Government urged to save carnivorous plant species
Scientists have warned a little-known WA carnivorous plant could soon be extinct without immediate action.
The Albany pitcher plant is an insect-eating plant found only in the moist soils of south-west WA between Augusta and Cheynes Beach, but it is under threat.
Like most carnivorous plants, it feeds on insects including ants by luring them into its pitcher-like trap with a sweet nectar.
Once the insect is inside there is no escape, and the plant absorbs it.
However, in a worrying sign Curtin University’s Adam Cross warned land clearing and controlled burning had eradicated about 75 per cent of the 55-million-year-old species in a century.
He said the plant had also become prized by poachers wanting an exotic plant for home — or a profit on the black market.
“Surveys we’ve done suggest that fewer than 5000 plants are left in total, in less than 20 populations,” he said.
“The current (Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions) estimate is there’s only about 3000ha of that habitat left.
“It grows in an area that is just wet enough but not too dry, so it has a very narrow window of opportunity to grow within that rare habitat.”
Dr Cross and colleagues at the University of Adelaide hoped their new book, Cephalotus — The Albany Pitcher Plant, would help educate about the plant and convince governments to grant it endangered status.
It is a move Dr Cross said was vital to protecting the remaining native habitats.
“Our entire intent (was) to highlight the species as a beautiful and unique element of the Australian flora but also highlight its plight and provide an impetus for conservation and management,” he said.
“The first and foremost thing is protection of the remaining habitat ... there are still swamps that have been bulldozed in the past 12 months that have the plant.”
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails