Whites Hill Reserve now has one of Australia’s most imperilled plants. The Threatened Species Recovery Hub has just released the Action Plan for Australia’s Imperilled Plants 2021. This document has narrowed the list of Australia’s threatened flora down to the top 50 species with the highest risk of imminent extinction.
On this list is Scaly Myrtle (Gossia hillii), a Lilly pilly-like tree which has a distribution along the east coast, from Townsville down to Coffs Harbour. This species was once common near creek lines but has declined dramatically and is now rare.
There are only two sites where this species is growing on the inner south of Brisbane. Due to recent deaths, it will soon be just one – Whites Hill Reserve.
Scaly Myrtle has suffered from extensive clearing which has fragmented populations. The dry rainforest environment this tree grows in has become infested in environmental weed species that cover the ground and stop or slow the germination of seedlings. Weed vines climb over the vegetation and smother even mature trees to death.
But of all the threats, the introduction of Myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) has been the hammer blow to this species. Myrtle rust is everywhere, and every single tree is infected. Myrtle rust is a fungal pathogen that causes defoliation of leaves and branches, and it stops the plant from producing flowers and fruit. There is no future for an organism if it cannot reproduce.
The Threatened Species Recovery Hub notes that the Scaly Myrtle’s “distribution coincides with many protected areas that are managed for conservation”. This has certainly been the case over the last two decades within Whites Hill.
Thanks to efforts of John Evans and the Sankey’s Scrub Bushcare, with assistance from the Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee and Brisbane City Council, there is hope that this special reserve and plant will continue to be protected in the future.