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It’s vine living for butterflies

Primary school students at Springbrook State School have impressed local conservation groups by effortlessly propagating the threatened species of vine which the rare Richmond Birdwing butterfly lays eggs on.

The Richmond Birdwing butterfly was once common in these areas but is now listed as Vulnerable in Queensland largely due to the loss of the Pararistolochia Praevenosa and Laheyana vines. The vines, which are necessary for the lifecycle of the Richmond Birdwing, are themselves are listed as Near Threatened in Queensland.

Each year, the students at Springbrook State School find ripe seed pods on the ground underneath the school’s two large Pararistolochia Praevenosa vines on windy days in Autumn.

“Last year we realised our students had a unique opportunity to play an active role in the conservation of the Richmond Birdwing butterfly by propagating the seeds,” said Gwyn Beasley, Secretary of the P&C, “So we successfully applied for a Divisional Donation from Councillor Glenn Tozer to purchase the materials necessary for our project.”

“As part of our Junior Landcare program we had our students count the number of seeds in each pod, mix up a special soil recipe on advice from the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network, plant over 100 seeds and leave them in seed raising trays underneath the parent vines,” said Springbrook State School Principal Mrs Sarah Jane Ash.

“We had all but given up on the seeds, as they lay dormant for six months, but when we returned from the school holidays at the start of 2013 we had raised about 30 vines to 5cm in height,” said Mrs Ash.

Springbrook State School is working with the Springbrook Mountain Community Association, Springbrook Wildlife Appreciation Society and Springbrook Catchment Management Landcare Group to propagate Pararistolochia vines to plant out in biodiversity corridors. It is hoped this will facilitate movement of the Richmond Birdwing butterfly so as to introduce genetic diversity from lowland populations and ward off inbreeding.

Barb Eldred, the Secretary of the Springbrook Mountain Community Association said “I know how difficult it is to propagate the Pararistolochia vines as I do so myself. The fact that primary school students have propagated the vine so easily is impressive and a credit to the environmental education programs embedded into school life at Springbrook State School.”

Given their success propagating rare vines, the students at Springbrook State School are now embarking on a comprehensive propagation program in an effort to grow flowering native trees to attract the Richmond Birdwing butterfly to the school grounds.