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Seeds fly home to grow SA's bushfire recovery

Regional Showcase

South Australia is flying rare native seeds back from a British bank to save a species from extinction.

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Precious native pea seeds collected from the Adelaide Hills 13 years ago are winging their way home from London to help revegetate fire-ravaged land in the region.

“We’ve recalled some seeds back from the Millennium Seed Bank in the United Kingdom – they’ve been in transit in Sydney for a few weeks on their way back,” seed biologist Daniel Duval said.

“We’re doing some work around the Cudlee Creek area … there’s also two or three orchid species that we’re watching in the fire scar.”

The international delivery is a tribute to long-term planning.

Back in 2007, more than 1000 of the precious clover glycine seeds were collected from the Mount Lofty Ranges and sent to the Millennium Seed Bank in Kew Gardens, London.

Clover glycine (Glycine latrobeana)

Duval, a seed biologist at the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, said the move means that the rare pea, listed nationally as vulnerable, has a fighting chance of surviving fires that ripped through the Mount Lofty Ranges in December last year.

When the 250 seeds reach home, the seed conservation centre biologists and ecologists from Adelaide and Mt Lofty Natural Resources can begin their first important task – propagating a seed orchard.

New seeds collected from the orchard will then be used to grow plants to revegetate the hills around Cudlee Creek.

It is a unique global response to the state’s recovery from devastating bushfires last summer.

This week, Duval was in Eyre Peninsula visiting another region that was damaged by intense fires in December last year.

Duval was working on a “translocation trial” of the endangered Corunna Daisy at the Secret Rock Nature Reserve about 50km south-east of Kimba.

This plant was thought to be extinct after first being discovered in the 1800s and not seen again until plants were found in the 1980s and 1990s, its seeds later stored at the seed bank in the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

“We banked 8000 to 10,000 seeds between 10 and 15 years ago, we’ve made a seed orchard and farmed that species and have harvested about 480,000 seeds from that orchard,” Duval said.

It has resulted in the group now planting hundreds of plants in a 900-hectare enclosure owned by Ecological Horizons.

Ecological Horizons has already successfully introduced the nationally Endangered Chalky Wattle to the land with the help of the SA Herbarium and Kimba Area School.

The South Australian Seed Conservation Centre at the Adelaide Botanic Garden is now home to seeds from most of the more than 1000 threatened plant species, or one in four species, in the state.

One of its biologists’ next tasks is to visit Kangaroo Island.

On June 1, Adelaide Botanic Garden launched an appeal to raise funds to send its seed scientists to the bushfire-ravaged island.

“We need to send our seed scientists on urgent field trips to locate some of Kangaroo Island’s most unique and endangered plants, collect their seeds, and bank them back here at Adelaide Botanic Garden to ensure their ongoing survival,” the appeal plea said.

“In the aftermath of Kangaroo Island’s recent catastrophic bushfires, many plants that ordinarily compete for growing space have, for the first time in many years, the opportunity to re-sprout and set seed in the scorched earth.

“Our specialist seed scientists know which endangered species are making the most of this new environment and where they are growing.”

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