Braving some tough terrain, staff from the Department of Planning of Environment (DPE), Upper Shoalhaven Landcare, Threatened Species Conservancy and an independent botanist have been searching for the rare Bombay Bossiaea (Bossiaea bombayensis) in recent months.
This species, listed as Vulnerable under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act, is only known from a stretch of the Shoalhaven River between Warri and Bombay. After fire tore through the area in late 2019, most plants were presumed to have been killed. Because of the species’ limited distribution and the impact of the fires, Bombay Bossiaea was among a list of plants requiring urgent attention by the Commonwealth Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel in 2020.
The aim of the survey was to map surviving plants and assess the species’ recovery after fire. A few pockets managed to escape the blaze and Bossiaea plants survived. Not only that, they managed to recruit new seedlings, which have just flowered for the first time nearly three years on from the fires. Best of all, in areas where virtually all plant life was incinerated, Bombay Bossiaea seedlings have sprung up in very respectable numbers!
This tough plant is well adapted to drought and fire. It has no leaves, photosynthesising by means of flattened stems or cladodes. Its seed has a hard coat, allowing survival in the soil for extended periods. Heat from the fires cracks the seed coat, allowing the seed to take up water and germinate. Initial counts of seedlings at Bombay Reserve looked spectacular, but numbers have been slashed after several flood events. However, it appears that this tenacious localized native is here to stay, with many hundreds of regenerated plants flowering and setting seed. Many thanks to landholders who kindly allowed access to the river and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife for grant funds.
Authors: Christine Allen, Mary Appleby and Erin Brinkley