The Pomaderris vacciniifolia (Round-leafed Pomaderris) first entered my life in 2013, when I was working on a community project to construct a local walking path in Kinglake. All work was stopped when nearly 22 of these critically endangered plants were found on the route for the path. I suggested that we carefully transplant them to clear the path and, as an added insurance, get the Melbourne Herbarium to raise an equal number of plants to also be planted out.

The local Bendigo bank paid for the seedlings and the Upper Goulburn Landcare group stepped in to assist with the planting of nearly 300 wild and raused plants into carefully selected sites around Kinglake and Flowerdale. The Pomaderris Rescue Project had thus been created.

Since then, the raising and planting out of Pomaderris plants has been part of the yearly cycle of activities for Landcare in our area. We have mastered the steps of collecting and cleaning the seed, placing them in boiling water, and waiting patiently for the shoots to appear out of the seed germinating mix containing smoke extracts. The joy of seeing the plants appear is always tempered by the thought that we are looking at perhaps 1% of its entire population. Group potting days follow- first into tubes and then into pots. We are still experimenting with different growing conditions in order to maximise root and foliage development.

The aim is to make the plants as robust as possible before we take them out to the bush sites for final planting. Our project has now helped to consolidate the plant in its existing colonies along the Kinglake ranges, and also extended its presence to new sites further afield. Our conservation strategy is simple – put as many plants out into as many suitable sites as possible.

Colonies have been established on both public and private land as both government and community members have been keen to help out. Protecting the plantings has been a high priority with tree guards used to keep rabbits, deer, wombats and kangaroos at bay. Monitoring of the plants has also revealed that their seed feeds birds such as Crimson Rosellas and King Parrots, as well as a range of tiny insects and ants.

By comparing the growth of the plants in the relatively clear sites where we have planted them with the often suboptimal sites where they naturally occur, we are getting a better idea of the competitive pressures on the plant in its natural settings.

Over the course of the project we have come to love this attractive and vulnerable plant and to realise how much each species contributes to the richness of life in an environment. The loss of Pomaderris vacciniifolia would leave an unfillable gap.

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