In September 2019, starting from Darwin, I visited five locations in the Northern Territory of Australia to see examples of the rare and near-threatened species Citrus gracilis.
Three of the locations were previously inspected on my trip in 2016 - the other two sites were new to me.
Site One: Sayer Road near the junction with the Stuart Highway about 30kms south-east of Darwin
I had seen this group of small roadside trees in 2016, when they were in reasonable condition although damaged by roadside cutting, with no flowers or fruit but many small suckers.
Now they were mostly dead, just a couple of trees showed a little green growth towards the top, and there were only a few small suckers noted.
I spoke to members of TENPS (Top End Native Plant Society) who suggested that the area had been sprayed with herbicide by the council in their attempts to control invasive Gamba Grass.
There is information here about the Gamba Grass control programme. A great shame these trees were not protected.
Site Two: Bees Creek Road In two private gardens about 1km from Site One
On this visit I only gained access to one of the trees in these properties. The tree was clearly suffering from the current drought conditions in the Darwin area. Although tall and otherwise in reasonably good condition I could see no flowers or fruits at this time. In several decades the owner has never noticed this tree fruiting.
Site Three: Daly River Road close to the north side of highway 28, 120kms south of Darwin
NT Herbarium records showed a specimen had been collected here in 2010. I entered the co-ordinates into my satnav, and parked on the roadside at the spot indicated. To my amazement, I found the location within 20 metres of where I had stopped.
This was an area about 40 metres across with several small examples of C. gracilis up to about 3 m tall, many thin burnt stumps with new growth starting, and dozens of small tufts of suckers at ground level. No trees appeared mature enough to fruit, and only thin linear leaves were observed. The area had clearly been burnt at some time in the past couple of years.
Site Four: The Pines. A private 'farm' in the Douglas-Daly region, not far from Butterfly Gorge National Park. Roughly 180 kms south of Darwin and 20kms from the nearest sealed road.
Owned and single-handedly maintained by Tim Whatley - originally to produce timber but now mainly used for cattle. Tall, mature trees with fruit. Leaves mostly narrow, linear.                                       
Site Five: Lakefield Station. A huge cattle farm 35kms south-west of Mataranka, along the unsurfaced Gorrie Dry River Road. About 6 hours driving time from Darwin City.
I only had time to visit one group of trees, but these were in good condition apart from signs of the local drought. Low-growing but mature trees with fruit. Leaves mostly wide, elliptical.
For photos and further information about the trees at each site, click these links:
Sayer Road    Daly River Road    The Pines    Lakefield Station    Inside the fruits

page created 21st September 2019