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 Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery plan for nationally threatened plant species on Kangaroo Island South Australia (Taylor, D.A., 2012) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008adh) [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].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
SA:Draft recovery plan for 23 threatened flora taxa on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia 2007-2012 (Pobke, K., 2007) [State Recovery Plan].
SA:Threatened Flora of South Australia Fact Sheet - Threatened Flora on Kangaroo Island Vulnerable Ironstone Mulla Mulla Ptilotus beckerianus (South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH), 2010b) [Information Sheet].
SA:Draft Recovery Plan for 15 Nationally Threatened Plant Species, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, second edition 2003-2013 (Taylor, D.A., 2008) [State Recovery Plan].
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Vulnerable (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
Scientific name Ptilotus beckerianus [3787]
Family Amaranthaceae:Caryophyllales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author (F.Muell.) J.Black
Infraspecies author  
Reference Flora of South Australia ed. 2, 2 (Jan. 1948) 326.
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: Ptilotus beckerianus

Common name: Ironstone Mulla Mulla

Other names: Becker's Pussy-tail

Conventionally accepted as Ptilotus beckerianus (CHAH 2010).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla is a perennial, deep rooted herbaceous plant, with a rosette of up to 20 leaves at ground level. The leaves come in a range of shapes from oval, egg-shaped to narrow and pointed (Jessop & Toelken 1986; SA DEH 2006, 2007a). Multiple, ribbed and unbranched flower stems grow 10–25 cm tall, and may have small leaves located along the stem. Flowers are bottlebrush-shaped, fluffy, and pinkish to amber or golden yellow in colour (Leigh et al. 1984; SA DEH 2007a, 2010b). Plants on Eyre Peninsula show variation in leaf colour from dark purple to dark green (Deslandes 2007 pers. obs. cited in SA DEH 2007a).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla is endemic to SA. It occurs in the central and western regions of Kangaroo Island, from near the Eleanor River to the south coast, near Vivonne and at Hummocky on the north coast. The species also occurs in the southern part of Eyre Peninsula, from near Marble Range to a railway line near the Hyde Road and Lincoln Highway intersection, near Port Lincoln (Leigh et al. 1984; Neagle 2002; SA DEH 2007a).

The extent of occurrence of the Ironstone Mulla Mulla is estimated at 185 km² on Eyre Peninsula, with an area of occupancy of 0.03 km² (SA DEH 2007a). On Kangaroo Island, the species has an extent of occurrence of 1615 km² (Taylor 2008).

The Lower Eyre Peninsula Bushfire Re-establishment Program, implemented with funding from State and Commonwealth governments and the Nature Foundation SA Incorporated, supports ongoing surveys to monitor the post-fire response of threatened plants and vegetation communities. The program began after bushfires in January 2005 affected over 6600 hectares of Sugar Gum woodland and the entire population of the Ironstone Mulla Mulla, along with other threatened species (SA DEH 2007).

The total population of the Ironstone Mulla Mulla is approximately 40 000 individuals (SA DEH 2007a; Taylor 2008).

Approximately, ten subpopulations are known for the Eyre Peninsula area (SA DEH 2007a) and 12 subpopulations on Kangaroo Island (Taylor 2008).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla is reserved in (Davies 1995b; SA DEH 2007a, 2010b):

  • Flinders Chase National Park , Kangaroo Island
  • Kelly Hill Conservation Park (CP), Kangaroo Island
  • Seal Bay CP, Kangaroo Island
  • Wanilla CP, Eyre Peninsula
  • Wanilla Land Settlement Conservation Reserve, Eyre Peninsula
  • Tucknott's Scrub CP, Eyre Peninsula.

Seven of the known locations on Kangaroo Island are within reserves. At five of these sites the majority of Ironstone Mulla Mulla plants occur on the reserve boundaries and on adjacent roadsides (Neagle 2002). At Eyre Peninsula, subpopulations also grow adjacent to reserves at Murrunatta CP on roadside managed by the District Council of Lower Eyre Peninsula. The council has erected roadside markers for this species (SA DEH 2007a).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla occurs in association with a number of plant communities including Sugar Gum (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) open woodland, Drooping She-oak (Allocasuarina verticillata) woodland and Broombush (Melaleuca uncinata) shrubland on Eyre Peninsula (SA DEH 2007b), and Coastal White Mallee (Eucalyptus diversifolia) open shrubland on Kangaroo Island (SA DEH 2010b). Associated species in these vegetation types include (Davies 1986; SA DEH 2006, 2007a; Taylor 2008):

  • Drooping She-oak Low woodland: Elm-Seed Hakea (Hakea cycloptera), Gland Flower (Adenanthos terminalis), Silver Broombush (Babingtonia behrii), Broombush (Melaleuca uncinata) and Sticky Hop-bush (Dodonaea viscosa subsp. spatulata).
  • Drooping Sheoak Open shrubland with scattered Drooping She-oak: Silver Broombush (Babingtonia behrii), Quondong (Santalum acuminatum), Gland Flower (Adenanthos terminalis), Broombush (Melaleuca uncinata), Yacca (Xanthorrhoea semiplana) and Rough Fanflower (Scaevola linearis). Groundlayer species include Foxtail Mulga Grass (Neurachne alopecuroidea), Rough Stinkweed (Opercularia scabrida), Golden Pennants (Glischrocaryon behrii), Broadleaf Raspwort (Gonocarpus mezianus), Bearded Oat (Avena barbata), Annual Rock-fern (Cheilanthes austrotenuifolia), Sticky Sword-sedge (Lepidosperma viscidum), Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), Hill Raspwort (Gonocarpus elatus), Hard Matrush (Lomandra multiflora subsp. dura), Crested Spear-grass (Austrostipa blackii), Common Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix tetragona), Erect Guinea-flower (Hibbertia riparia), Flame Heath (Astroloma conostephioides) and Desert Heath-myrtle (Baeckea crassifolia).
  • Sugar Gum Woodland: Yacca (Xanthorrhoea semiplana), Gland Flower (Adenanthos terminalis), Correa sp., Silver Broombush (Babingtonia behrii) and Elm-Seed Hakea (Hakea cycloptera). Dominant groundlayer species include Running Postman (Kennedia prostrata), Foxtail Mulga Grass, Erect Guinea-flower and Milkmaids (Burchardia umbellata).
  • Broombush Shrubland with emergent Sugar Gum: Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), Rock Wattle (Acacia rupicola), Broadleaf Raspwort, Rough Halgania (Halgania cyanea), Erect Guinea-flower, Slender Velvet Bush (Lasiopetalum baueri), Yacca, Peach Heath (Lissanthe strigosa subsp. subulata), Small-flower Wallaby-grass (Austrodanthonia setacea) and Coarse Lagenifera (Lagenophora huegelii).
  • Coastal White Mallee: Ridge-fruited Mallee (E. incrassata), Narrow-leaf Red Mallee (E. leptophylla), Rosemary Dampiera (Dampiera rosmarinifolia), Guinea Flower (Hibbertia sp. glabriuscula), Cup Gum (E. cosmophylla), Kangaroo Island Narrow leaved Mallee (E. cneorifolia) or Common Oak-bush (Allocasuarina muelleriana) as co-dominants. Other associated species include Broombush, Slender Honey Myrtle (M. gibbosa), Kangaroo Island Conesticks (Petrophile multisecta), Scrambling Beard-heath (Leucopogon concurvus), Desert Heath-myrtle, Phyllota pleurandroides, Common Fringe-myrtle, Flame Heath, Erect Guinea-flower, Sticky Sword-sedge and Bog-rush (Schoenus breviculmis).

In a more open area, near Wanilla, Eyre Peninsula, the Ironstone Mulla Mulla has also been found in association with Holly Grevillea (Grevillea ilicifolia), Rough Halgania (Halgania cyanea) and Gahnia spp. with no overstorey species present (SA DEH 2006).

On Kangaroo Island, the Ironstone Mulla Mulla is found on gentle slopes of low broad ridges where it grows in clayey sand, light sandy clay loam, loamy sand and sand of pH 6–7 (Davies 1986, 1992; SA DEH 2010b). The annual rainfall is in the vicinity of 640 mm per annum and the average minimum and maximum temperatures are 9.4 °C and 19 °C (Taylor 2008).

On Eyre Peninsula the Ironstone Mulla Mulla occupies ironstone gravel soils and occasionally light yellow brown sandy loams with a relatively neutral pH level. The species inhabits the 450–500 mm rainfall zone, annual average minimum and maximum temperatures are 9.6 °C and 20.9 °C, and sites are 30–230 m above sea level (SA DEH 2007a).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla flowers between August and January with 20–40 spiky-looking, hairy flowers borne per stem (SA DEH 2007a). The flowers are initially hemispherical, becoming ovoid or cylindrically elongated to 9.5 cm (Jessop & Toelken 1986). Flowering is dependent on environmental conditions such as soil moisture and canopy shading (Deslandes cited in SA DEH 2007a). As flowers gradually age, the seeds harden. The seeds are wind dispersed via attached long hairy plumes (SA DEH 2007a).

The species disappears over the winter period remaining dormant till the spring (SA DEH 2007a, 2007b). Pollination, germination, seed viability and survival, and plant longevity are relatively unknown. Above the ground, small plants often look like new seedlings but are rhizomatically linked to nearby larger individuals (SA DEH 2007a, 2007b).

Davies (1995b) speculated that the Ironstone Mulla Mulla may be stimulated by disturbance and is likely to be best found after fire. The species is found in lightly cleared areas adjacent to undisturbed native vegetation and where clearance has not resulted in heavy weed invasion (Davies 1995b). However, research into the fire dependence of this species has found that populations do not increase substantially with fire but may be resilient enough to recover post fire (SA DEH 2007b).

The Ironstone Mulla Mulla may be hard to detect during the dormancy winter phase, and as it is small may be easily overlooked when not in flower. Therefore, surveys would be best undertaken when the plant is flowering. As plants are often joined underground by rhizomatic roots, and clusters of individuals may actually be one plant (SA DEH 2007b), care should be taken when assessing numbers at a site. It is suggested that distances between plants of greater than 10 cm should ensure counts of individuals plants (SA DEH 2007b).

The main identified threats to the Ironstone Mulla Mulla are (Davies 1986; SA DEH 2006, 2007a, 2010b):

Road works/maintenance

As many of the known subpopulations occur on roadsides, road maintenance activities including grading and quarrying for road gravel may have a deleterious effect. Although the Ironstone Mulla Mulla readily colonises disturbed areas such as the edges of roads, road widening could destroy plants growing at road edges.

Lack of appropriate disturbance

The disturbance requirements of the species are poorly understood, however, lack of disturbance may also be a threat. 

Whilst the species may not be reliant on fire events for recruitment, flowering may be promoted by fires in appropriate periods, and the species may require some levels of disturbance to prevent the encroachment of competing trees, shrubs and herbs. 

Weeds

Invasion by exotic flora species is seen as a threat to all populations of the Ironstone Mulla Mulla, competing for resources, increasing fire danger and creating conditions such as heavy shading unsuitable for the species. Weeds include Aleppo Pine (Pinus halapensis), Bridal Creeper (Asparagus asparagoides), African Daisy (Senecio pterophorus), Freesia spp. and Perennial Veldt Grass (Ehrharta calycina). Bridal Creeper is seen as a major threat, having the ability to 'choke out' areas of other vegetation (Davies 1995b). Less threatening, annual grasses and herbs also inhabit many sites and compete for resources and crowd out the Ironstone Mulla Mulla. These include Avena spp. (such as Slender Wild Oat (Avena barbata)), Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceous), Hordeum sp., False Hair-grass (Pentaschistis airoides), Vulpia sp., Quaking Grass (Briza maxima), Pincushion (Scabiosa atropurpurea), Medicago spp. and Trifolium spp.

The bulldozing of vegetation for firebreak maintenance is exacerbating the problem of weed invasion for Wanilla CP, Eyre Peninsula. It is recommended that slashers rather than earth moving equipment be used for fire break maintenance. The population found on privately land adjacent to the west side of the Wanilla CP is threatened by cattle trampling and associated weed invasion (Davies 1995b).

Spray drift

Herbicide spray drift is an identified threat to Ironstone Mulla Mulla that occurs in agricultural areas where aerial spraying methods are utilised to apply herbicides and insecticides. The species is also susceptible to off-target damage from herbicide applications during weed control operations on roadside vegetation and reserves.

Disease

Ironstone Mulla Mulla occupies high rainfall areas within considered 'High Risk Management zones' for the root rot fungus, Phytophthora cinnamomi (NPW SA 2002). Although it is not known whether the species is susceptible to the fungus, symptoms of Phytophthora cinnamomi have been observed in plants in a creekline near Wanilla State Forest, located to the south of the Wanilla Settlement Reserve. The perennial nature of the Ironstone Mulla Mulla, growing from dormancy in spring when the root rot fungus is also most active, increases the disease risk. The disease may also have an indirect impact on the species by affecting associated vegetation that contributes to its habitat requirements. Roadside maintenance activities, particularly the creation of drainage diversions, may carry the infection into sites.

Firewood collection

The collection of firewood, at known population sites, has been recorded as a threat for Eyre Peninsula populations, such as the Wanilla Settlement Reserve. Wood collectors may trample plants, particularly during flowering. However, fencing of some reserved areas now restricts access and may reduce the incidence of firewood collection.

Small population sizes, habitat fragmentation and habitat clearing

Small and highly fragmented populations, especially those along roadsides and rail reserves, may have low genetic variability and genetic flow due to their isolation. Low genetic variability may reduce the resilience of the species to environmental changes, pests or diseases. Land clearing has eliminated much of the species' habitat on both Kangaroo Island and Eyre Peninsula, and populations, which occur on private property, are at risk from further land clearing and potential grazing by domestic stock and rabbits (Leigh et al. 1984).

The draft Recovery Plan for 23 Threatened Flora Taxa on Eyre Peninsula (SA DEH 2007a) has the following key objectives:

  • Obtain baseline information, including critical and potential habitat, for each threatened flora species.
  • Increase understanding, appreciation and involvement in threatened flora recovery efforts.
  • Manage immediate threats and improve threatened flora critical habitat.
  • Conduct research critical to management by addressing knowledge deficiencies in threatened flora biology and ecology (including threat identification).
  • Monitor threatened flora populations and evaluate the success of recovery actions.

The draft Recovery Plan for 15 Nationally Threatened Plant Species Kangaroo Island (Taylor 2008) aims to stabilise the Ironstone Mulla Mulla on Kangaroo Island over a five year period (SA DEH 2007a). The Kangaroo Island Threatened Plant Species Recovery Program (KINRMB 2011) began in 2002 with the aim of addressing fragmentation, weed invasion, and inappropriate fire and grazing regimes. The program has a strong community/volunteer input (KINRMB 2011) with an annual three day planting festival to restore habitat for threatened species of the island (UniSA 2010).

Management documents relevant to the Ironstone Mulla Mulla are at the start of the profile.

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 Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Mechanical disturbance during construction, maintanance or recreational activities Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Asparagus asparagoides (Bridal Creeper, Bridal Veil Creeper, Smilax, Florist's Smilax, Smilax Asparagus) Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Ptilotus beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006vz) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Vegetation and habitat loss caused by dieback Phytophthora cinnamomi Threat abatement plan for disease in natural ecosystems caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009w) [Threat Abatement Plan].

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) (2010). Australian Plant Census. [Online]. Australian National Herbarium, Australian National Botanic Gardens and Australian Biological Resources Study . Available from: http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/.

Davies, R.J.P. (1986). Threatened Plant Species of the Mt Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island Regions of South Australia. Conservation Council of South Australia.

Davies, R.J.P. (1992). Threatened Plants of the Murray Mallee, Mt Lofty Range and Kangaroo Island Region of South Australia. Conservation Council of South Australia.

Davies, R.J.P. (1995b). Threatened Plant Species Management in National Parks and Wildlife Act Reserves in South Australia. Athelstone, South Australia: Black Hill Flora Centre, Botanic Gardens of Adelaide.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008adh). Threat abatement plan for competition and land degradation by rabbits. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/rabbits08.html.

Jessop, J.P. & H.R. Toelken, eds. (1986). Flora of South Australia. Adelaide, South Australia: SA Government Printing Division.

Kangaroo Island Natural Resource Management Board (KINRMB) (2011). Threatened Plants . Kangaroo Island Natural Resource Management Board, Government of South Australia.

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

National Parks and Wildlife South Australia (NPW SA) (2002). Phytophthora Newsletter. Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia.

Neagle, N. (2002). National Land and Water Resources Audit: Conservation Strategy Case Study: Kangaroo Island Subregion, South Australia. Adelaide: National Parks and Wildlife South Australia, Department for Environment and Heritage.

South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH) (2006). Threatened flora threat assessment. Port Lincoln, South Australia: Department for Environment and Heritage.

South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH) (2007). Conservation Parks of the Lower Eyre Peninsula Management Plan. [Online]. Adelaide, SA: Department for Environment and Heritage. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/pdfs/LOWER_EYRE_CPS_MP.PDF.

South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH) (2007a). Draft Recovery Plan for 23 Threatened Flora Taxa on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/files/fccfccbf-d1a9-4ca3-840e-9e3701171854/Dft_EP_Thr_Fl_Rec_Plan_08Feb.pdf.

South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH) (2007b). Eyre Peninsula Bushfire Recovery Program Vegetation Monitoring. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/naturelinks/pdfs/epbr_veg_monitoring_report.pdf.

South Australia Department for Environment and Heritage (SA DEH) (2010b). Threatened Flora of South Australia Fact Sheet - Threatened Flora on Kangaroo Island Vulnerable Ironstone Mulla Mulla Ptilotus beckerianus. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/files/eb46adab-1945-4ff4-bd73-9e370116bb6b/Ptilotis_beckerianus.pdf.

Taylor, D.A. (2008). Draft Recovery Plan for 15 Nationally Threatened Plant Species, Kangaroo Island, South Australia, second edition 2003-2013. [Online]. Department for Environment and Heritage, Government of South Australia. Available from: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/Plants_Animals/Threatened_species_ecological_communities/Recovery_planning/Plans_for_threatened_plants_in_SA.

University of South Australia (UniSA) (2010). Students plant an island of trees. UniSA News. August. [Online]. Available from: http://w3.unisa.edu.au/unisanews/2010/august/story14.asp.

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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 beckerianus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:01:49 +1000.