RARE BREED: Office of Environment and Heritage senior threatened species officer Dianne Brown with Janet Trembath, Lachlan McGeary, Kylie Paskins and Quinn Dougherty.
RARE BREED: Office of Environment and Heritage senior threatened species officer Dianne Brown with Janet Trembath, Lachlan McGeary, Kylie Paskins and Quinn Dougherty. Melissa Gulbin

Rare tree gets a fighting chance

ONE of New South Wales' rarest trees is about to be given a helping hand, with three separate plantings of the tree in the Lennox Head area on November 10.

Coastal Fontainea was not known to science until the discovery of 10 individuals in a patch of littoral rainforest near Lennox Head in 1987. At that time it was regarded as the state's rarest tree.

Saved from extinction

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) senior threatened species officer Dianne Brown said the plantings - organised at Xavier Catholic College, a local Landcare site and private landholder site, all in Lennox Head - would help to save the tree from extinction.

"The Coastal Fontainea is a beautiful flowering tree unique to the Lennox Head area and these works, along with previous plantings, are critical in ensuring its survival," Ms Brown said.

"It is positive news for the species that our local volunteers are so passionate about saving the tree and it's particularly pleasing to see the involvement of local school children from Xavier Catholic College in the conservation efforts.

Cuttings from original wild colony

Cultivation and replantings taken from cuttings from the original wild colony began in 2010 and will continue under the government's Saving our Species program.

As a consequence, there are now a total of 110 individuals growing at 11 separate locations in the region, and with the new plantings the tree has an even greater chance of survival.

OEH has been regularly monitoring each of the plantings and recent surveys found that all the trees that have been replanted are doing well.

Male and female plants

The species has both male and female plants, with the possibility that they can change sex at some point in the life cycle.

Scientists believe that there were only two females remaining among the last 10 individuals and this presented a real risk of inbreeding.

Recent research of another variety of Fontainea has shown that they may have anti-cancer properties, although no research has been done on the North Coast variety.


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