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New plant for Victoria!

Red Copperburr has been discovered in Victoria!

It’s not every day you find a new plant species to add to your state tally. Although widespread throughout arid NSW, the Murray–Darling Freshwater Research Centre (MDFRC) have made the first discovery of Red Copperburr (Sclerolaena calcarata) for Victoria.

Red Copperburr is a small drought tolerant plant that grows in harsh floodplain conditions. It was recorded by the MDFRC in 2009, 2010 and 2016 at Lindsay Island in the far north-western corner of Victoria, while undertaking surveys for The Living Murray program – a joint initiative funded by the NSW, Vic, SA, ACT and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

Specimens of Red Copperburr are kept on site in the Mildura herbarium. MDFRC Vegetation Research Technician Fiona Freestone and Vegetation Ecologist Cherie Campbell sent two of these samples to Senior Conservation Botanist Neville Walsh at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, to confirm their identity and have the species formally included as a member of the State’s flora.

A description is being prepared for VicFlora (http://data.rbg.vic.gov.au/vicflora/), a new online resource that describes all the vascular plant species known to occur in Victoria.

Senior Botanist in the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning David Cameron curates the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas and the Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants in Victoria. He is currently reviewing the conservation status of Victoria's flora under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria.

In Victoria, Red Copperburr is restricted to very small, isolated populations in the far north-west corner of the state, in habitats threatened by changing climate and unnatural flood regimes.

Working with MDFRC, David has determined that this plant qualifies as critically endangered within Victoria under IUCN Red List criteria and warrants listing as endangered in Victoria on the Department's Advisory List.

Red Copperburr looks like many other species of Copperburr - characterised by and sometimes cursed for their sharp, spiny fruits, but it can be identified by its unique, crown-shaped and colourful fruit (pictured). Although the fruit is spiny, the leaves of Red Copperburr, particularly when young, can be moderately palatable to animals.

Welcome to Victoria, Red Copperburr!

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