Glycine Clandestina: Endangered
Davidsonia Jerseyana: Endangered
Grevillea Caleyi: Critically Endangered
Australia’s beautiful native plants are at risk of extinction.
There are 24,000 species of native plants in Australia, and already many are extinct or threatened.
The government’s latest data lists 37 plants as extinct, 197 as critically endangered, and 555 as endangered.
One of those listed is in the Dalrymple Hay Nature Reserve located in St Ives on the North Shore of Sydney.
The reserve is home to Blue Gum High Forest, a critically endangered ecological community made up of 180 Indigenous plant species. The forest is unique as it only occurs in the Sydney region.
Over the years, the forest has faced many threats, including in 1880 when the first settlers logged the forest to build roads and bridges. In the 1920s, the forest was used to help construct the railway and then later felled to give way for housing development.
Today, the invasion of weeds, stormwater run-off and rubbish dumping further threaten the forest.
In 1788 there were 3720ha but now only 4.5 per cent, 167ha, of the original forest exists in patches across the Sydney region.
*These images have been taken on the land of the Gadigal people.
Pat Chadwhick, 75, has been a bush care volunteer since 2006. She can be found at the reserve every second and fourth Sunday of the month.
A small group of volunteers works to weed out invasive and native plants that don’t belong, to keep the forest in its most original state.
Pat is one of 17,000 volunteers across Sydney working to restore bushland.
Bush care programs are an integral part of keeping native plants and habitat thriving.
The reserve is under Ku-ring-Gai Council’s management, which works closely with the State and Federal governments to ensure the reserve is adequately protected.
Chelsea Costello is the Natural Areas Officer who oversees the management of protected areas in the region.
She believes that volunteers play an immensely important role in bush rehabilitation by ensuring that sites stay preserved, but there is a huge amount of work behind the scenes that safeguard threatened species.
“Every two years sites, are reviewed… and the way they’re prioritised is based on the significance of the vegetation community or the threatened species within the zone,” she says.
“If you’ve got Blue Forest or Turpentine Ironbark Forest, it would rate really high.”
Ms Costello believes the future of protecting our threatened native species is through education and community understanding.
“I think education is really important for the community because a lot of the time people genuinely just don’t understand how sensitive the bushland is.
“It could only be a tiny patch of vegetation on their land, and they just don’t realise what they’re doing could seriously be impacting community bushland.”
She believes that Ku-ring-Gai Council does a lot to help aid native bushland, by having signage that explains the importance of the native flora and doing regular letter drops.
Bossiaea Obcordata: Not at risk
Poa Labillardierei: Not at risk
Westringia Fruticosa: Not at risk
The biggest risk is managing threatened species on private land.
“70 per cent of threatened species are… on private land,” Ms Costello adds.
“That’s probably where the biggest risk will be looking into the future. Because it’s such small patches on private property, it’s really difficult to manage.”
Ms Costello explained that one tree on a private property doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you have one threatened tree on 100 separate properties it becomes a lot harder to manage.
“So, I think it’s definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges in the future, making sure threatened communities are protected across private properties.”
Without bush care volunteers, it’s hard to say what Australia’s native bushland would like.
Pat believes one of the best parts of being a volunteer is, “the peace of mind and getting to see nature carrying on doing its own thing to shine.”
The volunteer group has other benefits as well, not just helping the Blue Gums but also providing a way for meaningful community connection.
“I meet all these beautiful people who similarly give their time and are passionate about the bush, and we generally talk about everything.
into the vault…
Melaleuca Hypericifolia: Not at risk
Eucalyptus Capitellata: Protected
Angophora Crassifolia: Rare
The Australian National Seed Bank is home to thousands of Australian native seeds.
Tom North is one of its curators and is based inside the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
The Seed Bank has been growing steadily since the 1960s, and is now home to thousands of plant species. In the last eight years alone, three and a half thousand seeds have been added to the collection.
Mr North says that collecting seeds is a complicated process. Before one can be filed, research needs to be completed into how the plant functions, through monitoring when it flowers and when it produces fruit.
Seeds in the seed bank range from decades-old through to centuries-old, but they need to be brought out and tested regularly.
It differs from species to species. For example, Alpine species only store for a decade, so they need to be re-tested and re-collected.
Most seeds are stored by drying them down to a very low moisture content of between 3 – 7 per cent.
They are then packaged and put in the freezer at minus 20 degrees.
“At that low temperature and moisture content, we’re not doing any damage to the seed. They’re not forming any crystals in their cells and, we are able to store them for long periods of time.”
Around the world, there is a goal to conserve 25 per cent of the world’s flora within seed banks.
Some of Australia’s threatened species can be found at the Millennium Seed Bank located in Kew, England, which stores the world’s largest and most diverse plant seeds in the world.
Mr North believes the key to our environmental future is through preserving seeds in seed banks across different countries.
“We need to rethink the way we collect and regenerate… to make sure we have a back-up in seed banks for the future.”
Macrozamia Communis: Not at risk
Calochilus Campestris: Rare
Eucalyptus Haemastoma: Protected
Throughout history, plants have always been left on the wayside.
Paul Adam, a botanist and geographer, believes that there has been a long history of people thinking exclusively about animals regarding the natural environment.
“Historically, the protection of plants has been relatively limited. Animals come first in the general public’s mind and they still do.
“It’s a long history and it’s difficult to work out why it’s there.”
Coined ‘Plant Blindness,’ the theory states that humans don’t recognise plants’ contributions as much as they recognise animals in the wild.
The term was created by botanists Elizabeth Schussler and James Wandersee in 1999.
The bias is attributed to several factors, including a greater focus on animals in education, the lack of plants’ movement, slow growth, and similar colour. These factors contribute to grouping plants as one whole matter in a person’s mind.
He believes that it’s a huge issue especially when it comes to saving Australia’s threatened native species.
“In terms of funding, if there’s a particular appeal, people give money for koala conservation, they’re not going to give money for some obscure species of plant.”
Mr Adam believes the key to changing society’s thinking about plants, is through education at a young age.
With more threatened species added to the list every year, education is more important than ever.
“Natural history has got squeezed out of the curriculum but it’s a side of education that we urgently need to revisit.”