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23 May 2016

Our scientists deliver special seedlings

North Rothbury local residents have joined forces with the Australian Botanic Garden (ABG), The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and Cessnock City Council, to plant 120 specially grown cuttings and seedlings of the critically endangered North Rothbury Persoonia (Persoonia pauciflora).

The juvenile plants are offspring from wild individuals in North Rothbury and grown at the Australian Botanic Garden from cuttings and seed. This was not without its challenges as the plants are notoriously hard to grow and knowledge of their development and preferred conditions has been limited until recently. The wild North Rothbury Persoonia population is limited to a few small sites, often growing on road verges and private property.

Dr Nathan Emery, a Scientific Officer from the Australian Botanic Garden, has overseen the propagation of the young Persoonia pauciflora for many months and is happy to see them coming back to where their parent plants are growing:


 ‘Often when dealing with a critically-endangered species we need to step in and give a helping hand. Translocations are an important tool to supplement low numbers of plants in the wild. An event such as today is a wonderful opportunity for us as scientists to bring our research to the community, as it’s vital to increase awareness about conservation. And it is the North Rothbury Persoonia after all – a species that is unique to the local community!’

Nathan and his supervisor Dr Cathy Offord have been part of a team working to increase numbers of Persoonia in their native habitat. Traditional methods of bush rehabilitation have improved in recent years with greater contribution from scientists and improved understanding of genetics.    For this project a combined approach to conservation has been used including surveys of wild remnant plants, cutting and seed growing experiments, experimental plantings and community engagement.

For Dr Offord, the planting day is a fantastic outcome:

'We have been working for some years to understand how these plants grow in the wild as well as how to propagate them in our laboratory and nursery. To see the plants flourish back in the wild means that we are on the way to successfully conserving this precious species.’ 
Dr Cathy Offord

The local community are very enthusiastic and supportive of the project, with over 40 people coming along to help with the plantings earlier this month.

They had many questions for Nathan and Cathy and were thrilled to receive their own small Persoonia pauciflora plant to take home. A highlight of the day was a short bushwalk to see one of the large, healthy parent plants growing in a well-hidden spot.

Nathan will be keeping a watchful eye over his cuttings and seedlings in coming months.

'We are hopeful that most of the new plants will thrive. Previous plantings nearby are growing well and coping with natural threats such as hungry kangaroos and frost.'
Dr Nathan Emery
The entire population of North Rothbury Persoonia is at just over 1000 individual plants following the recent planting. The team from the Australian Botanic Garden are contributing to a vital project that should ensure the survival and health of Persoonia pauciflora into the future.

Kids planting

Persoonia in the hole

Volunteers planting persoonia Australian Botanic garden

Category: Science
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