Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hairy Anchor Plant

Discaria pubescens

I was delighted to find a group of these plants, flowering their little hearts out, in the Allora Mountain Flora and Fauna Reserve today.

I had not seen the plant in the wild before, so it was a treat to have found it looking its annual best, smothered in exquisite little flowers.

The name “anchor plant” comes from its neatly paired anchor-like thorns, which make the species a rather unfriendly one! A specimen growing in Peacehaven Botanic Park at Highfields demonstrates that it can be an attractive, well-shaped plant, nonetheless.

Though somewhat more common down south, this is a rare plant in Queensland and has been classified as “near threatened”, a listing which means it has declined in the wild to the point where it relies on conservation measures to ensure its survival here.

This group of plants, which I believe to be the only plants in this flora and fauna reserve, seemed to consist only of old specimens, most containing a significant proportion of dead wood. The reserve showed signs of being heavily grazed by cattle, and the conclusion that they might be preventing regeneration of new anchor plant seedlings was unavoidable. Conservation can only be effective if the targeted plants are able to produce a new generation. That the reserve might be failing to achieve one of the purposes for which it was declared certainly seemed to be a possibility there.


grey_gum said...

Hi Trish, Great to see this plant flowering so well. It is really not noticed until it is in bloom. The flowers give off a wonderful fragrance too, but only at certain times. Other times I've had to get very close to the flowers to notice any fragrance. Yes the heavy grazing in there is a real worry. Some grazing helps to reduce fuel loads and competition, so the potential for a big bushfire is reduced, BUT I too am concerned that it is far too often grazed bare.

Patricia Gardner said...

Hi. Nice to hear from you.
I'm interested to read your remark about the perfume. I knew they were supposed to be perfumed, but couldn't detect anything when I was there. It was in the heat of the middle of the day, so I don't suppose you'd expect it then. It's possible they are designed to attract moth pollinators, so may have their best perfume in the evenings? Maybe a bit left over in the morning, but dissipating as the day warms up? Was this your experience?
And yes, I can sympathise with the difficulties re putting cattle on a reserve like this. Obviously there is potential for the grass to create a fire risk for the town, and trying to manage it with controlled fires, which is what the vegetation would prefer, risks causing the very problem to the residents of Allora that they are trying to avoid.
Putting cattle in conservation reserves and national Parks can seem a good solution to the fire risk problem, but it's difficult to get the balance of grazing right. Ideally the cattle would be removed as soon as the grass had been grazed to a safe level - but then there is the problem of cattle with nowhere to go.
However I do think it is an issue that needs to be resolved with the original purpose of the reserve being kept firmly in mind. If we prioritise the cattle, we allow the whole purpose of the reserve to be undermined.
It's a tricky issue!