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The rediscovered bearded flat sedge.

Good news: botanists rediscover a plant thought to be extinct

It’s not often the rediscovery of a species thought to be extinct makes headlines, but botanists in Victoria have done just that.

A small plant species, Cyperus squarrosus, also known as bearded flat sedge, which was believed to be extinct in Victoria for over 60 years, was found by botanists recently while assessing flooded river land in Victoria’s north-west. The last verified sighting of this plant was in 1953, and since then, it had vanished from the botanical radar, leading to its classification as extinct in Victoria.

Bearded flat sedge specimen from State Botanical Collection at the RBGV.

Botanists from the Victorian Forest Monitoring Program (VFMP) stumbled upon a significant population of the bearded flat sedge while inspecting plots of public land close to the Murray River during last year’s floods. A small, tufted plant that can grow up to 16 centimetres tall, the bearded flat sedge thrives in wet and muddy environments, including disturbed soil in floodplains, making the flooded river land an ideal habitat.

Before confirming the discovery, the botanists sent samples of the plant population to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) for comparison with the last verified specimen of the plant held in the State Botanical Collection (pictured above). The sample has now been verified and added to the RBGV collection, one of Australia’s most valuable biological research repositories.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Director and Chief Executive Tim Entwisle expressed his delight at the rediscovery, stating, “We are thrilled to play a role protecting Victoria’s at-risk flora and biodiversity and helping to identify this species by comparing it to the irreplaceable specimens held in Victoria’s State Botanical Collection.”