Threatened native plants spring back to life on NSW south coast

Post-fire monitoring has revealed resilient bush ecosystems are springing back to life, with rare and threatened plants such as the Merimbula star-hair recovering in south east New South Wales following the devastating 2019-20 bushfires.

Large Merimbula star-hair (Astrotricha wallagaraugh) plant located outside the fire front, Wallagaraugh River, Timbillica State Forest

'I’m thrilled that the Saving Our Species (SoS) program has identified more than 15 of south eastern NSW’s most threatened plants have re-sprouted or germinated from seeds, with evidence of burnt plants surviving the intense fires and hundreds of new plants emerging after recent rains,' said Damon Oliver Senior Team Leader Endangered and Threatened Species with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

'One jewel of this conservation effort is the Merimbula star-hair, a threatened native plant found in only a couple of locations in the south-east, near the NSW and Victorian border. One of the key locations was severely impacted by the catastrophic Border Fire, but thankfully our teams have been on-site with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and found the star-hair alive and well, just metres from where the fire front wrought destruction,' he said.

'We know that many of our native plant species have evolved to survive fire but it has been a joy to see them re-shoot from burnt stems and regenerate in their hundreds from seed. Another key to their success has been the careful management of these species before the fire, as part of the NSW Government’s SoS program,' he said.

Other threatened plant species and ecological communities that have shown post-fire recovery include:

  • Illawarra Irene
  • Milton Ulladulla Subtropical Rainforest
  • biconvex paperbark
  • Imlay mallee
  • Max Mueller's burr-daisy
  • Nerriga grevillea
  • green mallee ash
  • Ettrema mallee
  • Kelton’s and Bago leek orchids
  • superb midge orchid
  • pretty beard orchid
  • East Lynne midge orchid.

The $100 million SoS program aims to secure threatened plants and animals in the wild in New South Wales, such as the Merimbula star-hair, by encouraging conservation partnerships with local community stakeholders and groups, and other government agencies with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.