Precipitous pea*

This rare species of pea has just (17 September 2010) been given what is called a 'preliminary determination' as a Critically Endangered Species in New South Wales. The NSW Scientific Committee will now seek and consider public submissions before making their final determination on  Pultenaea sp. 'Genowlan Point'.

In the latest survey by Jan Allen, in May this year, there were 15 plants, only two more than the worrrying low of 13 four years ago. This is what I said about it in 2006, on the Weekend Show with Simon Marnie (702AM): 

The Wollemi Pine is perhaps our best know ‘very rare’ plant, but more than a thousand plant species are threatened with extinction in Australia.

Not all threatened species are as charismatic as the Wollemi Pine. The Nightcap Oak (Eidothea hardeniana), a member of the generally charismatic protea family, is know from only 23 individual plants on the Nightcap Range in northern NSW.

The Nightcap Oak is being propagated at the botanic gardens, but its tiny white flowers won’t compete with the showy waratah or banksia.

A plant on the brink literally has been nicknamed – by definition rare plants are rarely common enough to be given ‘common names’ – Precipitous Pea. This species of Pultenaea was discovered nine years ago but is yet to be given a formal scientific name.

The Precipitous Pea is a small nondescript shrub, only attracting attention when in flower.

Although it sounds like the name of a jazz band, the nickname is particular apt. This plant clings precariously – physically and for its long term survival – to the edge of a cliff above Capertree Valley, just north of Lithgow. Drought and browsing by feral goats has meant that the 64 individuals discovered in 1997 have now been reduced to 13.

A few weeks ago, volunteers joined staff from the Botanic Gardens Trust (at Mount Tomah Botanic Garden) and the National Parks & Wildlife Service to give the remaining plants some much needed TLC.

Tree guards were erected and the plants were watered with chlorine-free water. The team were careful to wash their boots and equipment to make sure no pests or diseases were brought into the site.

Locals are helping not only by volunteering, but by keeping clear of the area at all other times to help protect the plants from trampling and disease. If you want to see the Precipitous Pea, its best to visit the Mount Tomah Botanic Garden where we have a single plant on display in our, unprecipitous, Rock Garden.

*From the Archive (spoken but not wroten). Images by Simon Nalley, posted on the 2005 Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water plant profile for this species.


MIke Guiry said…
What a wonderful colour.

I see Kew estimates that one-fifth of all plants are threatened, and I believe it.

Mike Guiry
Tim Entwisle said…
There was a paper our a few years ago that estimate one in two vascular plants were under threat so 1 in 5 is almost good news! That previous work was based on undescribed species as well so difficult to compare, and judge...
Either way it's not a good thing.
Tim Entwisle said…
Jan Allen (7 october 2010) provides this additional information - thanks Jan!

"...after the headcount of 13 in 2006 they reduced further in 2007 to only 8 so they are making a wobbly comeback. What is happening is that the rootstock of plants that were browsed level with the rocky pavement so that we could not see them in 2006-2008 are, in some cases, resprouting. I’m convinced there are no 'new' plants.

"Our one plant in the Rock Garden at Tomah limped along for quite a while and then died. It was in a shady spot. None of the prop material here made it through the nursery and Tracey [Armstrong] tells me the [Mount] Annan [Botanic Garden] material all failed.

"On the bright side they have had two good rain years and several plants should flower this year and more than five of them could sustain the harvest of some prop material."
What a lovely pea.
I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!!
I definitely enjoyed reading every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.