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 as Maireana cheelii
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, included on the Commenced List (1/11/2009).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan] as Maireana cheelii.
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 Maireana cheelii.
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NSW:New South Wales Murray Biodiversity Management Plan (Murray Catchment Management Authority (Murray CMA), 2012) [State Action Plan].
NSW:Chariot Wheels - profile (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW OEH), 2012h) [Internet].
VIC:Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement 243-Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE), 2009j) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list) as Maireana cheelii
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014 list) as Maireana cheelii
Non-statutory Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Vulnerable (Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants in Victoria: 2005)
Scientific name Maireana cheelii [8008]
Family Chenopodiaceae:Caryophyllales:Magnoliopsida:Magnoliophyta:Plantae
Species author (R.H.Anderson) Paul G.Wilson
Infraspecies author  
Reference Wilson, Paul G. (1975) A Taxonomic Revision of the genus Maireana (Chenopodiaceae). Nuytsia 2(1): 20, fig. 5 G-H, map 26 [comb. nov.].
Other names Kochia cheelii [45142]
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: Maireana cheelii

Common name: Chariot Wheels

Chariot Wheels was previously known as Kochia cheelii (Wilson 1984).

Chariot Wheels is a perennial forb to about 20 cm high, with slender striped woolly stems and a fleshy swollen taproot. Leaves are narrow-cylindrical and slender, to about 6 mm long, and hairless. Flowers are solitary or in pairs in the leaf axils. The fruiting body is whitish, often slightly woolly or cottony above, 5–6 mm in diameter, with 5 distinctly wheel-like wings, each fan-shaped and radiating up to 2.5 mm long (NSW OEH 2012h).

Chariot Wheels occurs in western Victoria and south-west NSW. In Victoria, Chariot Wheels occurs in an area bounded by Mitiamo in the east, Swan Hill in the north and Minyip in the south (Mavromihalis 2010a). In NSW, the species mostly occurs between Hay and Deniliquin but extending as far west as Moulamein. The eastern extent of its distribution is unclear but it is likely to occur across to the Newell Highway between Jerilderie and Morundah (Mavromihalis 2010a).

Historically, the species occurred in south-west Queensland, from the Gregory South and Warrego Districts (one herbarium collection each) and from Eulo on the Paroo River (NSW NPWS 2000 pers. comm.). The species also previously occurred in the north of NSW at Wanaaring (NSW NPWS 2000 pers. comm).

Chariot Wheels has been recorded from about 30 sites in Victoria and NSW since 1950, almost all on roadsides or on private land, with few records in reserves. Since 2000, plants have been recorded in about 15 populations, with most plants occurring in just six populations; five in Victoria and one in New South Wales, with four on private property and two along roadsides (Mavromihalis 2010a). No substantial populations exist in reserves. In suitable habitat, the species can be numerically abundant, with perhaps 700 000 plants in the six largest populations. It is likely that more populations exist, particularly on roadsides and private properties. Population details are available in the National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels (Mavromihalis 2010a).

Chariot Wheels is usually found in chenopod shrubland and grassland communities on heavy clay soils, dominated by various native shrubs, grasses and herbs, notably Hairy Bluebush (Maireana pentagona), Bottle Bluebush (Maireana excavata), Nitre-bush (Nitraria billardierei), Austrostipa nodosa, A. scabra, Erodium crinitum, Rhodanthe corymbiflorum, Hyalosperma semisterile and H. glutinosa (Mavromihalis 2010a). In NSW the species appears to favour on heavy brown to red-brown clay-loams, hard cracking red clay, other heavy texture-contrast soils that support Bladder Saltbush (Atriplex vesicaria), Maireana aphylla and Acacia homalophylla shrubland communities (NSW OEH 2012h).

Chariot Wheels typically occupies sparsely vegetated sites, with a high proportion of bare ground, often as a result of over-grazing and subsequent wind erosion. The species does not extend to higher sites in the landscape (NSW OEH 2012h). It often occurs in low-lying sites that become waterlogged, and may be slightly saline (Mavromihalis 2010a). It is likely that a loss of habitat and the lack of competition from other species due to the occupation of a relatively hostile environmental niche are factors influencing the current distribution of the species (Mavromihalis 2010a).

The bisexual flowers of Chariot Wheels may be solitary or paired and flowering is mostly in spring and summer (NSW OEH 2012h; Wilson 1984). The species bears fruits mostly from September to November (NSW OEH 2012h).

Habitat degradation

Disturbance or destruction of populations and habitats along roadsides and on private land is a major ongoing threat. Road works, construction and maintenance of fire breaks and installation or maintenance of services along roadsides threaten roadside remnants containing the species and has damaged or destroyed several stands. Ploughing for cropping or pasture grass establishment destroys habitat and plants (Mavromihalis 2010a).

Weed invasion

Many sites where Chariot Wheels occurs are small and surrounded by agricultural land, from which pasture grasses and other weed species readily invade. Problematic weed species include pasture grasses such as Avena sp. and Vulpia sp. Weed invasion in degraded sites, notably narrow roadsides, is likely to inhibit regeneration (Mavromihalis 2010a).


Grazing by stock is considered a serious threat, especially as the larger populations are located on private land (although two of these properties are currently managed for nature conservation). As well as directly removing plants, grazing compacts soil, increases weed spread and inhibits regeneration, particularly in drought years. Opportunistic grazing by stock on roadsides (where the populations are located) is also considered a threat. Grazing during peak flowering and seeding periods in spring and summer may affect rates of recruitment and establishment, while heavy grazing eliminates adult plants from the site. Grazing may also lead to altered local hydrology through soil plugging and changes in water flow at some sites. Some seasonal light grazing may be beneficial in keeping habitat open and reducing competition from grasses (Mavromihalis 2010a).


Dryland salinity has already affected large areas of inland south-east Australia. Chariot Wheels is generally found in low-lying areas that are often the first areas to be affected by rising salinity. The species apparently has some tolerance to low salinity conditions, although may be adversely affected by increasing salinity, which is thought to inhibit germination (Dimech et al. 2001 cited in Mavromihalis 2010a).

A number of initiatives are underway to protect and enhance populations of Chariot Wheels, including (Mavromihalis 2010a):

  • Two private properties containing many highly threatened grassland species, including Chariot Wheels, have been acquired by Trust for Nature (Victoria), and nature conservation is now a high priority for management of these properties.
  • Survey and monitoring of several populations in northern Victoria and NSW.
  • Significant vegetation signs placed on some roadside populations in Victoria.
  • Information on the species and its conservation supplied to landholders with populations on their property in Victoria.
  • Sheep have been removed from one reserve.
  • Two reserves have been fenced and gated to prevent vehicles entering the reserve.
  • A demographic study of Chariot Wheels has commenced at three sites in northern Victoria, to investigate reproductive biology, disturbance ecology and habitat characteristics.

Birchip Landcare Group (Victoria) received $22 650 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2004–05 for implementation of priority actions listed in the National Recovery Plan for this species, as well as habitat mapping, fencing, and signage.

Management documents relevant to Chariot Wheels 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 National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation caused by exotic pasture species National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Other Ecosystem Modifications:Changes in hydrology leading to rising water tables and dryland salinity National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan].
Transportation and Service Corridors:Roads and Railroads:Development and/or maintenance of roads National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii (Mavromihalis, J., 2010a) [Recovery Plan].
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Maireana cheelii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006qa) [Internet].

Mavromihalis, J. (2010a). National Recovery Plan for the Chariot Wheels Maireana cheelii. [Online]. Melbourne, Victoria:DSE. Available from:

NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NSW NPWS) (2000). Personal communication. Sydney: NSW NPWS.

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW OEH) (2012h). Chariot Wheels - profile. [Online]. Available from:

Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE) (2005a). Advisory List of Rare or Threatened Plants in Victoria - 2005. [Online]. East Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Sustainability and Environment. Available from:$FILE/Advisory%20List%20of%20Rare%20or%20Threatened%20Plants%20in%20Victoria%20-%202005.pdf.

Wilson, P.G. (1984). Chenopodiaceae. In: Flora of Australia. 4:81-316. Canberra: AGPS.

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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). Maireana cheelii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:40:54 +1000.