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New kids on the plot

29 June 2017

A hybrid sandalwood species has been discovered in Carnarvon which could lead to the development of a superior species.

FPC Operations Officer Dave Evans, who has been documenting the hybrid species, said the seed was collected and grown from Santalum album and S. austrocaledonicum trees for a 2008 trial plot in Carnarvon.

“Two years after the establishment of this trial certain trees looked distinctly different from their siblings,” Mr Evans said.

These trees displayed characteristics of one of the parent trees as well as a native sandalwood species, S. leptocladum, which grows naturally along the nearby Gascoyne River.

“These telling characteristics were evident in the leaf shape, flower, fruit and tree form structure,” Mr Evans said.

The hybrid trees not only looked different but grew more vigorously, often outgrowing their siblings despite being established at the same time.

Over the next few years the hybrid trees flowered profusely and produced viable seed.

Seed was collected from the hybrids, planted and nurtured into seedlings. Two of the hybrid trees even self-seeded and sprouted several small seedlings below their canopy.

Mr Evans said some hybrid species are unable to reproduce, so it was pleasing to see the seedlings grow well.

“There’s a possibility we could crossbreed hybrids with good quality S.album trees to produce a superior hybrid,” Mr Evans said.

“Ideally it would combine the vigorous growth and drought tolerant traits of the native S. leptocladum with the greater oil quality of S. album.”

Further research is needed. Trials will be conducted in a few years when the hybrid trees reach maturity.