Biodiversity

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 Endangered as Epacris virgata
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Flora Recovery Plan: Threatened Tasmanian Forest Epacrids (Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2011) [Recovery Plan] as Epacris virgata.
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Department of the Environment, 2014a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
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] as Epacris virgata sensu stricto Beaconsfield.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (11/04/2007) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2007f) [Legislative Instrument] as Epacris virgata.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
TAS:Threatened Species Notesheet - Epacris virgata (Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE), 2007) [Information Sheet].
TAS:Epacris virgata (Pretty Heath, Dan Hill Heath): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014ga) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list) as Epacris virgata
Scientific name Epacris virgata [20375]
Family Epacridaceae:Ericales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author Hook.f.
Infraspecies author  
Reference J.D.Hooker, Hooker's London Journal of Botany 6 (Apr. 1847) 271.
Other names Epacris exserta var. virgata [37272]
Epacris sp. Alans Hill (S.J.Jarman H032456) [56746]
Epacris sp. Dans Hill (S.J.Jarmen HO 32456) [64423]
Epacris sp. Dans Hill (S.J.Jarman HO 32456) [64640]
Epacris sp. 1 Allans Hill (S.J.Jarman sn. (HO 32456)) [65129]
Epacris virgata sensu stricto Beaconsfield [65927]
Epacris virgata (Kettering) [65981]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Epacris virgata

Common name: Pretty Heath

Conventionally accepted as Epacris virgata (CHAH 2012). Keith (1997) and others (Gilmour et al. 2000; Tas. DPIPWE 2011) refer to two taxa; Epacris virgata (Beaconsfield) and Epacris virgata (Kettering) based on disjunct geography, genetics and ecological requirements. Crowden and Menadue (1991) and Crowden (2007) concluded that these two taxa were morphologically inseparable, a view that is accepted (CHAH 2012).

The Pretty Heath is an erect, single-stemmed shrub, sometimes branching near the base, growing to 2.5 m tall, with white flowers. It is distinguished by long, straight, slender branches, bearing thick egg-shaped convex-flat leaves (Keith 1997). The Threatened Tasmanian Forest Epacrids recovery plan has separate descriptions for the Beaconsfield and Kettering populations (Tas. DPIPWE 2011).

The Pretty Heath is endemic to Tasmania near Beaconsfield (two populations in the Barnes Hill/Mt Vulcan/Hinds Road area and Piper Point) in the north of the State and Kettering (29 populations) in the south (Tas. DPIPWE 2011).  These populations are disjunct and are treated as separate management units (Tas. DPIPWE 2011). At Beaconsfield, the species occurs over a range of 44 km (Tas. DPIPWE 2007).

Beaconsfield

In the Beaconsfield area, Epacris virgata is known from three populations, Mt Vulcan, Hinds Road and Pipers River (Keith 1997). Surveys in 2008 for proposed mining exploration identified approximately 1 360 000 plants in the Mt Vulcan/Barnes Hill area (North Barker Ecosystem Services 2008; Ziegler 2008). This estimate combines Keith's (1998) estimate outside of the two resource blocks (758 500 plants over 81 ha) and North Barker Ecosystem Services' (2008) estimates from Barnes Hill and Mt Vulcan (746 887 plants over 93 ha). Accounting for suitable habitat in non-surveyed areas there could be over 2 800 000 plants (North Barker Ecosystem Services 2008a).

Kettering

In the Kettering area, Epacris virgata is known from at least 26 populations, with more than 1 000 000 mature plants. The largest known population, Summerleas Road, contains approximately 600 000 plants (Tas. DPIPWE 2007).

The Pretty Heath is reserved at (Tas. DPIPWE 2007):

  • Andersons Creek Forest Reserve
  • Dans Hill Conservation Area
  • Pipers River Forest Reserve
  • Tasman National Park
  • Wellington Park
  • Woodvine Nature Reserve
  • Three Thumbs State Reserve.

Beaconsfield

In Beaconsfield, the Pretty Heath occurs on serpentinite soil in dry sclerophyll forest on undulating terrain at 40–100 m above sea level (Keith 1997). The outlier at Piper's Point (east of the Tamar River) occurs on soils derived from dolerite (Tas. DPIPWE 2007).

Associated communities include Black Peppermint (Eucalyptus amygdalina) forest/woodland, Black Peppermint/Swamp Gum (E. ovata) forest/woodland and Swamp Gum woodland. Associated species include Rigid Bush-pea (Pultenaea stricta), Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Rosy Baeckea (Baeckea ramosissima), Shy Susan (Tetratheca gunnii), Spiny-headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia), Hibbertia serpyllifolia, Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum), Messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua), Cherry Ballart (Exocarpos cupressiformis), Common Heath (Epacris impressa), Australian Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa), Snowy Daisy-bush (Olearia lirata), Guitar Plant (Lomatia tinctoria), Hakea epiglottis, Woolly Tea-tree (Leptospermum lanigerum), Hairy Guinea Flower (Hibbertia serpyllifolia), Fan Sedge (Lepidosperma inops) and Velvet Tussock (Poa rodwayi) (Black 2001 pers. comm.).

Kettering

In Kettering, the Pretty Heath occurs in dry sclerophyll forest or grassy woodlands on hilly terrain often at the upper or mid slope areas, at elevations of 10–300 m above sea level. Soil type is mainly Jurassic dolerite, though sometimes the species is found close to geological boundaries of dolerite and Permian mudstone.

Associated species at sites include White Peppermint (Eucalyptus pulchella), Swamp Gum (E. ovata), Messmate (E. obliqua), Rigid Bush-pea (Pultenaea stricta), Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata), Rosy Baeckea (Baeckea ramosissima), Shy Susan (Tetratheca gunnii), Spiny-headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia), Guinea-flower (Hibbertia serpyllifolia), Bracken Fern (Pteridium esculentum), Native Cherry (Exocarpos cupressiformis), Common Heath (Epacris impressa), Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa), Snow Daisy-bush (Olearia lirata), Guitar Plant (Lomatia tinctoria), Beaked Hakea (Hakea epiglottis), Woolly Tea Tree (Leptospermum lanigerum), Hairy Guinea Flower (Hibbertia serpyllifolia), Fan Sedge (Lepidosperma inops) and Velvet Tussock Grass (Poa rodwayi) (Tas. DPIPWE 2007).

The maximum life span of Pretty Heath plants is probably 30–40 years (Keith 1997). Peak flowering occurs in spring. Seed is released in late summer, with floral initiation beginning immediately afterwards (Keith 1997). Flowering of southern populations can persist through to spring. Although the first seed crop is likely to be produced in the fourth fruiting season after fire, it may be six to eight years before a seedbank of sufficient size has accumulated to ensure sufficient seedling recruitment after a subsequent fire (Keith 1997). Seeds may require burial in soil to encourage germination, and seedlings are noted to survive at a better rate in riparian areas or if buried deeper in soils to withstand dry conditions (Tas. DPIPWE 2007).

The known pollinators of Epacris spp. include a variety of large adult carrion flies from the Tabanidae, Muscidae and Calliphoridae families. Species of flies directly observed pollinating Epacris taxa include: Dasybasis spp., Halina sp., Calliphora sp. and Calliphora hilli (Keith 1997). It seems likely that other species of large flies would also function as pollinators (Keith 1997).

The Pretty Heath is distinguished by its long slender branches, its non-pungent leaves and flowers with prominently exserted anthers and stigma (Keith 1997).

Frequent fire (less than 6–8 years) depletes the soil seed bank, leading to local extinction (Keith 1997). Infrequent fire increases canopy cover and limits germination (Keith 1997). Other threats to the Pretty Heath include (Keith 1997; Tas. DPIPWE 2007):

  • land clearing
  • weeds (including Spanish Heath (Erica lusitanica))
  • rootrot caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi infection
  • urban development, especially in the south area of the species distribution
  • mining, especially in the north of its distribution and populations in reserves are also at risk. 

The following recovery actions may assist the Pretty Heath (Keith 1997):

  1. coordinate recovery program
  2. manage threatening processes
  3. increase number of important populations under protective tenures
  4. conduct surveys and monitoring
  5. investigate fire ecology
  6. investigate taxonomy
  7. educate and inform stakeholders and communities.

Management documents relevant to the Pretty Heath are at the start of the profile. Other relevant documents include the  Conservation of Tasmanian Plant Species and Communities threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Schahinger et al. 2003).

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
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Vegetation and habitat loss caused by dieback Phytophthora cinnamomi Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate prescribed regimes and/or vegetation management to control fire regimes Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004 (Keith, D., 1997) [State Recovery Plan].

Black, P.G. (2001). Personal Communication. DPIWE.

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2012). Australian Plant Census. [Online]. Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian Biological Resources Study . Available from: http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/apclist.

Crowden, R.K. (2007). Additions to Epacris (Epacridoidae, Ericaceae) in Tasmania. Muelleria . 25:115-128.

Crowden, R.K. & Y.Menadue (1990). Morphometric analysis of variation in the 'Epacris tasmanica complex (Epacridaceae). Aust. Syst. Bot. 3:253-264.

Department of the Environment (2014a). Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi. [Online]. Canberra; ACT: Department of the Environment. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/threat-abatement-plan-disease-natural-ecosystems-caused-phytophthora-cinnamomi.

Gilmour, C.A., R.K. Crowden, R.E. Vaillancourt, & A. Koutoulis (2000). Genetic variation in the Epacris tasmanica series complex (Epacridaceae). Paper & Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania. Page(s) 75-78. University of Tasmania.

Keith, D. (1997). Recovery Plan - Tasmanian Forest Epacrids 1999-2004. [Online]. Hobart: Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/tas-forest/index.html.

North Barker Ecosystem Services (2008). Barnes Hill and Mt Vulcan - Botanical Survey and Fauna Habitat Assessment.

North Barker Ecosystem Services (2008a). Nickel Laterite Mine and Infrastructure Barnes Hill Mining Lease Area. Botanical Survey and Fauna Habitat Assessment. Hobart, Tasmania: North Barker Ecosystem Services.

Schahinger, R., T. Rudman & T. Wardlaw (2003). Conservation of Tasmanian Plant Species & Communities threatened by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Strategic Regional Plan for Tasmania. Technical Report 03/03. Hobart, Tasmania: Nature Conservation Branch, Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.

Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2007). Threatened Species Notesheet - Epacris virgata. [Online]. Available from: http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter.nsf/Attachments/LJEM-7523SX/$FILE/Epacris%20virgata.pdf.

Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tas. DPIPWE) (2011). Flora Recovery Plan: Threatened Tasmanian Forest Epacrids. [Online]. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Hobart. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/threatened-tasmanian-forest-epacrids.html.

Tasmanian DPIWE (2000). Personal communication.

Ziegler, K. (2008). Forest Practices Plan - PRO01 Drilling program. Proto Resources Mineral Exploration Program, near Beaconsfield Tasmania. NorthBarker Ecosystem Services.

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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). Epacris virgata in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 19 Sep 2014 02:35:03 +1000.