Rare wild lily gets a hand from local community group

By Amy Middleton 3 August 2016
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Locals have united to protect native grasslands in Melbourne.

A THREATENED SPECIES of wild lily endemic to Victoria and Tasmania is getting a leg-up from a Melbourne community group, with the help of the Victorian State Government.

Volunteer-run action group Friends of Merri Creek have launched a crowdfunding campaign to increase the reproductive potential of the matted flax-lily (Dianella amoena), a critically endangered wildflower that thrives in native grasslands.

Merri Creek is an iconic waterway that snakes through Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs. Despite years of industrialisation close to its banks, Friends of Merri Creek and the Merri Creek Management Committee (MCMC) have managed and restored grasslands around the creek since 1989.

bee lily

The campaign focuses on the blue-banded bee which pollinates wildflowers, including the endangered Lily. (Image: Brian Bainbridge)

Native grasslands threatened in Victoria

Merri Creek borders a rare ecosystem of native grasslands – in Victoria, only 1 per cent of naturally occurring grasslands remain.

“Native grasslands once occurred across the western half of Victoria to the South Australian border, but they are now amongst Australia’s most threatened ecosystems,” explained Brian Bainbridge, ecological restoration planner at MCMC.

“All remaining patches of native vegetation in the Merri Creek catchment are rare and precious,” Brian said, adding that other threatened species of wildflower could benefit from this project, including the arching flax lily and tough scurf-pea.

bee lily

Only 1 per cent of naturally occurring grasslands remain in Victoria. (Image: Merri Creek Management Committee Inc.)

Using crowdfunding website Pozible, the community group is calling for donations to fund research, site preparation and planting to stimulate wildflower populations. The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has agreed to match all donations up to $15,000.

Head-banging bee crucial to wild lily survival

The campaign focuses on the activity of the blue-banded bee (Amegilla species), a native bee that pollinates wildflowers, including the endangered flax-lily.

The blue-banded bee cross-pollinates over a maximum distance of 300m. Because of this distance restriction, the remaining matted flax-lily populations scattered throughout the grasslandssuffer from low genetic connectivity.

SEE ALSO: Australian bees ‘head bang’ for pollen

The campaign aims to connect these patches of lily by increasing the number of reproductively viable plants to 400 along the creek’s grasslands, encouraging cross-pollination between plants that aren’t already closely related.

“The shrunken and isolated populations of matted flax-lily (Dianella amoena) found near Melbourne could be suffering from problems caused by low levels of ‘outcrossing’, which is the transfer of pollen between unrelated individuals,” explains Brian.

Higher genetic diversity during pollination makes for hardy, more resilient plants, Brian says. “For long-term protection of Matted Flax lily, it is important to increase the genetic diversity of the fragmented Matted Flax lily populations by considering the needs of their pollinators.”

Community volunteers are also being hunted to help plant and monitor the project, and, in a very Melbourne twist, local musicians have stepped in to lend a hand – tickets to an exclusive gig are being offered as a reward for donations over $35.

Support the crowdfunding campaign here.