Renaissance for rare plant

by Andrew
Publish date
1 December 2011
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Exhibition horticulturalist Andrew Kuhlman is turning December's Bug of the Month into Plant of the Month. He is one of the Live Exhibits staff that tend the plants in the Forest Gallery and Milarri Garden.

The story of the Shiny Nematolepis, Nematolepis wilsonii, is about a humble plant experiencing a resurrection following the Black Saturday bushfires. The Shiny Nematolepis, a white-flowering shrub also affectionately known as 'Shiny Nem', is considered critically endangered.

There was a single population of 11 mature wild plants before February 2009 according to the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Since the 2009 bushfires over 200,000 seedlings have emerged in the Yarra Ranges. This means practically the entire known population of this plant existing in the wild can be traced back to a single event.

Nematolepis wilsonii plant A plant from the original population that was burnt out in the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires.
Image: John Broomfield
Source: Museum Victoria

The other side to this story is about the cultivated populations of this species, one of which is growing in the Forest Gallery exhibition at Melbourne Museum. These plants are now some of the oldest of the species known to exist. They were grown in 2000 from cutting material sourced from the original population that was burnt out.

Man planting a plant Museum Victoria Exhibition Horticulturalist Brendan Fleming planting a cutting grown Shiny Nematolepis into the Forest Gallery exhibition.
Image: Andrew Kuhlmann
Source: Museum Victoria

The display of 'Shiny Nem' plants in the Forest Gallery exhibit is a great chance to get close to a very rare plant in a setting representing its natural habitat. It's also an opportunity to reflect on how close this plant was to disappearing forever and the benefits that having a second chance will bring.


National recovery plan for the Shiny Nematolepis (Nematolepis wilsonii)

Forest Gallery helps secure incinerated plant's future (2009)

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.