Endangered plant found in the ranges

CONSERVATION: A grouping of the Freckled Duck as found in the Gammon Ranges, about 350-kilometres north of Port Augusta. Photo: SA Arid Lands.
CONSERVATION: A grouping of the Freckled Duck as found in the Gammon Ranges, about 350-kilometres north of Port Augusta. Photo: SA Arid Lands.

Ecologists have made a significant discovery in the state's far north, uncovering large populations of a regionally critically endangered plant.

The Freckled Duck is critically endangered in the Flinders Ranges but has been a target species for SA Arid Lands' Bounceback and Beyond program.

The finding comprises a population of about 1500 plants at 10 different sites, stretching over a kilometre at a site east of the town of Copley.

SA Arid Lands Community Ecologist Ben McCallum and DEW Principal Rangelands Ecologist Rob Brandle have been credited with the discovery.

"We don't know a lot about this plant, but it is believed they grow in colonies in a specific soil type," Mr McCallum said.

"The significance of this find is that occurs at a site that is very localised in South Australia, with the closest known population some 700-kilometres away in Queensland," Mr McCallum said.

HABITAT: The Freckled Duck when it is flowering. Photo: South Australian Conservation Centre.

HABITAT: The Freckled Duck when it is flowering. Photo: South Australian Conservation Centre.

Many of the plants found were showing moderate to heavy signs of being impacted livestock such as goats, sheep and kangaroos.

"I suspect it is not the most palatable plant out there, but because there is nothing else on the ground right now, they're being impacted by grazing."

- SA Arid Lands Community Ecologist Ben McCallum

However, inside a 900-square-metre exclosure built by Nantawarrina Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) staff, plants were found to be more structurally intact with a better chance of reproducing.

"Overall, the plants are hanging on despite the extended dry period and the pressures from herbivores," Mr McCallum said.

"I suspect it is not the most palatable plant out there, but because there is nothing else on the ground right now, they're being impacted by grazing."

The plants are expected to flower in the next two months and at that time specimens will be collected and lodged with the State Herbarium.

The new location may also be important for the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, if more viable seed is required for germination trials.