Rare plant recovers from bushfires

Rare plant recovers from bushfires

28 January 2010

published by www.landscapedesignnews.com

USA — One of Victoria’s rarest shrubs, Shiny Nematolepis (Nematolepis wilsonii), has made a recovery after the 2009 bushfires burnt the only place the plant was known to occur.

Thousands of seedlings have appeared.

Staff from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), Parks Victoria and the Royal Botanic Gardens returned to the site in the O’Shannassy catchment where the world’s entire known wild population of Shiny Nematolepis had lived before the fires.

“After the fires we had prepared the site by removing debris and fencing off the area so any seedlings would have a chance but we simply didn’t know enough about the plant to be sure that any seeds would germinate after such a hot fire,” DSE project leader – land use planning Alan Webster says.

“Now we know that the Shiny Nematolepis seeds are able to withstand bushfires and, given the right conditions, the seedlings will germinate and re-establish themselves in the ash.”

Parks Victoria staff had been putting the plant’s Recovery Plan into action since the fires in February 2009, planting Shiny Nematolepis seedlings at unburnt sites in the Upper Yarra catchment in the hope the plant wouldn’t become extinct in the wild.

“The new seedlings at the original site are still too young to flower and produce seeds so the species is still vulnerable to extinction until it can start reproducing again,” Parks Victoria fire recovery project officer Jo Antrobus says.

“Until then we will monitor the original site as well as the 150 propagated plants which were transplanted into the Upper Yarra catchment in mid-2009 as part of the Recovery Plan.

“Any species that is confined to one small site tends to be vulnerable to extinction and the Recovery Plan aims to address that problem.

“The 150 Upper Yarra catchment transplants were raised from cuttings taken from the original 500 plants and were cultivated at the Royal Botanic Gardens.”

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