New hope for rare orchids

TWO threatened NSW native orchids have recently been germinated symbiotically for the very first time.

They are the Crimson Spider-orchid (Caladenia concolor) and the Sand-hill Spider-orchid (Caladenia arenaria).

The successful germination of these plants forms part of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation’s (ANPC) Orchid Conservation Program which is being delivered in partnership with the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (WCMA) in Horsham, Victoria.

ANPC Ecologist, Dr Noushka Reiter, is very excited about this latest achievement.

“Scientists have been trying to germinate these species for several years without success” she said.

“Germinating orchids isn’t as simple as sowing the seed in some soil and watching them grow.

All Australian terrestrial orchids rely on a specific ‘type’ of mycorrhizal fungi to germinate and sustain their growth throughout their lifecycle.

We just needed to find the right fungus, and we finally did.”

“To further complicate things, each species is pollinated by a unique insect.

We don’t yet know what pollinates the Crimson Spider-orchid, but interestingly the orchid has a distinctly mandarin flavoured smell” she added.

The ANPC is germinating the orchids for reintroduction trials to be undertaken next year in the state’s south west by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The project is funded through the NSW Government’s new Saving Our Species (SOS) program.

Matt Cameron, Senior Team Leader, Ecosystems and Threatened Species, South West Region OEH, said that “both orchid species are listed as threatened under federal and NSW environmental legislation.

The Crimson Spider-orchid is particularly rare, down to less than 30 plants in the world.

It is confined to granite ridge country near Albury, and is also found in north eastern Victoria.

Reintroducing propagated plants is vital to its long term survival.”

The ANPC is a national non-profit, non-government organisation dedicated to the promotion and development of plant conservation in Australia.

For further information on the Orchid Conservation Program, contact the ANPC on 0428 781277 or visit the ANPC website at www.anpc.asn.au/projects/orchids.  

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