Stage two Blackheath Public School students could hardly contain their excitement today as they were the first people EVER to cultivate the endangered species Zieria Covenyi. They’ve spent the last few weeks learning about biodiversity and endangered species, and the important role they are now playing to protect this endangered plant. Only around 2000 of this species remain in the wild, in just two locations: at Narrow Neck in Katoomba and Breakfast Creek in the Megalong Valley. Today, the students planted 20 in the grounds of Blackheath Public School.
Michaela Jones, Senior Project Officer for NSW National Parks’ Saving Our Species Program explained that Blackheath Public School was the first to plant these rare scented plants as part of an insurance policy in the event of fire in the Blue Mountains: “Schools are often the safest places for plants to grow because they are usually less at risk during a fire event and plants are generally more protected from macropods like kangaroos and wallabies. We have Chris Banffy, a Blackheath ranger, to thank for this brilliant idea,” she said.
The plants are from the Rutaceae or citrus family of flowering plants and have been grown from cuttings at the Australian Botanic Garden, at Mt Annan. Interestingly, while being grown from cuttings they have produced the first seed ever recorded, as the plants have never been seen to set seed in the wild. These seeds are also now being safeguarded in a seedbank.
To increase the success of this insurance policy, more plants will be cultivated at Megalong School, Katoomba High School and Wentworth Falls Public School.