Conservationists from around the country are working to save a critically endangered species of banksia from extinction.
- Booderee Botanic Gardens, in Jervis Bay, is planting 200 propagated Banksia vincentia seedlings this week
- The plant, which is specific to Vincentia, on the NSW South Coast, has been declared critically endangered
- Efforts to propagate it have proved successful so far, and conservationists hope to boost the wild population to 800
Fourteen Banksia vincentia plants were discovered 15 years ago in the New South Wales South Coast town of Vincentia.
But now, with only four remaining in the wild, conservationists from the Booderee, Wollongong, Australian, and National Botanic Gardens are collaborating to keep the species alive.
“In NSW the plant has been declared critically endangered, which in terms of conservation and declaration, is a rarity,” Booderee Botanic Gardens acting curator Stig Pedersen said.
Seeds of survival
Banksia vincentia is among six species that occur in the Shoalhaven region, but it does not grow naturally in the nearby Jervis Bay suburb of Booderee.
Where it has grown has left it vulnerable — eight years ago half the population was wiped out by fire, and then in 2016 the remaining seven plants were affected by wet conditions.
“Parts of the other half that survived became inundated with water for weeks,” Mr Pedersen said.
While things are looking dire in the wild, the push to propagate the plants in the Booderee National Park is proving successful so far.
“A decision was made that we would actively do some conservation establishing seed orchards,” Mr Pedersen said.
“Now at Booderee we have well over 1,200 individual propagated plants.
“We aim to establish 800 plants in the wild.
“We’ve planted 400 so far, with another planting session this week and a final one in August.”
‘I’ve killed hundreds’
The banksias need good drainage and mild conditions year-round to survive, and Mr Pedersen said getting the plantation going took some trial and error.
“One thing we’ve found is that, like many Australian plants, they do not like fertiliser, in particular, phosphors,” he said.
“We are at a stage now where we don’t give them any fertiliser until they are well established, and we use a seaweed-based liquid.
“I would estimate I’ve killed hundreds.