A Peaceful Green Sanctuary

by Head Hunter Chris Lang
1. Location details, where is it, how did you get there, how remote is this location?:

St Luke’s Cemetery in the Tasmanian midlands farming township of Bothwell is home, along with a number of other rare and threatened species, to a daisy called Lanky Buttons (Leptorhynhchos elongatus). Bothwell is a pleasant 1 hr country drive from where I am based at the Botanic Gardens in Hobart. Lanky Buttons is found in a small remnant patch of native grassland located in the oldest part of the cemetery. St Luke’s Cemetery provides a refuge for threatened species because unlike adjacent farmland was never subject to the devastating impact that conventional farming practices have on native vegetation.

2. What are the purposes / aims of your plant hunt?:

The main objective is to ensure that the number of Lanky Buttons and other threatened species in the cemetery are maintained at a healthy level in a safe refuge for many years to come. I am part of an RTBG team that has been employed by The Central Highlands Council as consultant to conduct monitoring and provide advice on how best to manage the natural values of the cemetery. Monitoring is an essential aspect of threatened species management that provides land managers with important information such as whether a population of threatened plants is stable, increasing or decreasing and if weeds are becoming a problem and need to be controlled.

3. Is this a unique program, what’s so special about it?:

St Luke’s Cemetery is environmentally significant for having the largest of only 3 surviving populations of Lanky Buttons in Tasmania. As part of a collaborative effort we are playing a vital role in the recovery of this species with great success. The number of Lanky Button plants in the cemetery has increased from around 200 to a total in excess of 2200.

4. What do you need to take with you? 

We need to take all the equipment that enables us to carry out two different monitoring methods. To count the total number of Lanky Button individuals we need stringlines, stakes and tape measures to divide the site up into manageable areas. We also need to record on a site plan the numbers and location of individuals counted. The other more technical monitoring method employs the use of a quadrat which consists of a one square metre metal frame subdivided by string into 100 x 10cm2 squares. This is placed on the ground in exactly the same location each year and plants within each 10cm2 section are identified and density estimated. Depending on the weather we may need to rug up or slip, slop, slap because the site is very exposed.

5. What limiting factors influence your ability to do this work?

Wet weather is really the only issue that would encourage us to reschedule to another day.

6. How long are you there for?

We have been monitoring threatened plants in the Cemetery for the past 5 years. We allow a full day to complete our monitoring work.

7. How many people do you take and why are they there?

Natalie Tapson (another Head Hunter!) our Horticultural Botanist and I carry out the monitoring work with two other staff members. I lead the specimen count and Natalie’s specialist botanist skills are utilised to conduct the quadrat monitoring.

8. Is it very expensive to go on a plant hunt?:

Our work in the cemetery has been funded by monies granted to the Central Highlands Council through the Midlands Biodiversity Hotspot Project which provided funds to protect important regional values such as bushland, threatened species and their habitat in Tasmania’s midlands.

9. What organisations are involved in your plant hunt?:

The success of any plant conservation project is usually reliant upon input from a number of organisations and individuals.  At St Luke’s cemetery we have been closely working with the Central Highlands Council from advising management on monitoring outcomes to making recommendations on how to best maintain the site. Greening Australia played a key role through conducting field information days to inform locals, erecting interpretive signage and preparing a detailed maintenance plan for Council.

Keep hunting…