National recovery plan for the Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek (syn E. sp. 2 'Minyon')

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, January 2003
ISBN 0 731 36909 2

  1. Introduction
  2. Current conservation status
  3. Description
  4. Distribution

1. Introduction

Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek (Family Elaeocarpaceae) is a forest tree most commonly found in the ecotone between warm temperate rainforest and sclerophyll forest associated with rhyolitic soils. It has a very restricted distribution and is endemic to the Mt Warning caldera in north-eastern New South Wales (NSW).

This Recovery Plan describes the current understanding of E. sp. Rocky Creek, summarises the research and management actions undertaken to date, and identifies the actions required and parties responsible for addressing the conservation of the species in the wild. The attainment of this Recovery Plan's objectives is subject to budgetary and other constraints affecting the parties involved.

2. Current conservation status

Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek is listed as Endangered on Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) (TSC Act) and under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth ) (EPBC Act). It has been assigned a Rare or Threatened Australian Plant (ROTAP) code of 2E1 (Briggs & Leigh 1996). E. sp. Rocky Creek is also documented as a significant regional plant of north-eastern NSW due to its restricted distribution, low number of populations, small population size and limited number of known reproductive individuals (Sheringham & Westaway 1995).

3. Description

3.1 Taxonomic significance

The genus Elaeocarpus is widespread in tropical and subtropical areas with over 200 species in Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar and Japan. Currently, 29 species are considered endemic to mainland Australia, four of which are undescribed, including E. sp. Rocky Creek (Rich 1995). Eight species are found in NSW with two endemic to the north-east NSW; E. sp. Rocky Creek and another Endangered species, E. williamsianus, and one, E. eumindi, restricted to the far north-east of NSW, but extending into Queensland (Harden 1990, Kooyman pers. comm.).

The species E. sp. Rocky Creek is not formally described but is often referred to as 'E. minyon', or a variation thereof. It is listed on the TSC Act and the EPBC Act schedules as E. sp. Rocky Creek.

The type specimen was collected in 1936 from a location recorded only as "Minyon", apparently a reference to the locality of the Rummery Park Forestry Office near Minyon Falls in Whian Whian State Forest, north-eastern NSW. The species was re-discovered nearby in 1992 when one plant was found on the shore of Rocky Creek Dam. In 1995 further populations were located nearby, hence the name E. sp. Rocky Creek.

3.2 Description

The species is a medium to large tree to over 30 m high with a stem diameter up to 70 cm. The trunk is fluted and can have small buttresses. The bark is reddish-brown, rough and finely fissured.

The leaves are elliptic or obovate, the apex is acute or emarginate with a cuneate base and the margins are entire, minutely recurved and have large undulations; they are alternate on the stem. The lamina length is generally twice that of the width and tends towards 10 cm with much variation in the shade leaves. The leaves are discolourous; new foliage is pale pink and densely pubescent, turning to light green then grey-green as the leaves age. Young leaves can be irregularly dentate, with just a few 'teeth'. The underside is semi-glaucous with a distinctive white to light green appearance that is more prominent in immature plants; senescent leaves may turn yellow-orange with occasional patches of red or green.

White flowers appear in summer and blue fruit is present in winter. The fruit is a large drupe, usually bluntly triangular, and is 19-28 mm in diameter; the length is usually about 1 mm less than the diameter. The fruit falls from the tree in good condition and retains a short stem of 3-5 mm.

Species that may be confused with E. sp. Rocky Creek in the field include Neolitsia dealbata, Endiandra pubens, Endiandra hayesii. However, N. dealbata leaves are generally crowded in pseudo-whorls and the others lack the whitish undersides to the leaves.

More detailed descriptions of E. sp. Rocky Creek are given elsewhere (Rich 1995; Quinn et al. 1995).

4. Distribution

4.1 Tenure

The known populations of E. sp. Rocky Creek occur on NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) estate, State Forests of NSW (SFNSW) estate and Rous Water land managed as water catchment for the Rocky Creek Dam.

4.2 Historical distribution

The type specimen of E. sp. Rocky Creek, originally known as E. sp. 'Minyon', was collected in 1936 near Minyon Falls in Whian Whian State Forest. This was the only record of the species until its re-discovery in 1992.

4.3 Current distribution

In 1992, a single E. sp. Rocky Creek specimen was discovered growing on the western edge of Rocky Creek Dam. Since that discovery, the species has only been recorded at another seven locations despite extensive searches. All of the locations are found on the southern rim of the Mt Warning caldera in north-eastern NSW (Figure 1). Details of site locations have not been included in this Recovery Plan due to the potential threat of inappropriate collection and the inadvertent introduction or spread of potential fungal pathogens between sites.

The eight sites are:

Site 1: Whian Whian State Forest and Nightcap National Park
One sexually reproducing population of 246 individuals (including 174 seedlings) scattered over 45 ha of adjoining State Forest and National Park.

Site 2: Whian Whian State Forest
One sexually reproducing population of 25 individuals spread over five ha.

Site 3: Whian Whian State Forest
Two non-reproducing populations, each comprised of three individuals.

Site 4: Whian Whian State Forest
One isolated individual and one non-reproducing population of 14 individuals.

Site 5: Nightcap National Park
Several individuals (no seedlings) over 0.5 ha.

Site 6: Snows Gully Nature Reserve
Three scattered individuals and one sexually reproducing population of 35 individuals (including 14 seedlings) in 8 ha.

Site 7: Mt Jerusalem National Park
One sexually reproducing population of 238 individuals (including 78 seedlings) in 8 ha.

Site 8: Rocky Creek Dam
One tree located on the edge of the dam. Rous County Council has planted 70 propagated and translocated wild seedlings in the vicinity of the original tree.

Figure 1. Distribution of Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek in north-eastern NSW
Figure 1. Distribution of Elaeocarpus sp. Rocky Creek in north-eastern NSW.

1ROTAP 2E: the species occurs over a range of less than 100km and is in serious risk of disappearing from the wild in the next few decades if present land use and causal factors continue to operate.