By ABC Open producer Sean O’Brien
November 23, 2016 17:31:00
An afternoon stroll by a nursery owner has turned up a new species of banksia that authorities are now working hard to protect.Jacki Koppman spied the unusual-looking banksia and thought it best to take a cutting which she sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney for identification.Her instincts were spot on — the banksia turned out to be a new species.Now named Banksia vincentia, at the time it was discovered, there were just 14 individual plants in the wild. Photo:
Two people from the Office of Environment and Heritage planting the Banksia vincentia in the wild. Photo:
Dr David Bain is the Threatened Species Officer with the Saving our Species program at the Office of Environment and Heritage (ABC Open: Sean O’Brien)
Dr Bain has designed a three-step insurance plan for the banksia, including partnering with a number of botanic gardens including Wollongong Botanic Gardens, the Australian Botanic Gardens in Canberra, and gardens as far afield as the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom.”The species is in a dire situation, but I’m still optimistic we can keep this species alive,” Dr Bain said.”I regularly go to the site to look at the health of the plants, measure the width to see if they’ve grown, see if they’re in flower.”The five plants are looking really healthy, and we’ve got a couple of seedlings coming up as well which we’re excited about.”But looking after the plants in situ is only one part of the plan.”In case something catastrophic happens, we’re also building up insurance populations in the various botanic gardens, propagating the plants from cuttings, growing some plants from seeds, and also holding seed banks.”We’re hoping that eventually we can take some of these plants and re-establish new populations back in the wild.”What is future for Banksia vincentia?Currently there are 600 seeds in various seed banks and 24 plants have been germinated from seeds at the Australian Botanic Gardens.About 60 propagated cuttings are growing at botanic gardens throughout the NSW south-east, including at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.Dr Bain hopes to get to several hundred plants growing in botanic gardens before plants are shifted into the wild. (Office of the Environment and Heritage)
“The challenge of saving Banksia vincentia is an investment by the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program, which aims to protect almost 1,000 animals and plants at risk of extinction for the next 100 years in the wild,” Dr Bain said.”My hope for the Banksia vincentia is that we can have this plant surviving on its own in the wild without intensive management.”There’s an intrinsic value in all species and just for that reason alone, we don’t want to lose this species.”While the concern is always there for threatened species, I’m always optimistic, and I love my job.”I get to interact with lots of different people, I’m out in the bush regularly, building partnerships, and interacting with experts in the conservation and science field from around NSW, so it’s a really rewarding job.” That number is now down to five.The plants are growing in an area close to urban development and are susceptible to threats such as fire, pathogens, and even theft.Designing insurance plan for plant’s futureWith so few specimens, it would not take much to wipe out the entire population.Threatened species officer, Dr David Bain from the Saving our Species program at the Office of Environment and Heritage has a number of rare and threatened species under his care.Banksia vincentia is one of them.
Saving Australia's rarest Banksia