Chris Turnbull and Len Gervay will be running from Sydney to Melbourne to raise money for the Rate and Threatened Species Garden at the Sydney Botanic Gardens. Photo: Janie Barrett
SOME people sponsor a tree, others pull up weeds but when Chris Turnbull and Len Gervay wanted to do something for endangered plants they decided to run 900 kilometres.
The two men set off from Sydney a week ago, following the Hume Highway to Melbourne, raising thousands of dollars for the NSW Seedbank on the way.
The seedbank is part of the Millennium Seed Bank, a global effort to protect the world's plants from extinction by collecting and studying their seeds.
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Mr Turnbull, 27, and Mr Gervay, 30, are both engineers who are passionate about the environment. It costs about $2000 to save one species and they have already raised more than $4000 .
That is enough to save the Wee Jasper Grevillea, also known asGrevillea iaspicula, a flowering shrub found near Lake Burrinjuck.
The plant has become critically endangered through grazing and blackberry invasion, the acting executive director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Brett Summerell, said.
''It is particularly important for the local honey-eater birds because it is one of the few winter flowering plants in the area,'' he said.
Other endangered plants along the route include the Crimson Spider Orchid, Caladenia concolor, which bears large flowers said to smell like a hot motor; the Yass Daisy, Ammobium craspedioides, which puts out small bright yellow flowers on a tall stem; and the Button Wrinklewort, a shrub which grows in NSW and Victoria.
All the species the men are helping to save grow close to the route they will take down the Hume Highway.
Speaking from Gundagai last Thursday, Mr Turnbull, of Paddington, said they had encountered strong head winds, sleet and the constant roar of big rigs.
Mr Gervay, of Surry Hills, agreed the conditions had been more challenging than they expected.
''I've been struggling a bit, to tell you the truth,'' he said. ''I'm very sore and fatigued.''
The men have been running day and night, sleeping in tents on the way. They expect to reach Melbourne by Thursday.
Supporters can follow their progress online with the help of a GPS tracking device. ''If we stop for too long people can give us a call and tell us to get moving, or if we're doing 110 [km/h] we're probably on the front of a truck,'' Mr Turnbull said.
About 10 per cent of NSW's 6000 plant species are now considered endangered or vulnerable. Land clearing and invasive weeds are threatening many species, and climate change could play a big role in future, said Peter Cuneo, the manager of natural heritage at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.
The seedbank provides insurance if the plants ever go extinct in the wild and gives scientists the chance to do research into the best conditions for germinating the seed and estimating just how long they will last in storage.
To follow the runners' progress or to make a donation see sydney2melbourne.blogspot.com