The steps lead down to a grotto and creek, with an interesting patch of damp rainforest (Coachwoods, Callicoma and Eucryphia).Further out along the narrow track, there is a spectacular clifftop, still with a railed off lookout point, even though one suspects that this track is no longer being maintained by NPWS. (Confirmed by notes below, from NPWS).
To my delight there was a group of the Yellow Rock Orchid Cestichis reflexa (formerly Liparis reflexa) growing there, in a small rock hole, right below the very top of the cliff. Unusually for this species, which favours damp rock crevices close to water, this position was quite dry, but it was at least south-facing, overlooking Kangaroo Valley, with rainforest immediately below the cliff, so it was protected from full exposure to sun and drying winds. These plants have no eyes, but if they did, they could appreciate the fantastic views available form their rocky perch (about which I wrote previously).
In this zoomed photo, you can just make out old flower sprays, with seed capsules formed. So, this plant has successfully flowered and set seed this recent Spring season. While we were walking close to these cliffs we saw a number of plants of another Rock Orchid, Dockrillia striolata, a very small plant, with single flowers. (Dockrillia striolata "in situ" and close-up of flower). Photos taken at Knight's Hill, in similar clifftop situations to Manning's Lookout.)
Along the road into Manning Lookout there is a species of Prostanthera growing which I have only seen here (not elsewhere). From what I can work out it is likely to be P. incana, which is generally regarded as a coastal species, according to PlantNET. It is growing in a damp area (surrounded by Sword Grass) on black sandy soil, over sandstone, right beside the road. It is not growing in the more typical sandstone scrub at Manning Lookout, 500 metres further on, where the habitat is very dry. So, it appears to prefer the heavier, moister soil close to a "soak" which leads to a creek.That plant has very hairy leaves, which are "heavily crimped", with heavy veining, deeply incised. The flower colour is accurately reproduced in this photo, and it is more blue than many of the mauve-purple Prostanthera species. The plant was about 1.2 metres high, but wider than high.
The NPWS website includes the Plan of Management for Morton National Park (October 2001). In relation to Manning Lookout, this document states:
"Manning Lookout is a quiet area providing 3 lookouts into
walking track along the escarpment through attractive forest. The two northerly lookouts
and the associated walking track are not signposted and receive only low levels of use.
"The area is of historical interest as its use for recreation dates from the 19th century.
Old picnic facilities near the first lookout have been refurbished in recognition of their
cultural value. There are safety concerns with use of the area and investigation will be undertaken into the stability of the first lookout, and the feasibility of removing the two northern lookouts but retaining the track for experienced walkers. Upgrading is needed of the first lookout and track section." (My emphasis added.)