Eryngium fontanum Drawing: Queensland Herbarium, DSITIA
Scientific name: Eryngium fontanum
Conservation status: Eryngium fontanum (E. fontanum) is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a high priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
Description: E. fontanum is a perennial herb (i.e. it reproduces more than once and lives for more than one year) that has a circular cluster of leaves at its base, a solid fleshy taproot, and flowering stems up to 80 cm long. E. fontanum differs from other Australian Eryngium species, due to its upright appearance, longer flower heads (>6 mm) and lack of sharp leaf teeth.
Habitat and distribution
E. fontanum is known from only two spring wetland complexes (clusters of spring wetlands where individual wetlands are within 6 km of each other) on the eastern border of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), in central Queensland. These populations are about 150 km apart, and both are found within a larger regional group of springs called the 'Barcaldine spring supergroup'.
Spring wetland habitats have been well surveyed with no further populations of E. fontanum discovered.
Little is known of the life history of E. fontanum. Plants flower between December and April and produce small seeds.
Eryngium fontanum Photo: Queensland Herbarium, DSITIA
Potential threats to this species and other native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the GAB include:
- Excessive removal of groundwater reduces spring flows into wetlands and can leave many spring complexes completely inactive.
- Damage to spring wetlands through excavation.
- Exotic species planted in ponded pastures, such as para grass and hymenachne reduce the habitat size and quality of native plant species.
- The removal and destruction of vegetation by pig rooting (extensive digging to find food such as tubers, worms and soil invertebrates) is a major cause of disturbance to E. fontanum populations.
- Trampling by grazing animals around the edges of spring wetlands disturbs vegetation and E. fontanum populations.
A recovery plan has been developed that relates to this species, the National recovery plan for the community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin. This recovery plan makes the following management recommendations for the conservation of E. fontanum:
- Fence certain springs and provide alternative water sources. Regulate stock use.
- Eradicate all populations of exotic ponded pasture species and monitor for future colonisation.
- Implement sustainable use of the aquifer at levels ensuring survival of remaining E. fontanum populations.
- Repair and maintain existing pig fences and continue pig control programs.
Fensham RJ, Ponder, WF and Fairfax, RJ. 2010. Recovery plan for the community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin. Report to Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Brisbane.
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC). 2013. Eryngium fontanum in the Species Profile and Threats Database. SEWPaC, Canberra.