Scientists discover rare plant in Grampians

A PLANT believed extinct 10 years ago has been found thriving in the Grampians National Park.

Scientists, students and rangers have found 12 new populations of the Grampians bitter pea in the park and at Mt Langi Ghiran.

Researcher Brendan Nugent said wallaby populations had benefited from the plant’s re-emergence, because it was one of their staple foods.

The state government has listed the plant as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and its conservation status is vulnerable.

Mr Nugent started studying the species in 2008, dedicating hours to mapping and monitoring the plant and co-ordinating information from volunteers.

“The Grampians bitter pea or Davisea laevis was thought to be extinct until 2004, when the species was rediscovered at Langi Ghiran State Park. Very little was known about its biology and ecology,” he said.

“Thanks to resident scientists, Grampians field naturalists, university students, the Wilderness Society, Grampians Bushwalking Club, threatened species officers and Parks Victoria rangers all working together, 12 new populations have been found.

“The knowledge we have about this vulnerable species is now far more robust.”

Mr Nugent said most of the plants were still young and therefore vulnerable to predators and drought.

“The main threats include degraded and fragmented habitat; damage to young plants by birds, wallabies, and feral pigs; fewer emus to disperse seed; altered fire regimes and climate change,” he said.

“Swamp wallabies particularly like the young foliage of the species and can wipe out entire seedling populations.

“Plants also get hedged each year by crimson rosellas, but the species is able to cope with this repeated damage. It is also likely that crimson rosellas help to spread the seed long distances, making their visits particularly important.”

Mr Nugent has called for more volunteers to help with his research.

“If people are in the Grampians region and see an ‘egg and bacon’ flower plant that is about two metres or taller, we would love it if they would take photos and co-ordinates and contact Parks Victoria,” he said.

“The species isn’t included in Elliot’s Grampians flora guide, as it was thought to be extinct last time it was printed, so any help from the public in finding new populations is appreciated.”

The Grampians Bitter Pea research will be published in academic journals later this year.

The Grampians bitter pea

The Grampians bitter pea

FLOURISHING: Researcher Brendan Nugent with a Grampians bitter pea. Mr Nugent and volunteers have discovered 12 new pea populations. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

FLOURISHING: Researcher Brendan Nugent with a Grampians bitter pea. Mr Nugent and volunteers have discovered 12 new pea populations. Pictures: CONTRIBUTED

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