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Species profile—Bertya opponens


Plantae (plants) → Equisetopsida (land plants) → EuphorbiaceaeBertya opponens

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Species details

Plantae (plants)
Equisetopsida (land plants)
Scientific name
Bertya opponens (F.Muell. ex Benth.) Guymer
WildNet taxon ID
Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) status
Least concern
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) status
Conservation significant
Pest status
Bertya opponens is a monoecious or dioecious much branched shrub or small tree growing to 5 m high. The branchlets maybe terete with a dense indumentum of stellate, floccose, mostly white or sometimes pale rusty brown hairs. The branchlets become glabrous with age. The leaves are petiolate, opposite or sometimes subopposite, oblong to oblanceolate or narrow-elliptic, thick, 25 to 72 mm long and 6 to 22 mm wide with margins slightly to distinctly recurved. The adaxial surface is green to dark green, with a sparse to moderately dense indumentum of sessile or short stellate hairs. The abaxial surface is mostly white or sometimes pale rusty brown along the midrib, densely hairy with sessile and stipitate hairs. The leaf apex is rounded or obtuse
The petiole is 4 to 9 mm long, with a dense stellate-pubescent indumentum up to 2 mm thick. The inflorescences occur as a single flower or umbelliform with 2 or 3 flowers on 2 mm long peduncles. There are 4 to 7 persistent bracts, which are oblong or ovate to broadly ovate, 2 to 4.4 mm long and 1.9 to 3 mm wide. The male flowers are sessile, with 4 (sometimes 5) sepal lobes, elliptic, 7 to 9.5 mm long, 4 to 6.5 mm wide, with 77 to 114 stamens. The female flowers are sessile or rarely pedicellate with pedicels up to 2 mm long and glabrous, light-green coloured. The petals are rudimentary, up to 1.6mm long and 0.7 mm wide. The capsules are ovoid to subglobose, 9 to 14 mm long and 9 to 13 mm wide, densely stellate-villose, usually containing 3 seeds and the sepal lobes are persistent. The seeds are obloid, up to 7.5 to 8.9 mm long by 3.8 to 4.0 mm wide and 2.8 to 3.1 mm across, light to dark brown in colour, with a yellowish white caruncle.
B. opponens is characterized by having a dense stellate-pubescent indumentum on the young branchlets and leaves, calyx lobes in female flowers ovate to broadly ovate, ovary densely hairy, capsule mostly 3-seeded and leaves consistently opposite. The species has considerable vriation in its habit, particularly between the northern and southern (Morven, Surat (QLD) and New South Wales) populations (Halford and Henderson, 2002).
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Bertya opponens is widely scattered in eastern Australia, occurring as far north as near Charters Towers, in north-east Queensland, southwards to Cobar and Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. The species occurs within White Mountains National Park, Amaroo State Forest, Fairbairn State Forest, Chesterton Range National Park, Castle Tower National Park, Eurimbula National Park, Gurgeena State Forest and Devine State Forest (Halford and Henderson, 2002; Queensland Herbarium, 2012).
Distributional limits
-20.39069, 144.742803
-28.3570264, 152.5293612
Range derivation
Range derived from extent of the taxon's verified records
Bertya opponens has been recorded growing in a variety of community types including mixed shrubland, lancewood woodland, mallee woodland, eucalypt/Acacia open forest with shrubby understorey, eucalypt/Callitris open woodland and semi-evergreen vine-thicket. The soils are recorded as generally shallow sandy loams or red earths associated mostly with sandstone, but also with rhyolite, shale and metasediments. Associated species include: woodland with Eucalyptus citriodora and Alyxia spicata; Corymbia leichhardtii woodland with some Acacia harpophylla on sandstone; sheltered sandstone gully with Acacia shirleyi, Corymbia citriodora, C. trachyphloia, Gahnia aspera; woodland of E. cloeziana with E. suffulgens and Callitris endlicheri; E. crebra /C. trachyphloia tall woodland; and in open woodland of E. exserta, E. panda, C. trachyphloia on lateritic sandstone (Halford and Henderson, 2002; Queensland Herbarium, 2012).
Flowering of B. opponens has been recorded from June to November, January and March and fruits between June, August and November (Halford and Henderson, 2002).
Little is known about the reproductive biology of B. opponens although it has been speculated that the plants are wind pollinated and relatively long-lived. It has also been noted that populations may need some form of disturbance to stimulate recruitment (e.g. fire or physical disturbance such as that associated with earthworks) (James and Hardy, 1990).
Threatening processes
Most plants of B. opponens are believed to be killed by fire although fires may stimulate germination from the seed bank. Frequent fires on the public estates south of the Jacks Creek population (NSW) may be a threat. The geographic distribution of the species is observed, estimated or inferred to be very highly restricted such that it is prone to the effects of human activities or stochastic events within a very short time period. At present there appears to be no evidence that the total population of Bertya opponens is undergoing a continuing decline (NPWS, 2002).
Threats within the Gatton and Laidley Shires include loss or fragmentation of species populations or species habitat through vegetation clearing; the frequent low-intensity burning of shrubby understorey woodlands/forests to reduce fuel loads or promote grass growth for cattle grazing; the construction of firebreaks in ecotones; and the absence of high intensity fires in ecotones (Boyes, 2002).
Status notes
Bertya opponens is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 and Least Concern under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.
Management documents
Boyes, B. (2002). Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008. Lockyer Catchment Association (LCA) Inc., Forest Hill.
Management recommendations
Boyes (2002) outlines a number of recommendations for the protection and recovery of Bertya opponens. An example of some these recommendations include: developing and implementing fire management plans that balance the needs of significant species with the needs of landholders and land managers.
Occurs in the following Queensland pastoral districts: Burke, Burnett, Darling Downs, Leichhardt, Maranoa, Moreton, Port Curtis. Also occurs in the following regions: New South Wales (Bostock and Holland, 2010).
Recent taxonomic research (Fatemi et al. 2007) has confirmed that the Cobar, Coolabah and Narrabri populations are typical B. opponens but the populations east of the Great Dividing Range are in fact a new, undescribed species closely related to B. opponens and currently known as B. sp. (Fatemi et al. 2007).
In general the northern populations tend to have broader, oblong to oblong elliptic leaf laminas, with usually flat margins while the southern populations from Morven and Surat, Queensland and those throughout New South Wales have narrower, linear elliptic to narrow-elliptic, leaves with revolute margins. In addition the indumentum of this species is generally white, however there are a number of collections that have a rusty brown indumentum on most parts particularly on young branchlets (Halford and Henderson, 2002).
Boyes, B. (2002). Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008. Lockyer Catchment Association (LCA) Inc., Forest Hill.
Boyes, B. (2004). Descriptions, Habitat and Threats for the Significant Species and Ecological Communities of Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland. Appendix B to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan for Gatton and Laidley Shires, South-East Queensland 2003-2008. Version 2, 5 March 2004. Lockyer Catchment Association (LCA) Inc., Forest Hill.
Fatemi, M., Gross, C.L. and Bruhl, J.J. (2007). The first phenetic analysis of species limits in Bertya (Euphorbiaceae). Australian Systematic Botany 20, 448-463.
Halford, D.A. and Henderson, R.J.F. (2002). Studies in Euphorbiaceae A.L.Juss. sens. lat. 3. A revision of Bertya Planch. (Ricinocarpeae Mull.Arg., Bertyinae Mull.Arg.). Austrobaileya 6 (2): 221-223.
James, T.A. and Harden, G.J. (1990). Euphorbiaceae. In Flora of New South Wales. Vol. 1. (Ed. G.J. Harden) pp. 389-430 (University of New South Wales Press: Sydney).
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2002). Bertya sp. Cobar-Coolabah (Cunningham and Milthorpe s.n., 2/8/73) Recovery Plan. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville NSW.
Queensland Herbarium (2012). Specimen label information. Queensland Herbarium. Accessed 19/01/2012.
Profile author
Lynise Wearne (26/07/2012)

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Data source

This profile data is sourced from the QLD Wildlife Data API using the Get species by ID function used under CC-By 4.0.

This information is sourced from the WildNet database managed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science.

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Last updated
20 May 2024