Seed Hunters spring update

Date posted: 15 October 2017

With the seed collecting season well underway, South Australian Seed Conservation Centre staff have been hitting the road in earnest, hunting threatened species for the seed bank.

Most recently, they travelled to Eyre Peninsula and the Gawler Ranges, where a rare collection was made from Triglochin longicarpa, collected from tiny plants growing in the margins of salt lakes salt near Hiltaba. There are only five records of this plant in South Australia.

There are also several target species from the Murray Mallee region, including the rare Phlegmatospermum eremaeum and  EPBC-listed (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act) Caladenia colorata. Hybanthus floribundus ssp. floribundus is also a target for seed collection, germination experiments and propagation of plants for the Murray Mallee Local Action Planning Association.

Peter Lang and Dan Duval are in the field this week so there'll be more fascinating finds to report soon.

Also on the rare wish-list this season

Another species of interest is the rare Broughton Pea (Swainsona procumbens). Seed Centre staff have collected this vulnerable swainson-pea from a number of small populations in the Tatiara region of the South East. This rare pea generally occurs on cracking clay soils of gilgai swamps and buloke woodlands.

There are also some disjunct occurrences of this rare swainson-pea in the Flinders Ranges and Mid North, although most of these are historic. The Flinders Ranges records are represented by a single specimen collected from Melrose near Mt Remarkable in 1922.

In 2015 Botanic Gardens of South Australia trainee Ryan Underhill provided a photo of a pea he observed while camping with his wife Kate at Melrose. The photo was taken from the road to Alligator Gorge, north of Melrose, and excitingly appeared to be Swainsona procumbens.

Ryan, with a new addition to the family in tow, returned to Melrose for a camping weekend the following spring, eager to locate the swainson-pea again. Fortunately Kate, who has the good eye in the family, was able to relocate the plants after many hours of searching along the roadside.

The seed hunters hope to collect seeds for this rare swainson-pea population later this year. Coincidentally, a colleague working in the region last year also located a small population at Bundaleer Reservoir near Spalding, so the Seed Centre crew will attempt to collect and bank seeds for this newly discovered population too.

The vulnerable Behr’s swainson-pea (Swainsona behriana) is also on the wish-list this spring. The gorgeous purple pea is only known within the Mount Lofty Ranges region from a few small extant populations near Kapunda and Kanmnatoo. The SA Seed Centre is working with Urrbrae Agricultural College and Marden College to seed orchard this species for reintroduction projects and seed banking.