By John Hawker
In this article, we feature the species chosen to highlight the North East - Border Region. An endangered plant was chosen for 2015: Senecio garlandii - Woolly Ragwort.
In 2001, this species was listed as extinct in Victoria, only being known from very few populations in southern New South Wales: - principally at 'The Rock' and 'Mt. Tabletop' near Albury. In these localities it grows on and near rock ledges in accumulated litter, in areas with higher natural run-off.
Woolly Ragwort is a robust member of the 'daisy' family. It is a perennial to 1.5 metres tall, with large, broad, waxy toothed leaves having a velvety underside, and yellow-rayed daisy flowers in upright branched clusters. It flowers when the weather warms in Spring. A notable feature of adult plants is the presence of a large perennial rootstock. During winter, the plants die back to the rootstock, enabling them to survive winter frosts, sprouting again in the Spring. The rootstock and waxy felted leaves are all drought tolerance adaptations.
The numerical and range decline of this species has been attributed to grazing; mostly rabbits and macropods which eat the tender seedlings before they have a chance to develop a large rootstock, and subsequent inbreeding in the small isolated populations, leading to a reduction in the percentage of viable fertile seed produced.
Recovery of this species in the wild is by growing seedlings from collected seed. The young plants are planted back with wild populations, with the young plants requiring strong protective guards against kangaroo, wallaby, and rabbit predation.
In 2004, a chance comment by veteran naturalist Eileen Collins to John Hawker, where she described a plant which had become extinct in Victoria in the 1990's, led to the following exchange: "I know where it grows, I'II take you there tomorrow." Eileen's reply was : "don't be silly, you must be mistaken", to which I replied: "no, I'm sure it's the plant you just described." So, next day eleven plants were duly re-discovered growing in Victoria. Since then, further searching has located a couple of other small isolated colonies, most within Chiltern - Mt. Pilot National Park, growing in tall open forest.