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Urban focus for World Wetlands Day


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Bearded heath

Current status

[Photo of bearded heath by D. Wade.]

Endangered. There are 10 species in the genus Epacris which are listed under the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. Five are classed as endangered. One of these is Stuarts Heath (E. stuartii) which like its close relative, bearded heath, is a Tasmanian endemic. Bearded heath (Epacris barbata) is listed as critically endangered under the Federal Act.

Why are they endangered?

These species belong to coastal heathlands which are one of the most threatened plant community types in Australia. The reason for this is that coastal areas are highly desired for housing, resort development and recreational activities.

Bearded heath occurs in scattered locations, the majority within Freycinet National Park or adjacent reserves. It is at risk from fire and also Phytophthora, a root rot fungus. This fungus is spread through contaminated soil carried on such items as: tent pegs, tyres and walking boots. Phytophthora was introduced here from Asia. The second photo demonstrates what a Phytophthora infected plant looks like. The fungus attacks the plant's roots, causing it to die from lack of water.

What's being done?

More information is being gathered on these and other epacrid species to find out whether they are restricted to certain locations because of their soil requirements and mychorrhizal associations. Attempts are being made to propagate them and introduce them to safer locations.

Education awareness of the phytophthora issue has been undertaken to try and prevent the fungi being inadvertently spread by human activities. Phytophthora is a serious threat to Tasmanian plants, so please remember to clean all your equipment before walking in the bush, especially your boots!

[Photo of phytophthora infected bearded heath by T. Rudman.]

General information on Phytophthora (including posters for teachers) is available from Parks and Wildlife Interpretation Section.

View Distribution Map

Recommended further reading

Lawrence N. 1993. Epacris barbata Flora Recovery Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania.

Lawrence N. 1993. Epacris stuartii Flora Recovery Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service, Tasmania.