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Two new populations of the rare purple pea discovered on the Central Tablelands

A spring search for the rare and endangered Swainsona recta, commonly known as the Small Purple-pea, has hit the jackpot with not one but two new populations identified on the Central Tablelands.

Central Tablelands Land Services Officer, Evelyn Nicholson says many hours have been spent with bent backs scanning the ground for the characteristic feathery leaves and bright purple flowers of the Small Purple-pea.

“There is something very satisfying and exciting about finding a new population of a threatened species,” said Evelyn who spotted two Purple-pea plants at Campbell Creek, south of Mudgee.

“After days of trudging through the bush finding all sorts of cool stuff but no Purple-pea, I managed to take a wrong turn, get lost and then spot the characteristic purple on the side of the road. That shows that luck is just as important as skill!”

A second new Swainsona recta population was discovered by Mal Stokes from the Mid-Western Regional Council who found an impressive 70 individual plants near Breakfast Creek east of Mudgee.

Mal was already familiar with the species, having previously discovered a Small Purple-pea population some years ago at Flirtation Hill in Mudgee.

Local Land Services held two identification workshops in Mudgee in October this year to help staff, contractors and interested community members identify the Small Purple-pea from a range of similar species that often grow in the same area.

The Small Purple-pea is a slender, erect perennial herb that grows to about 30 cm tall and is often found in grassy box woodland. The species is believed to have once been widespread, but is now found in only a few locations near Canberra and between Wellington and Mudgee, and in a single population in northern Victoria.

With the two new discoveries at Mudgee, there are now seven known populations of Swainsona recta in the Central Tablelands region. The largest local population grows on the Mudgee Common where there are estimated to be at least 1500 individual plants.

As the weather warms up, flowering is now coming to an end and the search for the Small Purple-pea in the Central Tablelands region will draw to a close until next spring.

The Searching for Swainsona project is supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

For more information about the Small Purple-pea and the Searching for Swainsona project contact Evelyn Nicholson at Central Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6378 1700.