Thursday, June 13, 2024
Cyperus squarrosus, Bearded Flat Sedge

Extinct plant species rediscovered in Victoria’s mallee

A small plant species listed as extinct in Victoria has been re-discovered by botanists assessing recently flooded river land in Victoria’s north-west.

Cyperus squarrosus also known as Bearded Flat Sedge had been listed as extinct in Victoria for more than 60-years, with its last verified sighting in 1953.

Botanists from the Victorian Forest Monitoring Program discovered a significant population of the species while inspecting plots of public land close to the Murray River during last year’s floods.

Bearded Flat Sedge is a small, tufted plant which can grow to 16cm high and is suited to wet and muddy environments, including disturbed soil in floodplains.

Herbarium Collection from the 1950’s
Herbarium Collection from the 1950’s

Before confirming the discovery, botanists sent samples of the rediscovered plant population to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) to compare with the last verified specimen of the plant held in the State Botanical Collection.

Now verified, the sample has been added to the RBGV collection, regarded as one of Australia’s most valuable biological research repositories and one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, comprising more than 1.5 million dried plant, algae, and fungi specimens.

RBGV Director and Chief Executive Tim Entwisle saidWe are thrilled to play a role protecting Victoria’s at-risk flora and biodiversity, and helping to identify this species by comparing it to the irreplaceable specimens held in Victoria’s State Botanical Collection.”

The government is currently planning for ongoing management of the plant to ensure its survival for years to come. Victoria is the only state in Australia to have a dedicated and permanent Forest Monitoring Program.

Information collected by the program, across 803 different ground plots, is published in the State of the Forests Report and helps to develop policy around fire and flood impacts, habitat protection, forest productivity, and biodiversity.

“This discovery is a testament to the skills of those involved in the Forest Monitoring Program and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state,” said the Minister for Environment Ingrid Stitt.

Through Biodiversity 2037, and a record investment of $582 million since 2014, the government is investing more than ever in Victoria’s biodiversity and environment.

DEECA Chief Biodiversity Officer James Todd also commented on the rediscovery, saying “Many of our native plants, particularly grasses and sedges, are vulnerable to grazing and weed invasion, yet they are critical to the health of the landscape. This is a heartening discovery and shows the great resilience of the species.”

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