THE Banksia vincentia, a critically endangered plant, which was almost on the cusp of extinction has been brought back to life by an innovative program at Booderee National Park.
Banksia vincentia was first discovered in 2006, with just 14 plants found growing in the wild.
A combination of flooding and bushfires reduced that little colony to just four plants.
Thankfully an "eagle-eyed" local nursery person spotted the plants and took cuttings which have since been propagated.
A collaboration between the Booderee National Park, Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra, Wollongong Botanic Garden plus NSW Department of Primary Industries Conservation Unit has seen not only cuttings but seeds collected and more than 1200 plants propagated.
Booderee Botanic Gardens curator Stig Pedersen said the combined efforts have seen the plant brought back from the edge of extinction.
"It's been a combined effort from everyone for a number of years to bring Banksia vincentia, which is only found here, back from the brink."
It's a project close to his heart.
He was first contacted when the plant was discovered in 2006 and has been part of the project over the past 14 years.
"The past four to five years I've been heavily involved," he said. "But it's not just me there is a whole team involved."
The particular variety is so endemic to the local Vincentia area, it didn't even grow in the nearby Booderee National Park.
Eight years ago half the remaining population was wiped out by fire, and then in 2016 the remaining seven plants were affected by wet conditions.
"We are just so lucky that that nursery person took that original cuttings from the remaining eight to nine plants that were still alive," he said.
"From those initial cuttings we now have more than 1200 plants. Almost all from the original set of genetics."
The project has also seen the establishment of a seed orchard at Booderee
There, seeds can be collected and stored and planted to ensure the future of the plant.
An orchard of Banksia vincentia have been established.
"Similar for a fruit orchard, instead of harvesting fruit, the goal is to harvest seed from the Banksia," Stig said.
"For a Banksia, the fruit, which is actually the seed, is in the Banksia comb."
Like many fruit trees it can take the Banksia five to seven years to be mature enough to produce seeds.
"By collecting the seeds we can propagate and boost the population exponentially," Stig said.
Already the first 600 plants have been successfully transplanted back into the wild in Booderee National Park, into an area inaccessible to the public.
Another 200 plants are planned to be transplanted in spring.
And it is hoped by Christmas a further 200 plants in the Booderee Botanic Gardens will be available for viewing by the public.
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"It's like the work to save the black rhino," Stig said. "It's great to be able to bring the Banksia vincentia back. It's something that was right on our doorstep and was almost at the stage of extinction.
"Now it's like the humpback whales, they were almost hunted to extinction, now there are thousands. We are are not quite there yet but I'm confident we are heading in the right direction."
Seed and plants have also been distributed and grown in various other areas to ensure the plant species survives.
"The fires last year could have wiped out the whole population in one event," Stig said.
"Hence why we have plants and seeds at various other locations to ensure its survival. It's like having an insurance policy."
Banksia vincentia has a beautiful deep magenta/burgundy colour flower.
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"It is completely different to other local varieties, of which there are about 10," Stig said.
"Australia-wide there are about 70 recorded varieties of Banksias.
"Half of those are in Western Australia, the rest on the East Coast.
"In Booderee we have five different species, with Banksia vincentia, even though it's not in Booderee, making it six.
"The question is how long had this variety been in Vincentia?
"It could have been many years. It could have been recognised or mistaken as the Hairpin Banksia. Botanists at the University of New England came up with the official description of the species fully in 2014.
"Why was there was only 14 plants" We don't know."
A special group of volunteer workers, Park Care, has also been established to not only help with the Banksia vincentia rescue mission, but work throughout the Booderee park.
They 12-18 active members meet every Monday morning throughout the year working partially in the national park and partially in the botanic gardens.
Anyone can join the group, who undertake a variety of work, including weeding, planting and mulching.
If you would like to take part you can contact Booderee National Park on 443 0977.