Scientists sowing suns and spiders
8 November, 2011
The Department of Sustainability and Environment’s (DSE) specialist native orchid-growing facility at Horsham is producing thousands of threatened Spider-orchids and Sun-orchids for use in re-introduction programs across Victoria and into New South Wales and the ACT.
DSE Biodiversity Officer Dr Noushka Reiter said: “The specialist facility is constantly breaking new ground in the complex field of native orchid propagation. We are now busy getting the orchids out to where they can be planted back into the wild.”
“We are supplying threatened orchids to DSE led recovery programs within five of Victoria’s ten Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) (Wimmera, Glenelg Hopkins, Corangamite, Mallee and North Central) as well as collaborating with the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority and the CSIRO,” Dr Reiter said.
“This work enables these threatened species to be reintroduced to the wild, often in areas where they haven’t been seen for decades. Species to be planted in the wild next year include Metallic Sun-orchid (Thelymitra epipactoides), Castlemaine Spider-orchid (Caladenia clavescens), Candy Spider-orchid(Caladenia versicolor), Yellow-lip Spider-orchid (Caladenia xanthochila) andMellblom’s Spider-orchid.”
“Most of these species were once widespread, however, through land use changes the habitat for many has been lost. Without the efforts of these organisations and the plants we can grow for them, there is a significant risk that some of these species will become extinct.”
“The Horsham facility has propagated 16 species of threatened orchids and is working on propagation techniques for a further nine. It is also the only place in the world to have successfully propagated many of these terrestrial native orchids for re-introduction. The species being grown include Metallic Sun-orchid, the Brilliant Sun-orchid (Thelymitra mackibbinii) (of which less than 30 plants are known to remain in the wild) and Desert Rustyhood (Pterostylis xerophila).”
“The facility has propagated 16 species of threatened orchids and is working on propagation techniques for a further nine including the Eastern Underground Orchid (Rhizanthella slateri) in partnership with CSIRO.”
“Many of these orchids have complex requirements for reproduction. For example, the Melbloms’ Spider-orchid (Caladenia hastata) not only requires pollination by a specific type of wasp, they also rely on the presence of a species of fungus (Sebacina vermifera) in the soil.”
The facility began in 2009 in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and works with volunteer organisations, particularly the Australasian Native Orchid Society. It has received a grant from the Australian Orchid Foundation for research on orchid-fungus relationships. Funding from the Commonwealth’s Caring for Our Country program and the Victorian Investment Framework via the five CMAs has enabled much of this work to be completed.
The Victorian Government has a responsibility under the Wildlife Act 1975 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998 to protect threatened species. These plants contribute significantly to the biodiversity of their ecosystems. The knowledge we acquire about these species helps us to then take the on-ground steps needed to ensure their survival.
Caladenia versicolour photo by Noushka Reiter