Vincetoxicum forsteri (syn. Tylophora linearis)

Another species on our search radar in October 2021 (see previous post about Calotis glabrescens) was the twining vine Vincetoxicum forsteri (until 2018 known as Tylophora linearis), which is listed as endangered under the EPBC Act (Cth) and the Nature Conservation Act (Qld).  This very cryptic twiner of the Apocynaceae family was first described by Paul Forster of the Queensland Herbarium in 1992 from collections made in south-east Qld only four times, in 1913, 1914, 1960 and 1969 (Forster, Binns & Robertson, 2004).  A small number of populations were discovered in central NSW around 2003 (Forster, Binns & Robertson, 2004), and the species is now relatively well-known in that state (where it has been collected extensively by the outstanding RPS ecologist Mark Aitkens).  But until recently V. forsteri had remained elusive in Queensland since 1968.

However, a GHD survey in 2018 in the Gore-Karara-Goldfields area found one individual growing on a rabbit fence on the boundary of Durakai State Forest.  Therefore, during targeted protected plant surveys conducted by the Astrebla/Red Ash/GHD botany team in 2021, V. forsteri was one of the species we had high hopes of finding.


Well, we found them!  Nearly 300 stems in four main populations occupying almost 90 ha.  It is an extraordinarily difficult species to detect unless you slow your survey speed right down, because it is very slender (stems ~3 mm dia., leaves only a few mm wide and up to 10 cm long) (see pic below).  In addition, it tends to twine up dense shrubs or coppicing trees, so is easily lost to sight among coarser vegetation.  If it is flowering, the purple flowers will generally make it more easily detectable.  It is my firm belief that unless protected plant surveys targeting this species are conducted at suitably slow speeds, this species will almost certainly be missed (which I’m sure occurs from time to time).

Vincetoxicum forsteri flowers
A photo illustrating the very slender growth form of V. forsteri


Our surveys found V. forsteri in two main vegetation types, open forest dominated by Eucalyptus fibrosa subsp. nubilis with E. sideroxylon (RE 13.11.5) and open forest dominated by E. dealbata with E. crebra (RE 13.11.3).  We also found a number growing on the mesh fences erected decades ago to control rabbits (but none on standard barbed wire fences).  Some had even started to grow on the new so-called ‘cluster fences’ recently erected across the landscape in this district with massive funding from government.  These fences prevent the widespread movement of macropods and other native mammals, and I predict they will have a massively detrimental impact on many least concern species in the area – but that is a topic for another blog!

Vincetoxicum forsteri growing on a rabbit-proof fence near Durikai State Forest

We found V. forsteri stems twining in the following situations:

  • The most common species we found it twining on was Olearia canescens, usually dead but standing
  • Vincetoxicum forsteri was also frequently found climbing coppicing E. fibrosa stems (see pic – many of the areas surveyed are the subject of private logging ventures),
  • More uncommonly it was found climbing on Acacia leiocalyx or A. fimbriata shrubs, either alive or dead (but still standing).

In the survey area, these habitat types occur in a mosaic with open forest dominated almost exclusively by Corymbia citriodora (RE 13.11.6). We rarely found Vincetoxicum forsteri in association with C. citriodora – it appears to have a clear preference for habitat occupied by ironbarks, and E. dealbata.

We also found it along the verges of logging tracks.

Vincetoxicum forsteri has been previously associated in the main with dense shrubland (Forster et al., 2004).  However, the open forest habitats in which we found these V. forsteri populations did not have dense shrub layers – in general, these open forests had very sparse to sparse shrub layers, with clear visibility for 50 m or more in most directions.  We did not find any plants in the nearby areas characterised by a dense Olearia canescens shrub layer.  This could be because the dense habitat makes it harder to detect, although overall 4 botanists walked just over 500 km of transects for this survey, of which at least 80 km was in areas with dense O. canescens – so these areas were well-surveyed.

Most individuals were found in areas where logging was active – although it is not known how populous the species was prior to logging, which is believed to have been practiced here for many decades.

It is interesting to note that in this area, V. forsteri is present with extensive populations of the vulnerable cycad Macrozamia conferta, another species whose populations we were mapping, and which co-occurs with forestry activities.  This cycad is endemic to the Durikai-Talgai-Bringalily State Forest area, and this population is believed to be the largest on private land.

Vincetoxicum forsteri twining on a coppicing Eucalyptus fibrosa
Macrozamia conferta growing in the same preferred habitat for Vincetoxicum forsteri


Forster, P.I., Binns, D. and Roberston, G., 2004, Rediscovery of Tylophora linearis P.I. Forster (Apocynaceae: Asclepiodoideae) from New South Wales, with revision of its conservation status to vulnerable.  Austrobaileya 6 (4): 942-946.

Calotis glabrescens (white burr-daisy) – critically endangered daisy

In early October 2021, I undertook four weeks of protected plant surveys in the Karara-Cement Mills-Gore-Goldfields area, immediately to the south of Durakai State Forest, approximately 40 km west of Warwick in south-east Queensland.  The surveys were undertaken in company with Carly Sugars and Peter Moonie of Red Ash Consulting, and George Brady from GHD (Astrebla was contracted to GHD for this work).  In total we walked over 500 km of meandering transects during these surveys, in generally beautiful south-east Queensland spring weather!  It was a complete joy!

One of the species being targeted was Calotis glabrescens C.T. White (white burr-daisy), a small daisy listed as critically endangered under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (but not listed under the EPBC Act).

Calotis glabrescens

Presumed extinct

Until recently, this species was listed under the NC Act as presumed extinct, as there were only two records.  The species had been described from one collection by Cyril T. White in 1946 (the Queensland government botanist who succeeded Bailey).  White had collected the plant in late September from near Bybera, in what is now Whetstone State Forest, noting it was ‘moderately common in open forest land’.  The next collection was in November 1997 by the Queensland Herbarium, who noted it was a ‘low herb to 10 cm tall with pinkish inflorescences, uncommon, scattered at site’.  This collection came from approx. 18 km south-west of Leyburn.

The species was not collected again after 1997 until 2 records in 2020 (strangely, these have disappeared from AVH since November 2021), from Durikai State Forest and another site south-west of Leyburn. There are no records from outside Qld, although the excellent ‘Plants of Western NSW’ book (Cunningham, Mulham, Milthorpe & Leigh, 1992) claims there is one record from the Bourke district (Plant Net has no entry for this species, so the source of this record is unclear – it would be a substantial range extension if confirmed).

Our survey found a small population of these plants approximately 7 km south-west of Karara, just north of the Cunningham Highway (thanks to eagle-eyed Peter Moonie for finding them in the first few steps of what would be 500 km of transects!!).

There is little recorded on this species, and no photographs are publicly available, so this blog seeks to provide sufficient information to assist in the planning of targeted surveys for Calotis glabrescens, and in its field identification.

Simon Danielsen (kneeling) and Peter Moonie (on ground) confirm the presence of Calotis glabrescens at a site near Karara


Collection records for the species associate it with open forest and semi-cleared areas containing species such as Eucalyptus moluccana, E. sideroxylon, E. viridis and the wattles Acacia montana and A. ixiophylla.  The 1997 collection notes state it was found in ‘very tall woodland’ – I have visited the site of this record, and found that, using the current method for classifying vegetation communities used by the Qld Herbarium (based on Specht’s structural forms), it is not even close to ‘tall’, the canopy having a median height of approx. 15-18 m.

The 1997 collection notes also associate it with ‘traprock’ – this is a type of metamorphic rock known from the Warwick area (as with C. glabrescens, there is little to no information publicly available about this rock type).

C. glabrescens habitat at the 1997 collection site

Our survey found 15 plants growing on an undulating plain beside a dirt track, on a hard-setting pale clay loam, on the edge of a large clearing (but in the clearing, not in the adjacent woodland).  Adjacent woodland was co-dominated by E. moluccana and E. dealbata, and was relatively low (median height of 10-15 m). The parent rock was metamorphic and the pre-clear regional ecosystem was RE 13.11.8 (Eucalyptus melliodora and/or Eucalyptus microcarpa/ E. moluccana woodland on rolling hills, depressions and lower slopes around drainage lines, on metamorphics) (Qld Herbarium, 2021).

Habitat at our 2021 Calotis glabrescens collection site

Species identification notes

Calotis glabrescens is a small daisy growing 15-20 cm tall. It superficially resembles a number of other Calotis spp., mostly C. cuneata and C. scapigera.  However, it should be relatively straightfoward to field-identify it, using the Calotis key in Keybase prepared by Ailsa Holland.  There is also a useful illustration of the achenes of a number of Calotis spp. including C. glabrescens on p. 654 of Plants of Western NSW (Cunningham et al., 1992)

The major identification features (as outlined by Ailsa Holland) are:

  • The plant is relatively gracile – generally 15 cm tall but may extend to 20 cm, with cauline leaves and lacking a distinct basal rosette.  It does not have stolons.
  • Flower heads are distinctly pedunculate, with peduncles >1cm long, and ray florets >2.5 mm long.
  • The rays are white (may be pinkish) and disc florets are yellow (see pic above).
  • Achenes lack scales (wings) – achene scales should be obvious, they are flaps of tissue that extend upwards from the crown of the achene.
  • C. glabrescens achenes have 2-9 longer, rigid primary awns arranged around the outside edge of the achene crown – these awns have retrose (ie downward pointing), translucent barbs (see pics of achenes below).
  • In addition to the primary awns, there are several secondary awns – these lack the barbs of the longer primary awns.
  • In addition, the awns of C. glabrescens are NOT joined with each other at the base.
  • The achenes are generally as long as they are wide i.e. the horizontal and vertical axes at their longest points are approx. the same length (don’t include the spread of the awns in this measurement).

Also, look for leaves that are generally entire, but that sometimes have a single marginal tooth.

Calotis glabrescens achene – side view
Calotis glabrescens achene – top view

Survey timing

Flowers and particularly mature achenes are likely to be essential to identify this species with any certainty.  Our survey was conducted in October 2021.  Other collection records are from 20 September through to mid-November.

Survey challenges

This species is difficult to survey for because it is physically small and may be dwarfed by the grasses and other herbs it occurs in association with.  In addition, it may be present with other superficially similar Calotis spp., which may be abundant and so may desensitise those searching, who are looking for small Calotis individuals with entire leaves and flowers with white ray florets and yellow discs. Apparently suitable habitat is also common within its geographic range – therefore, there may be large areas to cover. 

Therefore, it may be easy to dismiss C. glabrescens as C. cuneata or C. scapigera (which both have stolons and serrated leaves in a basal rosette).  There is only one way to survey properly for this species – slowly and carefully. 


Australasian Virtual Herbarium (AVH), 2022, The Australasian Virtual Herbarium.  Council of the Heads of Australasian Herbaria.

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe P.L. and Leigh, J.H, 1992, Plants of Western New South Wales, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Queensland Herbarium, 2021, Regional Ecosystem Description Database (REDD), version 12.0, Department of Environment and Science, Brisbane.

White, C.T., 1946, Contributions to the Queensland Flora, No. 9. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland 57: 30.


Update 2021

Well, its been 2 years since I last posted!

In that time, the world has turned upside down!

But it has been a busy time at Astrebla, in fact I haven’t stopped.  This period has been dominated by water projects – I have been primarily engaged during this period in providing the majority of botanical input to the following four major water infrastructure projects, for GHD and SMEC.

Hells Gates Dam Project – SMEC

This project is being managed by Townsville Enterprice, with funding form the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.  Astrebla contributed botanical input to the Detailed Business Case for this project, being prepared by SMEC.  Hells Gates Dam is a proposed 2110 GL dam on the Burdekin River approximately 110 km north of Charters Towers.  It would supply water to 50, 000 ha of irrigated horticultural land and provide long-term water security to Charters Towers and Townsville.

Site of the proposed Hells Gate dam wall on the Burdekin River

Associated proposals are for a max 1200 MW pumped hydroelectric scheme, a 15 MW run-of-river hydro facility and a 20 MW solar farm (see the Hells Gates Feasibility Study).

The project involves a dam and four irrigation areas for high-value agriculture. The irrigation areas are proposed north of Charters Towers and west of the Burdekin River, primarily on areas of basalt and alluvial soils.

Services provided by Astrebla included a ground-truthed regional ecosystem (RE) map for the entire 270, 000 ha area – the largest ground-truthed RE map I have produced to date!  This includes the dam inundation area and the irrigation areas.

The initial survey involved 13 days of helicopter surveys, followed by 14 days of ground-based surveys.  Threatened plant surveys were also undertaken, during which Queensland bluegrass (Dichanthium queenslandicum) was recorded in grassland near the Basalt River – the most northerly reliable record for this species.

In addition, the Townsville botanist Chris Kahler found Acacia guymeri in the vicinity of the inundation area, which is 175 km further south than it had been recorded in north Qld previously.

Urannah Water Scheme and Collinsville Irrigation Scheme – GHD

Centred on the Broken and Bowen Rivers in central Queensland, the Urannah Water Scheme comprises a proposal to construct a 970, 000 ML dam on the Broken River, approximately 25 km (as the crow flies) downstream of the existing Eungella Dam.  The project includes approximately 200 km of pipeline corridors to the Moranbah district, and is an integral element of two other projects, the Bowen Renewable Energy Hub (pumped hydo, wind and solar power generation) and the Collinsville Irrigation Scheme (a 20, 000 ha master-planned irrigation scheme approximately 25 km west of Collinsville).

An EIS is in the process of preparation by GHD, to whom Astrebla was contracted to provide botanical input.

Looking over the Massey Creek valley, just upstream of its confluence with the Broken River

Services provided by Astrebla included the preparation of a ground-truthed RE map for 13, 900 ha of vegetation in the proposed Collinsville Irrigation Area, and threatened flora species surveys across the entire project area.

The Broken and Bowen River catchments contain populations of black ironbox (Eucalyptus raveretiana), a species listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act but delisted in 2012 under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act.  In association with GHD ecologists, Astrebla undertook population surveys of this species, and data gained from these surveys was an important input into an application to have black ironbox delisted as vulnerable under the EPBC Act.  This application was submitted to the Department of Agriculture and Environment in early 2021 and will go up for public comment and review/decision in 2022.

Lakeland Irrigation Area Scheme – SMEC

This project involves a proposed dam on the Palmer River, approximately 85 km south-west of Cooktown and 23 km south-west of Lakeland, in far north Queensland.  The proposed dam wall is located approximately 16 km downstream of the Palmer River roadhouse (where the Mulligan Highway crosses the Palmer).

This project is being proposed by Regional Development Australia Tropical North (RDATN), with funding from the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.  It will increase the volume and reliablility of water available for agriculture in the Lakeland Irrigation Area, which was established over 70 years ago on the rich basalt soils of the Lakeland area.  This water has the potential to significantly enhance the economic viability of this area without requiring further tree clearing.

Looking south from near the proposed dam wall, over the Palmer River valley

Astrebla conducted botanical surveys in association with SMEC ecologists in the proposed inundation area and pipeline corridors across a number of survey events in 2020-21.  This work included the preparation of a ground-truthed RE map for SMEC over 25, 000 ha in the vicinity of the proposed inundation area, and surveys for threatened flora species.

The wattle Acacia guymeri was found in relatively large numbers in this area – this species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland but was delisted some years ago under the EPBC Act.  Population surveys were undertaken, and an impact assessment completed.

Rookwood weir – GHD

The Rookwood weir project (currently being constructed) is located on the Fitzroy River approximately 55 km west of Rockhampton.  It is a $367 million water infrastructure project that will have a fully supply volume of 74, 300 ML, with an impoundment length of 60 km (including the Fitzroy, Mackenzie and Dawson Rivers).

Surveying for black ironbox on the Fitzroy River

Astrebla provided botanical input to the EIS and approvals technical manager, GHD, assisting with surveys required to meet EPBC Act and Queensland government approvals.  These surveys included assessments against threatened ecological community (TEC) criteria, Biocondition surveys, population surveys for the vulnerable species black ironbox, and ground-truthing over 1660 ha of RE mapping (a ground-truthed RE map was produced at 1:10, 000 over the entire impoundment area).

Its been an eventful 2 years, and I will be posting more in the coming months about some of my other work, and the interesting species I have been finding.

Helicteres macrothrix from the Adelaide River district

In May 2019 I conducted a survey with Chris Brock from Brock Environmental for the threatened shrub Helicteres macrothrix (Malvaceae) Cowie – previously known as Helicteres sp. Glenluckie Creek (N.B. Byrnes 1280).

This species is listed as endangered under both Northern Territory and Commonwealth legislation.

H. macrothrix is an erect, densely clumping subshrub growing to approximately 60 cm tall.  The leaves and stems are covered with a dense indumentum of long, stellate trichomes (= hairs) with a diameter up to 4.5 mm wide (Cowie, I., 2011).

Helicteres macrothrix

It is restricted to a small area approximately 80 km south east of Darwin, where it has been recorded from three main sub-populations in the Mt Bundey, Coomalie Creek and Lake Bennett areas (with an outlier north of Acacia Hills) (Australasian Virtual Herbarium, 2019).

Helicteres macrothrix

Our survey was located north of Lake Bennett.  As is often the case with threatened species surveys, the timing of the survey (late wet season/early dry season) and prior weather conditions (the Top End had a very dry wet season this year) were not optimal for flowering.  However, we were pleased to find that this species appears to be quite readily identifiable (and observable) well into the dry season, in the absence of reproductive material and even after burning.

We found it closely associated with a combination of Eucalyptus tectifica woodland with Wildman siltstone (the latter being an early Proterozoic metamorphosed siltstone), growing among a tall, dense to sparse grassy ground layer generally dominated by Sarga intrans and Heteropogon triticeus with Schizachyrium fragile.

It was always present in lower landscape positions, on gently  undulating run-on surfaces or on level plains isolated from adjacent slopes.

Helicteres macrothrix

In general, it was growing in sparse to mid-dense groups (see picture above), but occasional outlying individual plants were observed, sometimes many hundreds of metres from the main population.  However, within our survey area it was unfailingly associated with E. tectifica.

Helicteres macrothrix

Some parts of our site had been burnt a few weeks prior to our survey.  However, H. macrothrix appears to be one of the first plants to recover after fire, and sprouts that were identifiable to species and already a few inches tall were easily observable.

In fact, H. macrothrix regrowth was obvious in this situation, given that little other regrowth had yet occurred.

H. macrothrix is superficially similar to H. darwinensis and H. integrifolia but can be discriminated relatively easily from these in the absence of reproductive material, as it has:

  •  an erect, multi-stemmed habit – c.f. H. darwinensis, a prostrate species,
  •  crowded inflorescences (see picture above – the spent calyces are persistent),
  •  very coarse, congested stellate hairs (macrothrix = large hairs) to 4.5 mm dia. – much larger than both H. darwinensis and H. integrifolia.

In addition, H. macrothrix is not associated with laterite (c.f. H. darwinensis) and only grows in sandy soils that are derived from granite (c.f. H. integrifolia).

The Northern Territory Herbarium (DNA) has prepared a number of excellent resources on this species, and should be consulted in relation to ID questions and in relation to survey design – in particular see:

Ian Cowie’s 2011 description of the species and his treatment of Helicteres from the NT is available at:

Hidden treasures

In February 2018, I undertook a targeted survey with taxonomist Bob Harwood for the vulnerable geophyte Typhonium praetermissum on the Gunn Point peninsula, approximately 30 km  north east of the Darwin CBD.  In additionwe also searched for the vine Operculina turpethum.  And we found both of them!

Operculina turpethum (L.) Silva Manso (Convolvulaceae)

Operculina turpethum is a twining vine growing to 4 m or more, recorded from various locations (mostly coastal and sub-coastal) across northern Australia, but primarily it is known from South East Asia.  It had been recorded in 2000 from grassland at the rear of a low sand dune at Gunn Point, and our task was to determine if it was still present. Operculina turpethum is listed as near threatened in the NT.

We quickly located it, growing in the same grassland location as in 2000 (possibly from the same tuber).  It was not flowering, however its presence in the same location as a previous confirmed record, and its conspicuously flanged/winged stems, suggested that is it highly likely to be O. turpethum.

This species was originally described by Linnaeus in 1753 as Convolvulus turpethum, but was split from that genus by Silva Manso in 1836.

Typhonium praetermissum A. Hay (Araceae)

Typhonium praetermissum is a relatively cryptic perennial geophyte (i.e. a predominately subterranean herb) endemic to the Darwin/Litchfield area.  It flowers and fruits in November and December, and appears to produce leaves only during the wet season, after which they quickly deteriorate and the plant disappears beneath the soil.  The flowers are very delicate and exude an apparently unpleasant odour, but are quickly destroyed by ongoing wet season downpours, having a life of 1-3 days.

There are some major difficulties in locating and accurately identifying Typhonium spp..  Flowers are generally required to key to species, however these are rarely encountered.  In addition, most species have leaves that display extreme morphological variations (as can be seen in the accompanying photos), making even tentative ID difficult.


However, Dr Matthew Barrett of the WA Dept. of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions has developed a DNA barcoding technique that allows accurate  and unambiguous identification to species of sterile material.  Consequently, representative collections of leaf material were made from within the population of Typhonium individuals observed during our survey at Gunn Point and send to Dr Barrett for analysis and identification.

As a result, the identification of the majority of the population observed to T. praetermissum was possible.  In addition, a small number of T. johnsonianum were also confirmed present.  Interestingly, of the many hundreds of individuals of both species observed during the surveys, only one individual had fruit – all of the remainder were sterile.

The population of T. praetermissum at this Gunn Point site was predominately located on lower run-off slopes in low woodland and woodland with a mixed species dominance, including Corymbia polysciada, Melaleuca viridiflora, Erythrophleum chlorostachys, Xanthostemon paradoxus, Lophostemon lactifluus and Gardenia megasperma.  The ground layer was generally tall (to 2 m) and dense, dominated by perennial grasses and numerous herbs.

An interesting observation was that T. praetermissum was often present on disturbed surfaces, including spoon drains that are graded annually, and an old gravel pit.


In the photo to the left, Bob Harwood is pointing out a population of nearly 100 individuals we observed in a large gravel pit beside the main road.

T. praetermissum leaves are generally less than 5 cm long and those in the photo were almost all about 1-2 cm long, so they can be very difficult to spot among tall grass – but they are down there, believe me!

Typhonium johnsonianum A. Hay & S. Taylor (Araceae)

This species is very similar to T. praetermissum, but is less well known, being listed as data deficient in the NT.  It has been recorded from the Alligator River floodplain, Kakadu National Park, and from the Humpty Doo and Noonamah areas.  This survey represents the first collection from the Gunn Point area – as such, a range extension of approximately 30 km, which is relatively significant for a locally endemic plant with such a small range.

In general, T. johnsonianum displays less leaf-form variation than T. praetermissum – the leaves were invariably narrow triangular with a distinctive sagittate to hastate base, and a relatively short petiole.  Some plants are more lanceolate, being cuneate to rounded at the base and lacking auricles.

Tongue ferns – Ophioglossum spp.

The world of plants is truly amazing – I recently became aware for the first time of a genus that has been literally under my feet for years – the tongue ferns or Ophioglossum spp.!

I first became aware of these tiny ferns when they began popping up in my hanging plant pots!  Soon I had a whole colony, and they transplanted well into tiny bonsai pots, although I had no idea what they were – there were only tiny, fairly non-descript leaves with blades about 10-15 mm long.

Finally, fruiting spikes emerged and they revealed their identity as ferns!



Those pictured here are Ophioglossum reticulatum L. (Ophioglossaceae), a tiny fern growing to 20 cm or so tall, and recorded from damp, shady situations among grass or on bare soil, often in eucalypt forest.

This species has been collected from Melbourne to the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula and west to Broome – it also occurs in New Zealand and in tropical and sub-tropical countries throughout the world.

It was first described by the father of taxonomy Carl Linnaeus in 1762 in his Species Plantarum.


The fruiting spikes (actually modified leaves) are shown in this image – they are approximately 5 cm tall, and their presence mark the members of Ophioglossaceae as quite different from other ferns – they are referred to by taxonomists as either fern allies or fern ‘oddities’.

This is because most ferns have the seed-bearing organs, or sporangia, arranged on the underside of the leaves/fronds.  In the Ophioglossaceae, the sporangia are placed at the apex of a specialised leaf or fruiting spike.

Another distinctive feature of ferns not shared by Ophioglossum spp. is that their leaves do not unfurl – they merely lengthen from the rhizome.

I also recorded this species on a survey I conducted in 2018 on the Evelyn Tablelands, growing on basaltic soil in Eucalyptus tereticornis open forest.

Superficially, they looked very similar (but smaller) to the Typhonium praetermissum I had been surveying in the Darwin region a few months earlier.



These tiny leaves were barely noticeable among the leaf litter, but were spotted by my eagle-eyed mate Dave Hunter, whose curiosity and ability to pick out tiny orchids and other cyrptophytes is fast becoming legendary!

2018 was a big year for protected plant surveys at Astrebla!

In 2018 Simon was privileged to work on a broad range of projects on sites in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. Some of this work involved searches for threatened flora species, and in total, 19 threatened plant species were encountered.  This included two endangered species, 14 vulnerable species, and three near threatened species.  This blog includes some of the highlights!

Pterostylis chaetophora (M.A. Clem. & D.L. Jones) Szlach. (Orchidaceae)

Listed as vulnerable in NSW, scattered individuals  were recorded from eucalypt grassy open forest along the upper edge of run-on slopes in the Raymond Terrace area, near Newcastle in NSW.  The species epithet ‘chaetophora’ means ‘bristle-bearing’ in Greek and refers to the conspicuous hairs on the labellum, clearly visible in the photo on the left. ‘Pterostylis’ means ‘winged style’.

Tylophora rupicola P.I. Forst. (Apocynaceae)

Listed as endangered in Queensland and under the EPBC Act, this species is a rare slender twining vine distinguished by its small lanceolate, herbaceous, opposite leaves with purplish-red petioles and clear sap.  It has been recorded from 16 locations between Cairns and Herberton – the Astrebla records represent a minor southward range extension to the existing collection records.  A total of 76 plants were recorded, with one population of 50 plants.


Tylophora rupicola was recorded from low closed and open forests, mostly grassy, on rhyolite slopes in association with  Lophostemon confertus, Acacia aulococarpa, Eucalyptus granitica, Corymbia abergiana, E. reducta, Allocasuarina littorlis, Syncarpia glomulifera and C. citriodora, always slightly upslope of rocky minor watercourses (regional ecosystems 7.12.30d and 7.12.66c).



Dendrobium fellowsii F. Muell. (Orchidaceae) (native damsel orchid)

This is an epiphytic orchid listed as vulnerable in Queensland.  It was collected by Astrebla from the Evelyn Tableland, where it was growing on shrubs and trees with rough bark including Syncarpia glomulifera and Allocasuarina torulosaDendrobium fellowsii is a Wet Tropics endemic, and was first collected by John Dallachy, described as ‘perhaps the best Australian botanical collector’ by Joseph Maiden (he has at least 14 Queensland plant species named in his honour).

Dallachy collected it in the 1860s from the Cardwell area, and it was described by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller in 1870.   Mueller named it after Thomas Howard Fellows, a short-termed Attorney General of colonial Victoria and later a Supreme Court judge.  Dendrobium fellowsii is also known as Eleutheroglossum fellowsii (F. Muell.) M.A. Clem. & D.L. Jones.

Cajanus mareebensis (S.T. Reynolds & Pedley) Maesen (Fabaceae)

This species was collected from Corymbia clarksoniana grassy low woodland at Arriga, approximately 10 km west of Mareeba.  It has been recently de-listed in Queensland and is now listed as endangered only under the EPBC Act.

Tips to ID this relatively poorly documented species include (from Hacker, 1990, A Guide to Herbaceous and Shrub Legumes of Queensland):

  • This is the only Queensland species of Cajanus that is a trailing plant with a leaflet length:width ratio of greater than 5:1.
  • The lower leaf surface has frequent minute yellow circular resin glands, which are usually conspicuous.
  • The stems die back each year but grow to several metres long, and the leaves are well-spaced along the stem (at least the width of the leaflets).
  • The leaves are quite large relative to other Fabaceae trailing herbs/vines found in similar habitat – 90-110 x 12-22 mm with a petiole 25-130 mm.
  • Pods are strongly flattened, prominently purple-mottled, densely pubescent and with yellow glands on the surface.

Macrozamia conferta (D.L. Jones & P.I. Forster)

This species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland and under the EPBC Act.  It was collected from freehold land near Durikai State Forest, approximately 40 km south west of Warwick, where it was relatively common within small areas.  It was present in Eucalyptus sideroxylon and E. fibrosa subsp. nubila open forest on land zone 11 on a flat beside a small drainage line (RE 13.11.5), and E. dealbata low open forest with E. caleyi and Callitris endlicheri on the mid slope of a steep hill (RE 13.11.3). 

Macrozamia conferta has a subterraenean trunk and leaves with a tightly spiral-twisted rachis.  Leaflets are curved upward laterally into a clear ‘U’ shape (incurved).  New growth was grey and pubescent.  Over 50 individuals were present at each site within an area of less than 5000 m2.  The image on the left is of a female cone.



Diuris oporina D.L. Jones (Orchidaceae)

Diuris oporina is a relatively dainty, near threatened orchid collected from open forest and open woodland dominated by Corymbia citriodora and Eucalyptus portuensis (RE 7.12.30) in stony  (rhyolitic) clay loam on the Evelyn Tableland in north Queensland.  It was always associated with a grassy ground layer dominated by Themeda triandra.  Astrebla counted 25 individuals from two populations.


Diuris oporina has until recently been thought to be restricted to the drier western ranges of the Atherton and Evelyn Tablelands in North Queensland.  However, material collected as far back as 1953 (and apparently only identified recently) indicates this species has also been found in ranges in the vicinity of Airlie Beach and the Eungella Tableland, and from the Central Highlands in sandstone ranges of the Carnarvon Gorge and Palmgrove National Parks.  These are significant range extensions, and indicate that much is yet to be learnt about this beautiful orchid.

Cycas armstrongii Miq.  (Cycadaceae)

Cycas armstrongii is a cycad listed as vulnerable in the Northern Territory.  It is relatively common in the Darwin region.  Over 10, 000 plants were recorded within a few hectares in the population survey!

This cycad is relatively easily identified as it has flat to recurved (not revolute) leaflet margins, ovoid-globose pollen (male) cones and densely orange tomentose, pungent cataphylls (illustrated in the lower image – cataphylls are the young leaves).  The mature adult leaf blades are green and shiny.

This species was named by the pre-eminent Dutch botanist Friedrich Miquel in 1868, just a few years before his death.  Cycas armstrongii was named in honour of John Armstrong, a Kew Gardens botanical collector who had established a government garden at Port Essington in the 1840s.

Port Essington was an early attempt by the British government at settlement of the northern Australian coast, and is located approximately 200 km north east of Darwin.  It is perhaps most famous as the terminus of Ludwig Leichhardt’s incredible expedition from near Dalby on the Darling Downs in Queensland, a journey of 4800 km through the (then) trackless interior of Queensland via Cape York Peninsula.  Leichhardt arrived in Pt Essington on 17 December, 1945, after a journey of 14 months – surely one of the most incredible feats in Australia’s exploration history!  You can now follow Leichhardt’s journey from a new interactive webpage at:

Aristida annua B.K. Simon (Poaceae)

This grass species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland and under the EPBC Act.  It is a distinctive Aristida that is easily identified as it is the only annual of this genus with a convolute lemma and an open panicle.  It was collected in the Minerva Hills, approximately 18 km north-west of Springsure in central Queensland, growing in black cracking clay with abundant basalt cobble in a Eucalyptus crebra low woodland.

It was immediately obvious that it was an unusual Aristida – the leafy section of the culms was only 20 cm long,  the leaves were sparse (suggesting an annual), and the spikelets were noticeably small.  The inflorescence was open, to 50 cm long by 20 cm wide.

Aristida annua was described in 1984 by the prolific Queensland grass taxonomist Bryan Simon, and to date is only known from 9 collectionsIt appears to be very rare, even locally – despite numerous Biocondition surveys conducted across black soil plains, rises and hillslopes in the immediate region over five days that week, this was the only plant  observed.

Homoranthus porteri (C.T. White) Craven & S.R. Jones (Myrtaceae)

This species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland and under the EPBC Act.  It is a shrub to two metres tall with opposite, closely spaced leaves to 10 x 1.5 mm and flowers usually growing in pairs with red/creamy bracteoles and a lobed yellow calyx.

It was collected from rhyolite rock pavement on the Evelyn Tableland, where it occurs as a dominant to sub-dominant component of low heathland, shrubland and low woodland in association with Eucalyptus lockyeri, E. shirleyii, Corymbia abergiana, Grevillea pteridofolia, Allocasuarina inophloia, Acacia aulococarpa and A. leptostachya (comprising generally mixed polygons of REs 7.12.57c, 7.12.65a and 7.12.65k).  

Homoranthus porteri is restricted to upland areas of rock pavement in ranges along the western fringe of the Atherton Tableland, with outlying populations at Mt Windsor (inland from the Daintree River), Mt Mulligan and the Hann Tableland.


Simon Danielsen is a recognised ‘suitably qualified person’ under the Queensland Nature Conservation (Wildlife Management) Regulation 2006 to conduct protected plant surveys, and has conducted over 30 such surveys under the Protected Plant Survey Guidelines to date.

In addition, he has been approved as suitably qualified to conduct terrestrial ecological surveys under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. 

He has also been approved to conduct surveys for threatened species in the Northern Territory, and has been involved in threatened species searches in NSW.

If you wish to discuss your threatened plant survey requirements, or to determine if a survey is necessary, please contact Simon on 0423 706440 or at

Welcome to Astrebla!

Welcome to the new website for Astrebla Ecological Services!


Astrebla Ecological Services has been operating since 2015, offering big-name botanical service at a sole-trader rate!

After 10 years with one of the world’s top 50 engineering companies, Simon Danielsen established Astrebla to meet a number of key markets gaps:


  • To provide ‘on-demand’  Principal Botanist services to established consultancies (ie when botanical staff are on leave or otherwise not available).
  • To provide experienced, affordable ecological advice to landowners and developers.
  • To provide a botanical survey and impact assessment reporting service to developers and proponents of infrastructure and mining projects who wish to assemble and manage their own EIS team.

Astrebla aims to provide these services in a friendly, down-to-earth manner, and at an affordable rate!

In addition, through regular blogs this website will aim to provide information for other botanists that may be useful in the ongoing challenge of surveying, interpreting and reporting on Australian botany!