Rare Arcaringa daisies, found only near Coober Pedy, protected under the scheme

Written by Javed Iqbal

There are plans to ensure that the endangered flower known as the Arcaringa daisy continues to bloom.

Olearia arckaringensis occurs only in a very small area just north of Coober Pedy.

A survey conducted in 2017 showed that there were only about 2,000 left, but the South Australian Arid Lands Landscape Board said it would work with Antakarintja’s traditional owners and pastoralists to preserve it.

Exclusion cages of wire mesh will be placed over 50 of the plants to protect the flowers from livestock and other herbivorous threats.

SA Arid Lands Landscape Board senior ecologist Kristian Bell said the measures would quantify how much damage the daisies suffered from livestock.

“We know so little about the impact of livestock and large herbivores like kangaroos, wild donkeys and horses,” he said.

“By putting plants in cages, we will be able to measure how healthy they are in a year compared to how healthy the plants are outside the cage.

Chairman of the SA Arid Lands Landscape Board, Ross Sawers, said the protection of the daisies was of utmost importance.

“For a species that is known to exist in such a small area, it is important to do what we can to ensure that the population has every chance of long-term survival,” Sawers said.

The project will also implement seed propagation to increase the number of flowers, and DNA samples will be taken to get a better impression of the composition of the flower.

Lab-sprouted flowers will also be translocated to the area to see if they can survive the natural habitat.

Two people on a barren desert slope examine a flower.
Ecologist Cat Lynch and landowner Caroline Thomas look at an Ackaringa daisy.(Supplied by: SA Arid Landscape Board)

Random discovery

The daisy was discovered by chance in 2000 by two scientists – Rob Brandle and Peter Lang – who found it in the gorges of Breakaways in an isolated pocket at Arckaringa Station.

Two more varieties of Arcaringa daisies were found in 2011 along the same cliff line.

“It’s only known to occur at two stations,” Mr Bell said.

“Rob discovered this plant and knew right away that it was something a little different, and then Peter Lang went away and took samples and made all the taxonomies and described it as a new species.

“There’s a chance we’ll see it somewhere else, but it’s probably unlikely we’ll find it at any more stations.

“If we can prevent a species from disappearing through our actions, then I think there is an ethical argument to say that we should prevent it from disappearing.”

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Javed Iqbal

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