Plant story - conserving grassland paper daisy in Tasmania

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has conserved the endangered Australian grassland paper daisy (Leucochrysum albicans).

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01 Jan 2010

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msb leucochrysum albicans

Australian grassland paper daisy (Leucochrysum albicans) (Photo: L. Gilfedder)

Plant species in Tasmania are under threat

The spring of 2005 was the wettest for the Midlands area of Tasmania for nearly 25 years; this was a fortunate occurrence for the collection efforts of Tasmania's Seed Safe project. Different from the vision of Tasmania often portrayed internationally, as a place of moss-encrusted, temperate rainforests, tall wet Eucalyptus forests and Gondwanic relics of alpine flora nestled around craggy dolerite peaks, the Midlands, which are located in the central east of the Island, are in stark contrast, characterised by diverse temperate native grasslands and low grassy woodlands. Plant communities similar to these grow right up the eastern seaboard of Australia. These communities have been cleared extensively for agriculture and represent some of the country's most threatened vegetation types, and consequently are home to a large number of highly threatened species.

A great opportunity for seed collecting

The wet spring of 2005 caused a mass flowering of many of the short lived perennial, annual, ephemeral and geophytic herbs, which represent much of the biodiversity in these areas. This was a great opportunity for seed collection with many species present in larger numbers than have been seen in recent memory. One species collected was the grassland paper daisy (Leucochrysum albicans subsp. albicans var. tricolor ). This plant species is a short lived perennial; however, the number of individuals fluctuates greatly from year to year. It is a very attractive plant species that is used occasionally in landscaping and has recognised potential as a cut flower.

The decline of grassland paper daisy

In Tasmania, the grassland paper daisy was once widespread and relatively common on fertile soils throughout the eastern half of the region. However, land clearance and changes in management practices have caused a significant decline in the species since European settlement.

In lowland areas it is now primarily restricted to grassland remnants in areas incidental to agriculture, such as on road and rail margins, and in some lightly grazed and un-fertilised pastures. This trend has been repeated throughout the species range, which extends from Tasmania, through Victoria and New South Wales up into Queensland. As a result the grassland paper daisy has been listed as "endangered Australia-wide" (IUCN Red List Criteria). It is also listed as "Endangered" under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act (1995); this category is given to species at the greatest risk of extinction.

Making a difference to the future of this plant species

The successful collection of this species, along with a further six threatened and numerous unlisted native grassland species, is a good start for the seed bank conservation of these threatened communities. Germination work on these plant species will hopefully provide a better understanding of the dynamics and suitable management practices for the largely disturbance-dependent, diverse native grassland remnants of Tasmania's Midlands.

Story by Micah Visoiu, DPIW, Tasmania | More plant stories

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