A rare plant near where a botanist lives
Tetratheca stenocarpa is a slender, almost leafless shrub which grows to a metre tall and has sprays of pale purple, pink or white flowers along erect stems. It grows in damp forests with tall trees and a dense and species-rich understory of small-leafed shrubs, herbs, grasses and sedges. Most of the sites supporting Tetratheca are in conservation reserves and support few if any non-native species. It is a species that appears to respond quite well to physical disturbance of the landscape, with large numbers often growing along exposed road cuttings. Its natural distribution is restricted to a relatively small geographic area in hilly country to the east of Melbourne, French Island and an isolated population near Gisborne. It is classified as rare in Victoria.
James Hamlyn Willis discovered Tetratheca stenocarpa in 1952
while he was living and working as a young forester in Gembrook, east of
Melbourne, and it was he who wrote the first formal description of the
species five years later. Jim WIllis was not an ordinary
forester, he was a gifted field naturalist and became the most outstanding Victorian botanist
of the second half of the 20th century. He wrote the
Handbook to Plants in Victoria over twelve years in 1962-73 and was probably
the last person capable of undertaking such as task alone. The Handbook's
successor, the Flora of Victoria, was written over seven years
(1993-1999) and had more than 50 authors.
|Tetratheca stenocarpa - Long Pink-bells : Rare in Victoria : Found only in Victoria|
While the example of Jim Willis is an extraordinary one it is not a unique, there are many sites around Victoria where the presence of botanist living in an area and simply wandering around looking for things, has generated locations for new species. Howard Brown, from Red Cliffs, in north-western Victoria, is the source of many records for rare and threatened plant species in the mallee. Jean Galbraith, from the Gippsland town of Tyers, a similarly energetic botanist who turned up a wide range of new records in her home territory and who was honoured by the naming of the local endemic species, Boronia galbraithiae. But for sheer numbers of records nobody can compare to Cliff Beauglehole, a potato farmer and self-taught botanist from the tiny town of Gorae West in south-western Victoria. Cliff was the most prolific collector of plant specimens of any Victorian botanist and his wanderings between Gorae West and the rural city of Portland has generated one of the richest sources of records for rare and threatened species in the state.
© Paul Gullan, Viridans Biological Databases