Australia’s flora is special – 90% of the plant species found here cannot be found anywhere else in the world. However, of our astounding 24,000 species of native plants, 1,402 plant species and subspecies are listed as threatened at a national level (more than double the number of threatened animals – 553), with 220 of these officially listed as critically endangered.
Land clearing, changed fire regimes, grazing by livestock and feral animals, plant diseases, weeds and climate change are all common causes of decreasing numbers – and things are not improving.
A report published by the Threatened Species Hub in 2021 showed that populations had declined on average by 72% between 1995 and 2017 – a much larger decrease than that for mammals, which have declined by about one-third, and birds, which have dropped by about half over the same time period.
Here, we look at ten threatened plant species we’re working to protect through land management programs on our sanctuaries and partnership areas.
Styphelia Geniculata. Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status: data deficient
Our Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland is the only know location in the world to find the Styphelia geniculata which is currently unlisted in legislation as it was only formerly described in 2018. Plants are very rare, and found on steep, wind-exposed granite spurs at relatively high altitudes. Depending on exposure to wind, the plant varies in size from compact short bonsai-like shrubs 30 cm tall, to taller (1.3 m) bushy shrubs. The leaves are prickly to touch, and the small flowers, about 6mm long, are vivid red.
Macropteranthes Montana. Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status: Vulnerable Nationally and in QLD
Officially classed as a dry rainforest species, this unusual tree, known as Antique Wood or Bonewood is limited in range to southern Cape York, including on our Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary. It often forms dense scrubs where it is the dominant tree, but is also occasionally found sporadically in sparse, open forest and woodland on skeletal soils. The bark of the trunk is blackish, hard and rough, and the leaves are small, glossy and dark green. Crimson flowers with long anthers can be seen during favourable conditions from November to June.
Acacia unguicula. Wayne Lawler/AWC
Status: Critically Endangered Nationally, and in Western Australia
This species can be found on our Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia, where we have been working on propagating this rare plant in an exclusion area protected from feral rabbits and goats, as well as native herbivores, and irrigated from solar-powered pumps. The species is endemic to Western Australia, and when fully grown it is an erect shrub growing to a height of about 3 metres. When flowering it produces deep golden blossoms about 5-6mm in diameter.
Eucalyptus mooreana. Sarah Legge/AWC
Status: Vulnerable Nationally and in Western Australia
Known also as the Mountain White Gum, this species is found on our Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia. Eucalyptus mooreana is a small, straggly tree or mallee with smooth white bark that is shed annually to reveal new pale pink bark. The species can grow up to nine metres high with thick grey-green leaves, and grows in red sandy soils over sandstone. Flowering occurs between May and August and the blossoms are a rich, creamy white.
Hibbertia Sp.”taravale”. Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status: Endangered in Queensland
This is a newly discovered species of guinea flower which has most of its population on our Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland. Like most guinea flowers this species produces vivid yellow flowers. Unlike most other guinea flowers in the area, it grows into a large bushy, very prickly, shrub. To date, the entire world population is only known from western and southern parts of Mount Zero-Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary.
Acacia Imitans. Don Brown/AWC
Status: Endangered Nationally, and Critically Endangered in Western Australia
This low dense spreading shrub, commonly known as Gibson Wattle, typically grows to a height of up to one metre and can be found on our Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia. Flowering occurs from August to September and results in cylindrical flower-heads with bright yellow flowers up to 5mm in diameter. The total population of this species is estimated at around 550 mature plants.
Hybanthus Cymulosus. Don Brown/AWC
Status: Critically Endangered Nationally and in Western Australia
Known by the common name Ninghan Violet, Hybanthus cymulosus is a perennial herb that is endemic to Western Australia and grows to less than a metre in height. The species is known from only seven subpopulations, one of which can be found on our Mt Gibson Wildlife Sanctuary. It can be found along drainage lines and gullies in red clay loam of rocky doleritic hills. It produces blue to purple flowers from May to July.
Vincetoxicum Forsteri (tylophora Linearis). Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status Endangered Nationally, Vulnerable in NSW
Also known as Vincetoxicum forsteri, this slender twiner blends into the surrounding bush and can be very difficult to find. However, the flowers are startingly beautiful when viewed up close, having five maroon-coloured hairy petals which are twisted in a propeller-like fashion. This plant is scattered in parts of central New South Wales and Southern Queensland, especially in cypress-pine and casuarina scrubs, and can be found in our Pilliga Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ehretia Microphylla. Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status: Vulnerable in Queensland
Also called Scorpionbush, Ehretia microphylla is found in eastern parts of Cape York in monsoon forest and vine thickets. It is a much-branched tall shrub to small tree which generally grows between one and three metres in height. It has small, delicate, white flowers that bloom almost year-round, and tiny round green, red, or black fruits. The species can be found on our Brooklyn Wildlife Sanctuary.
Bulbophyllum Globuliforme. Rigel Jensen/AWC
Status: Vulnerable in Queensland
The Miniature Moss-orchid, is a tiny epiphytic orchid that grows on the bark of trees in moist gullies and is sometimes referred to as Hoop Pine Orchid for its preference to grow on the scaly bark of hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). Very few locations of this species are known, being sparsely scattered from northern New South Wales to central Queensland, with an outlying population in far north Queensland at our Mount-Zero Wildlife Sanctuary. Due to the very small size of the leaves which often form dense mats, it is often dismissed as moss. It has small cream-coloured flowers about 3mm long.