Graptophyllum ilicifolium (aka Holly leaved fuchsia) is a magenta flowered shrub and now only found (in the wild) in the central coast of Queensland, Australia. To read about propagating and cultivating Graptophyllum ilicifolium click here. Therefore, whilst many of us enjoy this shrub in our gardens, in the wild she is a very rare species.
Wild locations in Australia
Graptophyllum ilicifolium is on the brink of extinction. According to the Australian Native Plants Society she is only known to occur in the Eungella region west of Mackay. However, the Atlas of Living Australia records her distribution further south to Caloundra.
The Atlas also records one near Darwin in the Northern Territory (recorded in 1986) and also one sighting way down south in Canberra (recorded in 1992). If these are reliable sightings and data, it suggests that she was not endemic to Queensland.
After that her range appears to have reduced to a Rockhampton and Gladstone sighting in 2001. In 2013 she was seen at Mount Mellum at the Sunshine Coast. In 2015 there was a sighting at Beerwah at the Sunshine Coast.
Vulnerable to extinction under Commonwealth and Queensland legislation
Graptophyllum ilicifolium is listed as Vulnerable to extinction under the Commonwealth legislation (EPBCA) and also in Queensland. In effect this means that both State and Commonwealth resources can be allocated toward the protection and recovery of this shrub.
Graptophyllum ilicifolium was first listed as Endangered under Schedule 1 of the Endangered Species Protection Act (Cth) 1992. That was Commonwealth legislation. The definition of ‘endangered’ in that Act includes words that imply that circumstances and habitat are the key threatening processes leading to extinction (see s6).
What’s also interesting about that legislation is that the Objects of the Act articulate the need for species recovery, prevention of extinction, reducing land use conflict and the need to provide protective measures such as recovery plans, conservation agreements and conservation orders (see s3). It speaks of preventing extinction events. The current legislation simply promotes this prevention.
Legally, when interpreting legislation, the Objects of the Act are key sections. We use the Objects to inform us of the objectives of the legislation – a key reason they came into being. This helps reduce legal uncertainty and helps courts in legislative interpretation. Perhaps it’s not surprising then to learn that the legislation was overhauled and significantly watered down only 7 years later, in 1999.
It appears that our Graptophyllum ilicifolium wasn’t listed under the new Commonwealth 1999 legislation until 2008…
Queensland listed her as Vulnerable in September 2017 so in Queensland, she’s been recognised for a mere 7 months…
Few protections afforded to this threatened species
The Commonwealth Approved Conservation Advice for Graptophyllum ilicifolium identifies the key threats as: its restricted distribution along creek margins in the Mackay area and invasive weeds such as Lantana. The Queensland website states this verbatim.
This Advice also suggests protections that focus on research and monitoring. That’s not rare with listed species. However, lets consider that Advice was published in 2008 – 10 years ago. Let’s also consider that she was listed at the Commonwealth level well before that.
It’s now 2018 and the Commonwealth website states that there is still no Recovery Plan for this listed species. In fact it states a Recovery Plan isn’t needed for this species. Likewise, no Threat Abatement Plan has been identified or adopted for this species.
Surely, if we’re to believe that one of the two key threats is Lantana, then an effective and affordable Threat Abatement Plan might include… getting rid of the Lantana in the areasGraptophyllum ilicifolium grows. We don’t need to do much research and monitoring to work that on out!
But let’s not be fooled. The lack of Plans does not mean that this species doesn’t need a Recovery Plan or a Threat Abatement Plan. Over the years, I’ve noticed that many listed species don’t have plans. What it shows is a lack of political will, not a lack of need.
Moreover, when we look deeper into the known locations of this threatened species a picture starts to appear.
Are the key threatening processes being correctly identified and reported?
The Approved Conservation Advice lists the Pioneer Peaks and Mount Martin National Parks as being the only areas this shrub is found (in the wild).
These mountains are north west of Mackay in central eastern Queensland. When we look at our image taken from Google Earth we can see these mountains. We can also clearly the creeks coming from those mountains and the mountains themselves are completely surrounded by farmland.
Those mountains and the species found there are completely isolated. This is typical of forests throughout the world and in Australia where habitats are fragmented and species alienated and isolated.
Likewise, Mount Martin is a national park and is adjacent to a State Forest. State Forests are logging reservoirs. Most State Forests are under contract to commercial logging companies. These companies own the rights to the trees in State Forests and logging is a fairly major income stream for State governments.
For these reason, logic tells us that key threatening processes are likely to include habitat destruction, intensive agriculture and logging. But I’ve also found that to be a recurring theme when looking deeper at threatened species.