Discover: Local Treasure – North Rothbury Persoonia
Unique to the Lower Hunter Valley – is a small spreading shrub that grows to a metre high with green, soft needle-like leaves. This plant is listed as critically endangered, close to extinction. It is quite noticeable due to its luminescent green colour and it produces small yellow flowers that occur between the leaf and plant stem. Its fruit looks like fleshy green berries which contain a seed the size of a coffee bean. Native bees are the main pollinators of this plant e.g. the blue-banded bees.
It grows in dry open forest or woodland dominated by Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata), Broad-leaved Ironbark (Eucalyptus fibrosa) and/or Narrow-leaved Ironbark (E. crebra). It is found only in a small area of North Rothbury.
The North Rothbury Persoonia belongs to a plant family many in the Eastern States refer to as geebungs. The term geebung is derived from the Dharug language. The species is endemic to Australia.
In the past few years several hundred critically-endangered plants have been planted at North Rothbury as part of the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program. The plants have been propagated by Mt Annan Botanical Gardens staff.
As the species recovers it will become a valuable food source for native bees, grazing animals like kangaroos and fruit eating birds.
These plants only occur at a small number of sites, with most occurring on private property or along road verges, and are legally protected. Office of Environment and Heritage senior project officer Paul Hillier believes there are only about 1000 remaining individuals of this species left in the wild including several hundred plants from successful translocation events over the past two years, involving the local community. A planting day was recently held coordinated by The Office of Environment and Heritage involving the community and Cessnock Council, to establish new populations of the Persoonia in bushland around North Rothbury.
While it is unlikely a visitor to The Hunter will see this plant, it is vital people know of its existence, and of the support for its survival.