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Tunbridge buttercup

Current status

[Photo of Tunbbridge buttercup by L. Gilfedder.]

Listed as 'Endangered' under both the national Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 and at the State level by the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. Of the 26 Tasmanian species in the Ranunculaceae family, 6 are listed in the State Act (5 rare, 1 endangered).

Why is it endangered?

The Tunbridge buttercup (Ranunculus prasinus) is listed as endangered because it is endemic to Tasmania and only found at four lagoons in the Central Midlands, between Campbell Town and Tunbridge. It has a very limited distribution as well as low population numbers which puts it at greater risk to accidental local extinction. This would be a disaster.

The story

The Tunbridge buttercup is a tiny plant with solitary yellow flowers, first collected in 1983 by two botanists at Whites Lagoon near Tunbridge in the Midlands. Further searches since then have only identified it at three other lagoon margins, all on private land.

In 1991 the Whites Lagoon population of these plants measured 1000 individuals At Near Lagoon, earthworks in the form of a small dam caused most of the population to be lost through inundation so that less than 100 individuals remained. The drought of the past five years has dried up this water so there are now large numbers again.

At all sites the land is privately owned and used for grazing. However our studies have shown that moderate grazing does not seem to be adversely affecting the Tunbridge buttercup. In fact it may even be favoured by grazing as the stock eat grasses which would outcompete R. prasinus. Also stock trampling disturbs the soil and allows R. prasinus to become dominant in these areas. However heavy grazing would graze plants back to their basal rootstock.

What is being done?

In 1991 one of our botanists undertook a flora recovery plan for this species. One step was attempts to establish populations at the nearby Township Lagoon Nature Reserve which has a similar habitat for the plants. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful due to ongoing drought conditions.

All wild populations have to be continually monitored to make sure their numbers do not start declining. Our department works in with other groups including the Threatened Species Network, the Society for Growing Australian Plants, the Australian Network for Plant Conservation and also relies on the co-operation of both the private landowner and leasees.

View Distribution Map

Recommended further reading

Gilfedder L. 1991. Ranunculus prasinus Flora Recovery Plan. Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania.