Helping a (big) threatened herb to survive & prosper

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Tall Astelia (Astelia australiana) is a threatened herb which is only known from 15 sites in cool temperate rainforests and riparian thickets in the Central Highlands and Otway Ranges of Victoria.

In the past 20 years numbers of the species have halved, and it is only known to occur in one location in the Otways. This decline has been attributed to disease (such as Phytophthora spp.), deer and wildfire. Access to light is also crucial to Tall astelia, which require canopy gaps to reproduce and the biggest threat to population growth is the limited amount of light available in its preferred habitat.

In 2018, we worked with Linda Parker from The University of Melbourne to move 54 individual plants from the one known location in the Otways to new ones to ensure that the population had a better chance should fire or other events affect the original site.

The researchers will now undertake genetic analysis to determine the genetic diversity and gene flow between these populations. This research will be used to inform future translocations and conservation management of this species.

This work is a collaboration between The University of Melbourne, Conservation Ecology Centre, Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.