Endangered plant workshops look to save Small Purple-Pea in Wellington and Mudgee

Small purple-pea or Swainson recta. Photo: Alice Newton
Small purple-pea or Swainson recta. Photo: Alice Newton

A workshop at the Burrendong Arboretum on Monday 24 September will aim to equip residents with the knowledge they need to protect the endangered Small Purple-pea (Swainsona Recta). 

The herb is identifiable by it’s slender stem and narrow, pea-shaped purple leaves and is considered endangered under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

Funded by the Federal Government’s National Land Care program, surveyors from Narla Environmental are trying to identify and protect the small purple-pea in Wellington and other areas.

During the initial survey of the plants at the Arboretum there were only 70 Swainsona Recta identified, but a second search brought the number to up over 100.

Surveys began on September 17, but will continue until September 28 and all volunteers are welcome, regardless of skill level or experience.

Volunteers will be trained to assist surveyors in searching and then will lend their new skills to identifying and marking sightings of the plant with colored stakes, in concentrations of forty or more, the plants are marked with GPS and then fenced off.

By isolating and protecting the plants, environmentalists hope that they’ll be able to collect enough seeds and save enough plants that they’ll be able to prevent it from going completely extinct.

The plant dies back in summer, re-shoots in autumn and flowers for only a few weeks every spring, making it difficult for the untrained to correctly identify according to Burrendong Arboretum manager Mike Herbert.

“It does make it difficult for a layman to identify it, but that’s why this workshop is happening, so that people can be trained to identify them and then carry that training forward so in three years time or so when this happens again, they’ll be teaching people,” Mr Herbert said.

The plant can also be easily confused for the considerably more common Paterson’s Curse.

Outside of the Arboretum, the group ‘weren’t very successful’ finding the plant in areas where it was expected, according to Mr Herbert.

Loss of habitat is considered a key factor in the status of small purple-pea, with other issues such as grazing and invasive weed species also contributing to the species’ endangered status.

“Kangaroos, rabbits, feral goats and deer will all feed off it when times are tough like they are now,” Mr Herbert said.

The plant is known to grow in Queanbeyan, Wellington and Mudgee areas and has some pockets of growth across the ACT, otherwise small-purple pea is limited to four individual plants in Victoria.

“There may well be pockets that exist elsewhere and we just don’t know yet,” Mr Herbert said.

Near Wellington, the plant has been identified at the Burrendong Arboretum, Mt. Arthur reserve, Stuart Town common and the Sport and Rec acreage.