Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Critically Endangered
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (145) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013z) [Legislative Instrument].
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Critically Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list)
Scientific name Ptilotus pyramidatus [18216]
Family Amaranthaceae:Caryophyllales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author (Moq.) F.Muell.
Infraspecies author  
Reference Mueller, F.J.H. von, (1868) Fragmenta Phytographiae Australiae 6(49): 230 [comb. nov.]; Davis, R.W. (2012) Nuytsia 22(5): 335
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

The Pyramid Mulla-mulla is a small, probably perennial herb that grows to a height of about 5 cm. The erect stem is tufted, unbranched, finely striated, hairy and greyish in colour. The leaves are oblong to spoon-shaped and somewhat pointed, 1-1.5 cm long with a smooth margin. The leaves arising on the lower part of the stem have stalks, while the leaves on the upper stem are without stalks. The flowers are a greenish-yellow colour and arranged in dense, pyramid-shaped spikes about 2.5 cm long. The flowers are either single, or two or three together at the ends of the stems. Individual flowers are about 1 cm long. The fruits are small and dry with a single seed inside (Brown et al. 1998; Leigh et al. 1984). Flowering occurs in early October (Davis & Tauss 2011).

The Pyramid Mulla-mulla is known from one location in the Kenwick area of south-east Perth in Western Australia (Davis 2012). This population occurs in the Greater Brixton Street Wetlands, is extremely localised and its total area of occupancy is less than 0.2 ha (Davis & Tauss 2011). First collected in 2010, the population was orignally described as a new species, Ptilotus christineae (Davis & Tauss 2011), but examination of type P. pyramidatus material confirmed that the new species is a synonym of P. pyramidatus (Davis 2012). Prior to this discovery, the Pyramid Mulla-mulla had not been collected since the 1840s. These collections occurred at a location several hundred kilometres east of Perth between the Murchison River and West Mount Barren, but the precise locality is unknown (Brown et al. 1998; Leigh et al. 1984).

The Greater Brixton Street Wetlands and about 400 ha of the adjoining rural lands have been searched in several intensive, multi-season surveys (e.g. Tauss & Weston 2010 cited in Davis & Tauss 2011) and no other occurrences of the Pyramid Mulla-mulla have been found. It is unlikely that other populations will be located in the Swan Coastal Plain as the habitat of this species is scarce and has been thoroughly explored due to its high conservation values (Davis & Tauss 2011).

The Pyramid Mulla-mulla inhabits a seasonally inundated flat (floodplain) at an elevation of about 6.5 m above sea level (Davis & Tauss 2011). The site is underlain by pale grey, muddy-sand to sandy-mud alluvium (Guildford Formation) of the Pinjarra Plain (V & C Semeniuk Research Group 2001 cited in Davis & Tauss 2011). The regional, unconfined groundwater in most of this area of the GBSW is generally at about ground level in late winter. At a local scale, the hydrology and stratigraphy of the wetlands is complex with small, confined (artesian) aquifers and shallow aquitard layers of ferricrete or calcareous muds or clays that perch rainwater for varying lengths of time (V & C Semeniuk Research Group 2001 cited in Davis & Tauss 2011). In 2010, despite record-breaking low rainfall in the region, the site inhabited by the species was shallowly inundated for a short period in winter (Davis & Tauss 2011).

The Pyramid Mulla-mulla is recorded in patchy Melaleuca acutifolia open scrub over Verticordia plumosa var. brachyphylla and Hypocalymma angustifolium open heath over Meeboldina canaLepironia neesii open rushes and sedges and mid-dense, species-rich native annual herbs and geophytes (Davis & Tauss 2011).

The Pyramid Mulla-mulla is threatened by off-road vehicles, hydrological and climatic change, nutrient enrichment of groundwater, invasive naturalised alien plants (particularly Harlequin Flower (Sparaxis bulbifera), Cape Tulip (Moraea flaccida) and Coolatai Grass (Hyparrhenia hirta)), which are prevalent in the area, habitat degradation caused by rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and too frequent fires (Davis & Tauss 2011).

Subsequent to the extensive vegetation clearing in the Yule Brook catchment and the resulting increase in the volume of runoff, the brook was excavated to mitigate the flooding of adjacent properties and to convey rainwater (part of which previously infiltrated into the groundwater in the Greater Brixton Street Wetlands (GBSW)) directly into the Canning River (Davis & Tauss 2011). The GBSW are thus no longer subject to natural, regular flooding and alluvial sediment supply from the Yule Brook. A number of other excavated drains, firebreaks and vehicle tracks in the area intersect some of the local, shallow aquifers and also contribute to the dewatering of the wetlands (V & C Semeniuk Research Group 2001 cited in Davis & Tauss 2011). The adverse impact of these changes on the hydrological regime of the GBSW will be exacerbated by the trend towards a drier climate that is now evident in the Swan Coastal Plain. There is continuing uncertainty of the land tenure of many blocks in the GBSW and currently no overall plan to manage the wetlands, to ameliorate the impacts of the surrounding land uses on the native vegetation and to guide local planning authorities (Davis & Tauss 2011).

The causes of localised extinction of Pyramid Mulla-mulla are not known, but land clearing and grazing are considered to have had a significant impact (Leigh et al. 1984).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Ptilotus pyramidatus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006wa) [Internet].

Brown, A., C. Thomson-Dans & N. Marchant, eds. (1998). Western Australia's Threatened Flora. Como, Western Australia: Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Davis, R.W. (2012). Ptilotus christineae is synonymous with the previously Presumed Extinct taxon P. pyramidatus. Nuytsia. 22(5):335.

Davis, R.W. & C. Tauss (2011). A new and rare species of Ptilotus (Amaranthaceae) from a suburban wetland of the eastern Swan Coastal Plain, Western Australia. Nuytsia. 21(3):97-102.

Leigh, J., R. Boden & J. Briggs (1984). Extinct and Endangered Plants of Australia. Melbourne, Victoria: Macmillan.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Ptilotus pyramidatus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 10 Jul 2014 20:00:45 +1000.