Rare finds in Kangaroo Island

Date posted: 16 March 2016

Christmas 2015 was fast approaching and while shopping and other chores needed doing, we decided to squeeze in a third and final week-long field trip to Kangaroo Island. And it didn’t disappoint.

Accompanying us to KI – a pristine wilderness 112 kilometres southwest of Adelaide – were two volunteers: Dr Lucy Sutherland, Australian Seed Bank Partnership coordinator from Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra; and Denzel Murfet, a very knowledgeable field botanist and ornithologist from Port Elliot.

The focus of the field work was to collect seeds for a number of endemic and threatened plant species that were recorded during previous field trips.

As far as seed collecting locations go, it’s hard to it’s hard to imagine any more picturesque, with Kangaroo Island’s stunning coastline views always in sight. The afternoon sea breezes were a welcome treat after a day in the sun.

Some of the species we collected included:

Spyridium scabridum: a densely hairy shrub which occurs in the western end of the island near Cape Borda.

Cheiranthera volubilis: a rare twining plant which has bright blue flowers and grows in heath on ironstone soils.

Olax obcordata: a rare endemic fire responsive shrub that is now restricted to the northwest corner of Kangaroo Island and presumed extinct on mainland AUS.

Grevillea muricata: a very restricted and rare grevillea that occurs on ironstones soils in the eastern part of Kangaroo Island.

Once again it was great to stay at the Flinders-Baudin Research Centre accommodation at Flinders Chase National Park (as well as an old-school seaside hotel in Kingscote) while doing the field work – a spectacular park teeming with wildlife. We also had the great opportunity to meet resident Kangaroo Island entomologist Andy Young.

We’ll ensure we pass on some images and information for some of the historic plant collections from Kangaroo Island to Andy and Bev Overton. If there’s any chance of rediscovering of some these plant species it’ll be most likely in the hands of some of the island’s resident experts.

A final tally of 32 species seed collections (most of these endemic to KI) resulted from the field work, which we pushed to the limit – we were collecting seeds right up until our ferry was about to head back! The pizza on-board the ferry was the cherry on top as we reflected on our work.

A total of 13 seed collections were achieved for state threatened species and a few hundred plant specimens collected for the State Herbarium, which will validate seed collections and photographs.

In addition to the collections, hundreds of photographs of plant species habit, flowers, fruits etc. were recorded and will be soon be uploaded to the Seeds of South Australia website.

The seed collections have been processed and photomicrographs of the seeds have been taken and uploaded to the website. During autumn and winter we’ll undertake the laboratory seed germination work and we’ll upload the germination results online too.

Many thanks to Bev and Dean Overton for advice and suggested localities for a number of target species. Many thanks, too, to those who gave up their valuable time to join us on fieldwork this season: Thai Te, Denzel Murfet, Caroline Crawford, Lucy Sutherland and horticulture staff Evan Brougham and Flavio Perez.

Until next time!