Freckled Duck found in the Gammon Ranges

News article |

The discovery of several large populations of the regionally critically endangered Freckled Duck (Xerothamnella parvifolia) in South Australia’s Gammon Ranges is great news for the plant species.

Posted 28 August 2019.

The finding, by SA Arid Land Community Ecologist Ben McCallum and DEW Principal Rangelands Ecologist Rob Brandle, comprises a population of about 1500 plants at 10 different sites, stretching over a kilometre at a site east of the town of Copley.

“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 700km away in Queensland.”

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

Freckled Duck is a target species in the Bounceback and Beyond program, which is supported by SA Arid Lands through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare program.

Motion cameras that form part of the Bounceback and Beyond monitoring program have been able to provide some insight into the herbivore threats faced by the plants.

A continued partnership with Nantawarrina IPA Rangers will ensure these populations will be kept under close check in the future.

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.

NOTE: Xerothamnella parviflora is critically endangered in the Flinders Ranges block (sub IBRA region, listed as endangered in South Australia and New South Wales and is vulnerable in Australia on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) database.

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