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Alunga doing well in the Flinders

News release
05 December 2022

Ten new populations of the Slender Bell Fruit (Codonocarpus pyramidalis) have been located in the Flinders Ranges.

Known to the local Adnyamathanha traditional owners as Alunga and to local landholders as the Chinese Lantern Tree, this mysterious plant species is listed as nationally vulnerable and endangered in South Australia. It is believed to have a minor occurrence in New South Wales in addition to populations in the central and northern Flinders Ranges and in the Olary Ranges.

The new populations were located from guidance and information shared by pastoralists.

“Use of observational data from landholders has played a crucial role in understanding this species and locating new populations,” SAAL Board Ecologist Ben McCallum said.

“The information may contribute to reviewing the conservation status nationally.”

Five new adult plants and 15-20 younger seedlings were recorded on Willow Springs, following information received from owner Brendon Reynolds.

Mr McCallum and SAAL Field Officer Alice Smith also visited a 25-year old monitoring exclosure site on another property, where a mass germination event was noted in 2020. Inside the exclosure plants had grown from seedlings to heights ranging from 0.5m to 1.2m. However, outside just five small plants were located from 30 previously recorded Alunga. All had been browsed and exhibited a modified architectural structure.

As part of the field trip, the SAAL officers also recorded information on browse impacts on individuals within discrete populations.

Goats will eat the Slender bell fruit, but it is believed they only target it when not much else is available.

On nearby Angepena Station, the Nichols family directed the SAAL team to an area where about 50 plants had appeared on a recently graded track. However, due to track damage, the site was not able to be reached.

“Despite not being able to visit, the information is still very important because it supports theories that bell fruit require more than just fire and ant dispersal to aid germination,” Mr McCallum said.

The Nichols’ also provided information that led to the location of a 400-plant population during a visit in 2020.

On Nantawarrina, rangers have been implementing a project to create micro-exclosures and large mesh guards to protect endangered species such as this one from herbivore damage. The success of this can be measured by finding several seedlings next to the guarded individuals during the visit.

The Slender bell fruit occurs mostly on shales that provide limited soil structure and stability. It is rarely found on the top of higher quartz ranges, in valleys or on the flats. Like many known populations, they are restricted to tracks, half of which are no longer in use and given the size of the landscape it is not possible to visit all of them.

The Slender Bell fruit is a target species of the Bounceback and Beyond project, which is delivered by the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.