The Cumberland Plain Woodlands are a very special and unique landscape, in Western Sydney, and is the home to one of our wild neighbours – the Sugar Glider.

Cumberland Plains Woodland

“Cumberland Plain Woodland” by Poytr is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The traditional owners of the land are the Darug people. ‘Darug’ comes from the Aboriginal word for yam, so these tubers not only help the woodlands to survive drought and fire but were also utilized as a staple food by the Darug people. 

The Darug people were masters at manipulating the land. Some research suggests as often as every five years they used strategically lit fires in the grassy areas of Cumberland Plain Woodlands to stimulate undergrowth and attract grass eating herbivores such as kangaroos which were utilised as a food source.

The plains were the first endangered ecological community to be listed under Commonwealth legislation and is also classified as a Critically Endangered Ecological Community in NSW. 


What is an endangered ecological community?

An ecological community refers to a specific collection of plants, animals, and other organisms living and co-existing together in a unique location specific to them. For an ecological community to be listed as critically endangered this means it is facing a high risk of extinction in Australia in the near future and that action must be taken to prevent this from happening.  

Less than 6% of Cumberland Plain Woodland remains and is distributed over highly fragmented patches. Only 2% of the woodlands is protected with almost all the protection provided in National Parks.    

1 becomes 2

The National Parks Wildlife Service undertook vegetation mapping of the CPWL and determined two forms of the woodlands: shale hills woodland and shale plains woodland.  

Shale hills woodland occurs mainly on the elevated, sloping southern half of the Cumberland Plain. The dominant trees are grey box (Eucalyptus moluccana), forest red gum (E. tereticornis) and narrow-leaved ironbark (E. crebra). The shrub layer is dominated by blackthorn. 

Shale plains woodland is the most widely distributed form of Cumberland Plain Woodland. Grey box and forest red gum also dominate the canopy along with spotted gum (Corymbia maculata) and thin leaved stringybark (E. eugenioides). Bursaria spinosa is the dominant shrub species.  

Both vegetation types share similarities in their highly diverse understory layer and abdundant native grasses such as kangaroo grass and weeping meadow grass.  

Some of the best remaining, but also most vulnerable patches of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands occur in Western Sydney. The communities living in this region play a very important role in its protection.  

Cumberland Plain Woodlands is known to be found in the following suburbs: Auburn, Bankstown, Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Camden, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Holroyd, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith. It is also found in the Hawkesbury, Canterbury-Bankstown and Hills Shire local government areas.  

The Cumberland Plain Woodlands is well adapted to drought and fire and occurs in the driest part of the Sydney Basin. The understory plants rely on underground tubers or profuse annual seed production to survive adverse conditions. 


Flora and Fauna

  • Grey Box (Eucalyptus moluccana) and Forest Red Gum (E. tereticornis) are the dominant trees of the Cumberland Plains Woodlands.  
  • Flora species of significance include the endangered Spiked rice flower (Pimela spicata) and downy wattle (Acacia pubescens). 
  • It is home to many species of native fauna including several vulnerable species such as the grey-headed flying fox, squirrel glider, the masked owl, and the endangered Cumberland Plain Land Snail.    
  • The Cumberland Plain Land Snail differs from the typical garden snail with its flattened, thinner shell that is more fragile in comparison. Find out more about the snails of the woodlands here.
  • Other species found include sugar gliders, echidnas, and eastern grey kangaroos. 

You can see the vegetation profile of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands.

Grey-headed Flying Fox by flickr/smurfun

What can we do?

  • Create awareness and education surrounding the Cumberland Plain Woodlands so locals living in the area know about the important ecological community they live alongside.  
  • Learn how to build a nest box and other actions you can take to provide habitat to native fauna. See Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA’s) Habitat Augmentation and Sugar Glider Nest Box Guide.  
  • Plant native species in your garden such as the crimson bottlebrush or the parramatta wattle to support pollinators, such as sugar gliders, that live in the Cumberland Plain Woodlands. See CVA’s flyer to Planting Resources for CPWL’s and Planting resources for sugar gliders for further information.  


Invasive weeds

  • Control of invasive weeds, which are a key threat to the CPWL, is a great way to help preserve the natural ecosystem and to stop these weeds from spreading from your garden to the bushland. 
  • Learn how to identify these weeds and how to remove them from your property by joining a CVA bush regeneration event or by joining your local Landcare or council bushcare group. 
  • Some of the common weed species that threaten the CPWL are: African olive, paddys lucerne, bridal creeper, fireweed, asparagus fern and lantana. 
  • Weed ID tip: Not sure which weed is which? Download the app Sydney Weeds – A pocket reference guide for common weed species or consult the Weed Wise website ( both are excellent resources for weed identification and can also guide you on what method of removal is most effective.  
  • Hand removal or use of herbicides are effective methods of weed control for gardens.  
  • Invasive weeds are considered a threat to the endangered plant species such as the spiked rice flower. Removal of these weeds is beneficial but avoid using herbicides close to endangered plants or waterways.  
  • Habitat Tip: when removing woody weeds like lantana piling up the branches and leaving them in the environment works as a transitional habitat for small birds and reptiles while the native plants establish. 
  • See this comprehensive guide for assessing the woodlands and promoting its long-term health and growth – [PDF download] 


Spiked Rice Flower - Pimelea Spicata

Image copyright & courtesy of L Jackson – via

The Spiked rice flower (Pimelea Spicata) an endangered plant species found on the Cumberland Plains.