#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: Darwinia foetida (Muchea Bell)

Muchea Bell is listed as Critically Endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), and Endangered under the WA Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

Muchea Bell is an erect or spreading shrub that grows to 0.7m high and often uses other shrubs for support. Young branches are slender, green-brown with prominent leaf bases, becoming grey and woody. This species has green flowers and the flowering period is from October to November. Muchea Bell is named after the distinctive foetid smell of the flowers.

Muchea Bell occurs in grey-white sand on swampy, seasonally wet sites. Plants can be found alongside sump land – land acting as a pit or well where water collects. The species is found on damp to wet clay under Regelia inops and Kunzea recurva tall shrubland, over Pink-flowered Myrtle (Hypocalymma angustifolium) low shrubland or low Melaleuca spp. Shrubland.

Muchea Bell is endemic to Western Australia. It has been recorded at three locations near the town of Muchea, approximately 70 km north of Perth. The extent of occurrence of Muchea Bell is estimated to be 1.2 km². The distance between the most northern and southern populations is approximately 4 km². A population north of Muchea, recorded in 1960, has since been cleared indicating a past decline in area of occupancy of this species. There are no data indicating what proportion of the species was cleared.

The species’ distribution is very restricted and severely fragmented, as the known populations are small and exist within patches of remnant vegetation surrounded by cleared land.

The estimated total number of mature individuals is approximately 1300. The species is known from three populations: one occurs within a nature reserve; one within a water reserve; and one is spread over two privately owned properties.

It is likely that there has been a decline in the species’ numbers in more recent times, due to grazing by rabbits, weed invasion, changes in hydrology, inappropriate fire regimes, further vegetation clearance and dieback caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, which may continue in the future.

The species is only known from a restricted area of distribution in the Muchea area where all known subpopulations experience severe threats of weed invasion, grazing and prescribed burning. Therefore, all known subpopulations would be considered important for the species recovery and long-term survival.

 

Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment and Energy and Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and Florabase.

 

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