Rare subalpine plants survive bush inferno

·2-min read

Ecologists are elated after discovering five rare plants in Australia's subalpine region survived the devastating Black Summer bushfires.

Now the race is on to create a bank of seeds and seedlings as an insurance policy against future disasters.

There were grave fears for the species, including the striking slender parrot pea and the dwarf violet, after flames tore through parts of three national parks in the ACT, NSW and Victoria.

But search crews have managed to find small populations of all five - enough to allow for some careful harvesting.

"Australia's Alps are home to some amazing rare plants found nowhere else in the world but for many we had no seeds stored or specimens growing in a nursery," says National Parks Conservation Trust spokesperson Dr Judy West.

"To find all five target species is wonderful news."

The Survive and Thrive program, set up after the fires, should change that with teams working hard to locate surviving plants, collect seeds and take cuttings, and figure out how to propagate them.

The resulting collections could be used to boost wild populations down the track.

Australian National Botanic Gardens manager Peter Byron says the five species are still largely a mystery.

"We need to learn which specific temperature and humidity conditions are best to keep the seeds viable in long term storage.

"We also need to discover if they require certain cues from the environment to germinate such as fire, smoke, or a change in temperature or moisture."

Survive and Thrive is a partnership involving the National Parks Conservation Trust, the Australian National Botanic Gardens, WWF Australia, and government entities.

In addition to the slender parrot pea and dwarf violet, the rare Namadgi tea tree, daisy bush and shiny phebalium were variously found in parts of the Namadgi National Park in the ACT, Kosciuszko National Park in NSW and the Alpine National Park in Victoria.

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