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Ex-situ conservation of the endangered Melaleuca sylvana

The intriguing presence in the Queensland Herbarium data of a poorly known species of Melaleuca, Melaleuca sylvana, from the Atherton Tablelands prompted a visit to the area by seed collectors from the Queensland Seeds for Life project.

Melaleuca sylvana in powerline easement. Photo: J Halford
Melaleuca sylvana in powerline easement. Photo: J Halford

Melaleuca sylvana is closely related to several north Queensland species including M. monantha. It is a woody shrub or small tree that grows in open woodland on steep hills and usually grows in shallow stony soils derived from rhyolite, a volcanic rock.

Melaleuca sylvana is a recently described species only known to occur in a few locations. The Queensland Government has listed it as an endangered species under state legislation. One of the locations in which it occurs is within a power line easement and this is where the Seeds for Life collectors headed to make seed collections. Plants like Melaleuca sylvana that do not grow too high make ideal plants for growing in power line easements.

Following the successful collection from this species, the seed has been banked at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and the Millennium Seed Bank in the U.K. The University of Queensland undertook germination trials in order to learn more about the species. Plants have also been propagated at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens for display in the planned Queensland Conservation Garden Walk, to make the public aware of Queensland’s rare and threatened flora.

The ex-situ conservation of seeds from this threatened species for species recovery will help to ensure its long-term survival. There is real scope for using the seeds collected by the Seeds for Life project to increase the existing population or create new populations.