Endangered plants with the best view in Tasmania

Freycinet waxflower (Philotheca freyciana) and bearded heath (Epacris barbata) are two of Tasmania’s most endangered species, and both occur on the Hazards, overlooking Wineglass Bay. In late September 2023, staff from the department’s Threatened Species Section (TSS) and Threatened Plants Tasmania volunteers, conducted field surveys for both species. These species occur in rugged mountainous areas and had not been surveyed by TSS for more than ten years. 

The survey aimed to assess the status of known subpopulations, identify existing or potential threats and determine whether any management actions are required. 

Key sites for freycinet waxflower were surveyed near the summit of Mt Amos and Mt Mayson. This species grows in crevices in massive granite boulders, and in damp runnels containing moss and leaf litter, and is often difficult to find. 

Monitoring involved tagging freycinet waxflower plants and recording information about their size, reproductive status, and condition following a method established by Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens staff in 2002. 

Data collected during this trip indicates that the number of mature individuals has declined over the last 20 years, with only two out of the original 35 tagged plants still alive. However, 27 ‘new’ plants were tagged during this trip, including six seedlings, indicating that recruitment is occurring. The species appears to be highly susceptible to drought, presumably because it grows in rock crevices. Fortunately, there was no evidence of Phytophthora or other threats such as mammal browsing at this site, and it occurs away from the well-trodden tourist pathways which reduces the risk of trampling and disease spread. 

Freycinet waxflower remains one of Tasmania’s most threatened plant species. This species will require ongoing monitoring and would benefit from ex-situ conservation measures, with a long-term aim of establishing additional insurance populations in the wild.
Bearded heath is faring better, with a good abundance of plants, spread across numerous sites on the Freycinet Peninsula. Dieback from Phytophthora was observed in some sites containing bearded heath. However, the species appears to be persisting in infected sites, which is encouraging. 

TSS is working with Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure the species are well managed, and data from the survey has been added to NRE Tas’ Natural Values Atlas​.