The range was first recorded in 1836 by Surveyor General of Western Australia John Septimus Roe. The area was settled by the 1900s (decade), and in 1911 the town of Wongan Hills was established and named after the range.
"Wongan" is derived from the Indigenous Australian name "wangan-katta", "wankan" and "woongan". "Katta" is known to mean "hill", but the meaning of "wongan" is uncertain. It may be related to "kwongan", an indigenous word for sandplain, or "whispering", in which case "wongan katta" would mean "whispering hills".
The hills are biologically significant because they contain the largest remaining single area of natural vegetation in northern parts of the wheatbelt. A species of dryandra is endemic to the locality, referred to by the epithet published by Alex George for his description of Dryandra wonganensis.
The same author described a new, possibly rare species of hakea he collected at Wongan Hills; the distribution range of Hakea chromatropa is also restricted to nearby regions. George thought this remarkable enough to note the fact that this region was settled shortly after colonisation, with a prolific botanical collector nearby, but it still revealed a new taxon. He also described a rare verticordia, the Wongan Featherflower (Verticordia staminosa subsp. staminosa) discovered by Harry Butler on a granite outcrop.
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