A long journey back to the desert for the Forked Spyridium (Little Desert)

Forked Spyridium flower. Photo copyright DELWP. Forked Spyridium flower. Photo copyright DELWP.

The replanting of 178 Forked Spyridium on our property near Nurcoung in Victoria last week, a key wildlife corridor between Little Desert National Park and the Arapiles/Tooan State Park, marks a long journey back to the Wimmera for this extremely rare species.

Found in mallee country in north-western Victoria, fewer than 500 Forked Spyridium (Spyridium furculetum) remain in just three wild populations. The very rare shrub grows to around 1.6 metres tall and has dark green-grey leaves with delicate, small yellow flowers surrounded by pale grey-green to white floral leaves.

The much-anticipated translocation is part of a joint project with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Threatened Species Team.

DELWP Planning Biodiversity Officer, Bianca Gold said the purpose of the release is to increase the population of the Forked Spyridium within its known range.

“By translocating these 178 plants back to the wild, we’re able to reduce the risk to current populations from the threats of drought, fire and land clearing. Re-establishing these plants in the wild will also increase our knowledge of the species over time.”

The plants were propagated at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens Nursery from 450 wild-collected seeds.

The little shrub is one of several threatened species that have been reintroduced to our 130ha property which was purchased in 2008 as part of our commitment to Habitat 141, a visionary project to restore and reconnect iconic landscapes along the 141st longitude. The cleared land has since been revegetated under a voluntary carbon offset program with electricity provider Simply Energy, whilst extensive pest plant and animal control ensures the continued improvement of biodiversity values.

Our Wimmera Ecologist, Jess Gardner, said she was excited to now be working with DELWP’s Threatened Species Team to be able to return to the site and re-introduce further species now that many of the threats to biodiversity have been reduced.

“We are committed to continuing pest plant and animal control works in order to protect what will be the largest reinstated population of the threatened Forked Spyridium.”

Melbourne Gardens Nursery staff regularly propagate plants from seed stored at the Victorian Conservation Seedbank for translocation to the wild for the purposes of regenerating threatened species.

This week’s planting is the first attempt to re-establish plants under a formal Translocation Plan for Threatened Species. Staff from the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria made an unsuccessful attempt 25 years ago to replant the species from cuttings. Seed-grown plants generally produce better root-systems, so there is confidence that the new plantings will succeed.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Acting Director and Chief Executive, Mr Chris Cole said the Gardens is committed to working with partner agencies to support conservation efforts in the wild in the preservation of rare and threatened species.

“The sharing of our combined skills improves outcomes for threatened species while refining and exploring new approaches to plant conservation.”