Kata Tjuta: Origins and Flora with AAT Kings

Kata Tjuta – Origins and Flora was created over several months during a project facilitated by AAT Kings. AAT Kings provide bus tours to Kata Tjuta, Uluru and many other locations around Australia. In the afternoons I traveled out to Kata Tjuta with AAT Kings. The plant studies are all of plants  native to the region. The map is of the globe in the Cambrian during period which is relevant to Kata Tjuta’s early formation. The deep time story of Kata Tjuta can be found below along with footage and information on the regional flora.

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Full moon rises over Kata Tjuta at sunset.


Uluru, 25 km (16 mi) to the east, and Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta, sometimes written Tjuṯa (Kata Joota), and also known as Mount Olga (or colloquially as The Olgas), are a group of large domed rock formations or bornhardts located about 365 km (227 mi) southwest of Alice Springs, in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia.

kata walk

The highest point, Mount Olga, is 1,066 m (3,497 ft) above sea level, or approximately 546 m (1,791 ft) above the surrounding plain (198 m (650 ft) higher than Uluru).

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The following reading provides an introduction to the three main types of native flora in Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and where these can be found: Overview of flora

This reading presents some traditional knowledge of local flora, dividing these by habitat type: Habitats and flora 

The following reading provides information on the rare and endangered plants that can be found in Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park: Rare and endangered flora

This reading presents information about weed species which have been introduced, some unwittingly, into the Park: Weeds 

The 36 domes that make up Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga cover an area of 21.68 km2 (8.37 sq mi), are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by a matrix of sandstone.

Map of the globe at the approximate time when sediments that the conglomerates which Kata Tjuta is composed of were being laid down.


I included this map into the bottom right corner of the artwork

cambian oz map

When the huge slab of rock that is Kata Tjuta was being folded and faulted, vertical joints or fractures cracked through the rock. Water seeped down the cracks and over millions of years the rock eroded away – grain by grain, pebble by pebble, to form valleys and gorges that split the rock slab into blocks. Curved cracks called topographic joints formed on the surface of the blocks. Weathering and erosion wore away the rocks above the cracks to produce the rounded domes we see today. Kata Tjuta, the Anangu name for the collection of domes, means “many heads”.

550 million years ago the Peterman Ranges to the west of Kata Tjuta were taller than they are now. Rainwater flowing down the mountains eroded sand and rock and dropped it in big fan shapes on the surrounding plain. One fan had mainly water-smoothed rocks. The other fan was mainly sand. Both fans became kilometres thick.

500 millions years ago, the area became covered in sea. Sand and mud covered the seabed, including the fans. The weight of the new seabed turned both it and the fans beneath into rock. The rocky fan became conglomerate rock. The sand fan turned into sandstone.

About 400 million years ago, the sea had disappeared and the whole of Central Australia began to be subjected to massive forces. Some rocks folded and tilted. The rocky fan tilted slightly. The sand fan tilted 90 degrees so the layers of sandstone almost stood on end.

Over the last 300 million years, the softer rocks have eroded away, leaving the parts of the old fans exposed. Kata Tjuta is a hard part of the old rocky fan. Uluru is part of the sand fan, with its beds of sandstone nearly vertical. The area around Uluru and Kata Tjuta was covered in windblown sand plains and dunes 30,000 years ago. They are tips of a huge slabs of rock that continue below the ground for possibly  six kilometres.

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