26 September 2023

Exciting find in croc infested area

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Royal Botanic Gardens’ (RBG) researchers have braved crocodile infested in their hunt for a carnivorous plant, recording the elusive species for the first time in decades.

Plant Diversity Research Scientist at RBG’s Australian Institute of Botanical Science, Richard Jobson said he and PhD candidate at The University of Queensland, Paulo Baleeiro trekked for three days in a crocodile infested river to find the threatened bladderwort (pictured), a carnivorous plant that captures its prey with a trapdoor.

Dr Jobson said there had been numerous searches for the elusive plant, also known as Utricularia baliboongarnang, but theirs was the first team to record it at Kununurra in Western Australian since two original collections were recorded in 1978 and 1982.

“The area is dry most years and we just happened to strike a year with a really good wet season,” Dr Jobson said.

“What we found was located in a ‘highly restricted’ area, in a habitat on the edge of the Ord River which is infested with crocodiles,” he said.

“We virtually had to circumnavigate the large swamp which is more than 4km in circumference.”

Dr Jobson said he and Mr Baleeiro encountered crocodile nests during their survey of the Parry Lagoon site near Wyndam, which meant they had to stick to safe locations.

“We actually walked past it, but then went back over a nice looking area,” the Research Scientist said.

“They are really hard to see so it was really exciting to finally find it.”

The pair consulted with Miriwoong Elders and senior speakers of the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre to select the plant’s name.

He said that in the Miriwoong Language the word Baliboong referred to a swamp habitat, and the chosen name baliboo-ngarnang meant ‘swamp-dwelling’.

“Work like this is important in understanding the true distribution of rare and threatened plants so we can better conserve and manage their habitats,” Dr Jobson said.

The researchers reported their findings in the Telopea journal.

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