Critically endangered Bredbo gentian registers best season on record

The critically endangered Bredbo gentian (Gentiana bredboensis) is a tiny, annual plant with pale blue to white star-shaped flowers known from only one small location east of Bredbo.

Bredbo gentian (Gentiana bredboensis) plant

The entire known range of this plant is a 20m x 20m patch in a boggy drainage line. The highest number of plants ever recorded in this population was 200 over 20 years ago, but for the past few years less than 10 plants have existed within a 5m x 5m section of the total known habitat area.

In January this year, half of the patch was burnt in the summer bushfires. Monitoring was recently undertaken by DPIE threatened species officers as part of the Saving Our Species program and to our astonishment and joy, we found 280 plants, mostly within the burnt area, making this the largest number of Bredbo gentians ever recorded. Many of the plants were even setting seed, some of which were collected and sent to PlantBank at Mt Annan. Prior to 2020, only one seed collection had been made and considering no plants exist in collections or botanic gardens, this has been a remarkable and critical achievement for the conservation of the species.

The reasons behind this amazing increase in plant numbers include the reduction in shading from canopy vegetation that burnt in the fire (the plants thrive in full sun) and the fantastic post-fire rainfall since autumn 2020.

For this extremely rare and enigmatic little plant, 2020 has provided a precious opportunity to study the fascinating ecology and seed biology of this species and to give it a fighting chance in the future.