cakes and stored for later use. The fruit has large stones which could be made into necklaces for ceremonies or used by children for a game similar to marbles. Ground into paste, the seeds also make a powerful medicine to treat bruises and skin conditions. Women would crush the stones and extract the oil to make an all natural hair conditioner, helping keep their head ring in place and create traditional hairstyles.

    • Sturt's desert rose

      We call it: Kalpir-kalpir Sounds like: cull-pah-cull-pah
      Sturt's desert rose is a woody shrub with attractive mauve flowers. Its European name came from the explorer Captain Charles Sturt who came across the shrub during his journey through Central Australia in 1844.

    • Desert poplar

      We call it: Kanturangu Sounds like: kun-ter-ung-oo
      A fast-growing, short-lived tree that sometimes sets so much seed its top bends over with the weight. You will most likely see this tree on roadsides in the park, but it also grows in sand, on mulga flats and rocky hillsides. Its leaves make a cooling cover for babies in hot weather. Its roots are a great place to find witchetty grubs.

    • Centralian bloodwood river red gum

      We call it: Itara Sounds like: it-turrah
      A one-stop-shop of a tree, Itara was used for just about everything. It grows up to 12 metres high and has a rough grey to red bark with pale yellow flowers and large stalked gumnuts. The wood was used for making bowls to carry food and water. Its resin was mixed with water to make an antiseptic solution, lip balm and eyewash. It was also good for sore throats and its burnt bark could be mixed with animal fat and used as an ointment for burns. In a good season its flowers produce a delicious honey that everyone loves.

    • Blue mallee

      We call it: Altarpa Sounds like: arl-tarr-pa
      This mallee has blue to green foliage and grows up to three metres high. Clusters of creamy white flowers produce gumnuts. In the really dry times you can extract water from its root system. The nuts can be dried in the sun to release seeds, which are then ground into an edible paste with a nice nutty flavour and a hint of eucalyptus.

    • Witchetty bush

      We call it: Ilykuwara Sounds like: ili-koo-wah-ra
      This shrub has broad, round-ended leaves. Women use their digging stick to dig up its base and get out witchetty grubs, the tasty moth larvae that feed on its roots.

    • Spinifex

      We call it: Tjanpi Sounds like: Jarn-pi
      Spinifex grass grows to about two metres high and spreads out to about three metres. It provides a home to many native animals. You can make a glue out of spinifex resin. First you thresh the spinifex until resin falls free, heat it until it fuses together to form a mouldable black tar. We call this glue kiti.

    • Naked woollybutt

      We call it Wangunu Sounds like: wong-a-noo
      Naked woollybutt grows to about 35 centimetres high and is most commonly found around mulga trees. It's an important source of food, with women collecting and processing the seed to make nyuma (seed cake).

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  • Animals

    Many animals are culturally important, often ancestral creatures. You are most likely to see birds and reptiles like lizards and snakes in our park, but keep a look out for some of our more unusual mammals. When you're driving in the park, keep an eye out on the road for our precious reptiles.

    Find out more about mammals with our fact sheet.

    To see some of the beautiful birds we have in the park visit our Birdwatching page or download our Birdwatching app

    For information on all NT Fauna, download the app for Field Guide to NT Fauna - iPhone or Field Guide to NT Fauna - Android.

    • Blue-tongued lizard

      We call it: Lungkata Sounds like: Loong-cart-ah
      The blue-tongued lizard is named for its striking blue tongue darting out from a pink mouth. Their bodies appear slightly out of proportion with their big heads, long bodies, short legs and small feet. Like all reptiles they don't produce body heat but rely on basking in the sun to become active. They mostly eat plants and insects, occasionally other small lizards. But they are not very fast so tend to stick with slower prey.

    • Dingo

      We call it: Papa Sounds like: Pah-pah
      The papa (dingo) plays a special role in maintaining the balance in the ecosystem. A dingo has a relatively broad head, a pointed muzzle, and erect ears. The fur colour is mostly sandy to reddish brown but can occasionally be black, light brown and even white.
      They eat a wide variety of animals such as rabbits, rats, marsupial mice, kangaroos and wallabies. Dingoes are more active at night, sunrise and sunset than in the middle of the day and can been seen in small groups or often alone. In general dingoes are very shy towards humans but can be curious and watch from a distance.
      Remember the papa is a wild animal. Please do not try to touch or feed dingoes in the park.

    • Marsupial mole

      We call it: Itjaritjari Sounds like: It-cha-ree-cha-ree
      An ancestral creature we don't often see as it lives a highly secretive life underground. This unusual creature is small and weighs between 40 and 70 grams. They are more likely to be seen after periods of rain when they sometimes surface. Females have a backwards-facing pouch like a koala or wombat. They eat ants, beetles and larvae. Minyma Itjaritjari is an ancestral being that lived in a cave in the side of Uluru, in the same valley as the Mala people. She was friendly with the Mala women and would often come out of her cave to watch the children at play.

    • Perentie

      We call it: Ngintaka Sounds like: Nin-tar-ka
      The perentie is Australia's largest monitor lizard, growing up to 2.5 metres in length and weigh in at 15 to 20 kilograms. That makes it good bush tucker. They are difficult to find though as they generally avoid human contact and are fast sprinters. Their long claws mean they are easily able to climb trees and they often stand on their strong back legs and tail to get a better view of the surrounding landscape.

    • King brown or mulga snake

      We call it: Liru Sounds like: Leer-oo
      This highly venomous snake is an important ancestral being. It is never eaten. It is the second longest snake in Australia, reaching a length of up to three metres. It's brown in colour, with a wide head and smooth snout. If you come across a king brown snake while walking at Uluru, please don't go up close to it but keep your distance until it decides to move away.

    • Woma python

      We call it: Kuniya Sounds like: Koon-i-ya
      This non-venomous python reaches about 1.5 metres in length. Pale brown to nearly black, the patterns on its body can appear olive, orange or even pink. It preys on a variety of small mammals, ground birds and lizards. They mostly catch their prey in burrows, so there is not enough room to constrict the animals. Instead the python pushes a loop of its body against its prey so it is pinned against the side of the burrow.

    • Rufous-hare wallaby

      We call it: Mala Sounds like: Mahr-la
      This small wallaby has big ears and ginger fur. It used to be one of the most abundant kangaroos and wallabies in the Northern Territory, but today is all but extinct in the wild. In 2005 we started a program to reintroduce the animal to our park, building a feral-proof fenced-off enclosure for 25 mala. They have bred successfully, and we estimate there are now over 200 mala living in this enclosure.

    • Sand goanna

      We call it: Tinka Sounds like: Tin-kah
      This large monitor lizard excavates large burrows for shelter. It also makes use of rock crevices and tree hollows. They can reach a length of 140 centimetres and weigh as much as six kilograms. It's diet mostly consists of insects and small lizards or mice - but generally considers anything smaller than itself prey.

    • Three-lined knob tailed gecko

      We call it: Waura Sounds like: war-ra
      We have many different kinds of geckos in the park, but this knob-tail gecko is one of the easiest to identify with its distinctive thick tail and over-sized head. These geckos live in the more open areas of the park and tend to rest in burrows during the hottest parts of the day.

    • Spinifex hopping mouse

      We call it: Mingkiri Sounds like: Ming-keer-ree
      This small native mouse is common and lives throughout the park, though the prefer sheltering during the day from the desert heat. They build deep burrows lined with small twigs and leaves. They eat a variety of seeds, roots, shoots and invertebrates.

    • Thorny devil

      We call it: Ngiyari Sounds like: Nee-ah-ree
      One of the most striking Australian lizards, the thorny devil is a small, spiny dragon that has a strange rocking motion when it walks. It has an unusual way of absorbing water - if the animal stands in a puddle or wet sand, water runs up the legs and spreads over the surface of its body, eventually funneled through narrow grooves to its mouth.

    • Emu

      We call it: Kalaya Sounds like: kal-lay-a
      Standing up to two metres in height, the emu is Australia's largest native bird. It has a long thin neck and legs and can travel at great distances quickly, sprinting up to 50 kilometres per hour. They feed on a variety of plants and insects but have been known to go for weeks without food when it is scarce. They ingest stones, glass shards and bits of metal to grind food in their digestive systems.

    • Red kangaroo

      We call it: Malu Sounds like: Mar-loo
      Malu (red kangaroo) is found mainly in the better-watered plains country and low open woodlands, but subsists sparsely in the desert. Kangaroo tails remain a popular food today.

    • Water-holding frogs

      Perhaps surprisingly, there are four species of frogs in the park which are well adapted to desert life. They bury themselves deep in the sand at a depth where the temperature is constant. When the rain is heavy enough to soak down to where they have burrowed, they know that the waterholes and creeks are full. They will then emerge, often in vast numbers, to breed. After breeding they bloat themselves full of water and bury below the sand again. Frogs that inhabit the desert are known as 'water-holding' frogs and generally have a broad head, bulbous body and short limbs, with structures like little spades on the under surface of the feet to aid digging.

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