Discovery of Mt Canobolas’ Unique Biodiversity

Velvet worm

It is only in the last 20 years that Mt Canobolas has started to give up its secrets in earnest, although there were earlier clues uncovered by pioneering botanists like JH Maiden, NSW Government Botanist and Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens at the turn of the 20th Century, and WE (Bill) Giles, keen local amateur botanist and forestry worker. Maiden identified the distinctiveness of the Vulnerable Canobolas Candlebark in 1917 and Giles discovered the Critically Endangered Canobolas Mintbush in the 1940s. It was not until 1991 that the Canobolas Candlebark was named scientifically and the Canobolas Mintbush was formally named only in 2015.

One unique invertebrate, the Mount Canobolas Velvet Worm, was described in 1995. Velvet worms are living fossils, with likely ancestors dating back 500 m years to the Cambrian period in the fossil record.

Research in the SCA accelerated in the 21st Century with the sudden realisation that Mt Canobolas was home to much unique biodiversity. Professor Jack Elix and Dr Patrick McCarthy from the Australian National University described four new endemic species of lichens from the mountain in 2014 and 2016, and discovered two others known from the mountain and only one other place in Australia. Mt Canobolas is a nationally significant hotspot of lichen diversity.

David Jones, formerly of the CSIRO Centre for Biodiversity Research and Australia’s leading orchid expert, described two new endemic orchid species, the Pink Spider Orchid and the Canobolas Leek Orchid, from Mt Canobolas in 2019. Professor Jeremy Bruhl of the University of New England and his students have identified four new flowering plant species, a Starbush, an Urn Heath, a Bulbine Lily and a Phebalium, that will be formally described in coming years.

So far, we know of at least 12 endemic species that occur on Mt Canobolas and nowhere else.

How many more?

The exploration of the Mt Canobolas’s biodiversity is in its infancy. Most of its flora and fauna has yet to be studied in detail. Accordingly, it is highly likely that other unique endemic species are present and it is impossible to guess how many.

Say No to Mountain Bike Tracks in Mt Canobolas State Conservation Area!