The endangered aromatic peppercress has a new lease on life at its new home in Scottsdale Reserve thanks to Rainer Rehwinkel and Bush Heritage supporters. Kelly Irving reports.
The Aromatic peppercress. Photo: Stuart Cohen
In May 2004, Rainer Rehwinkel found something special in his backyard.
“At first I thought it was a daisy, so I waited for it to flower, then I realised it was a peppercress - that's when I became really excited.”
The endangered aromatic peppercress (Lepidium hyssopifolium) is currently known only to exist in one other location in New South Wales. Rainer had accidentally unearthed it while establishing a garden at his new property in Bungendore.
As Senior Threatened Species Officer at NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Rainer is one of very few people who could have recognised the native, which is a member of the cabbage family and is easily mistaken for a weed. He's travelled to over 3000 sites looking for endangered grassland and woodland sites in South-east New South Wales. Often, it's taken him days just to get to one site. "That's why it's so odd this plant came up in my backyard!" He laughs.
Volunteers have planted Aromatic peppercress in Scottsdale Reserve and several other locations. Photo: by Peter Saunders
“There are lots of questions that need answers ... Bush Heritage offers us a great opportunity to find out more.”
Setting out to save a species
Rainer knew the peppercress needed a new, more secure home. "If we ever decide to sell the house then there's no guarantee that the next owner will look after the plants."
Feeling responsible for its survival, he set to work on several translocation projects to try and increase the plant's population. In July 2011, he joined forces with Bush Heritage and the peppercress got a new address at Scottsdale Reserve.
Our volunteers played an instrumental role in the move. They planted seeds at four sites in the reserve, including three around the shearing shed in disturbed ground similar to where the peppercress emerged in Rainer's garden. So far, of all the translocations undertaken in 2011, the peppercress has only emerged at Scottsdale.
Volunteers plant peppercress in a seed orchid from which seed will be collected for future propogation. Photo: Peter Saunders
"I think it's fantastic that we're looking after this plant," says Enid Bentley, who along with her husband Harry spends a morning at Scottsdale every fortnight. "I'll be very interested to see how it goes in the long term and whether it seeds."
Volunteers and supporters are essential
Scottsdale Reserve holds a very special place in the heart of many Bush Heritage supporters, including Enid, who describes herself as "one of the gardening brigade" that care for the peppercress, along with other plants in Scottsdale's native plant nursery.
A high-profile site in the Kosciuszko to Coast project area, its transformation since 2006 and its continuous maintenance is down to the care of our conservation partners, donors and volunteers. Thanks to you, the future looks bright for the peppercress.
“So far of all the translocations undertaken in 2011, the peppercress has only emerged at Scottsdale.”
Yet our work doesn't stop there. Rainer says it's crucial we learn to understand what is threatening this species. "Just because it's in the reserve doesn't mean our work is done," he says. "There are lots of questions that need answers. For example, as its name suggests, the peppercress's leaves have a peppery taste, so does this make it particularly palatable, and thus vulnerable to grazing animals?"
"Bush Heritage offers us a great opportunity to find out more," says Rainer. "We have a responsibility to try as hard as we can."
Scottsdale Reserve was acquired in 2006 with the assistance of David Rickards, in memory of Helen Rickards, the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Australian Government's National Reserve System program.