The following article is the longer version of the summary that will appear in the September 2021 NOSSA Journal. John Eaton, the NOSSA Speaker Co-ordinaor, has written passionately on his summary of Les Nesbitt’s talk given at the August General meeting. He completes his summary with an echo of Les’ appeal for the next generation of orchid growers whose expertise is so necessary for the continuting conservation of our unique orchids.
In one of NOSSA’s most significant and challenging meetings for many years, members were treated to a talk by our Patron, Les Nesbitt – whimsically titled – “Where have all the Growers Gone?” – after the 1955 Pete Seeger song-lament. Les integrated our NOSSA history into his talk.
Les was a founding member of NOSSA which was formed on 22nd March, 1977 – 44 years ago, with 44 very keen members. NOSSA membership had grown to 100 members by the year’s end.
The fledgling Native Orchid Society of SA first met at “Goody Tech” alias Goodwood Boys Technical High School. From then on – it was “All Go!” in those early years.
NOSSA’s second meeting soon saw the formation of the Seed Bank where new members were given Ptst. curta tubers from Roy Hargreave’s wash trough.
Our first three orchid displays – between 1978-1980 – were held in conjunction with the South Coast Orchid Club at Marion. The first (judged) NOSSA Show was held in 1981 – in the Supper Room at the September monthly meeting. By the following year (1982) it had expanded into the first NOSSA Public Show –held at The Orphanage, Goodwood.
The aims of the Public Show were four-fold
- To educate the public
- To raise Society funds
- To exhibit members plants
- To obtain new members
Over one thousand people attended this first public show! – almost ten times the number we would expect nowadays.
In 1983, these NOSSA Public Orchid Shows moved to The St Peters Town Hall where they remained for many years until the venue became too expensive.
Native Orchid “Rescue Digs” to preserve native orchid species threatened by development, occurred throughout the 80’s & 90’s. Les regarded these as the “golden years” for Native Orchid growers which continued until 1996 – the year that NOSSA sponsored the Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS) Conference at Flinders University.
Thereafter the Shows were transferred to St Bernadette’s where they remained until 2019. Les then presented some pictures of these Native Orchid exhibits and pots from previous years and from the SAROC Fairs of 2017-2019 and 2021.
Les outlined NOSSA’s many efforts to create a new cohort of growers amongst members. Early members were growers, exhibitors, bushwalkers & photographers. However our current membership seems less interested in growing and exhibiting, preferring to focus instead on recording native orchids in the field – during bushwalking.
Les stressed the importance of growing in the preservation of indigenous native orchid species, especially as we face climate change. He then threw members a challenge, stressing the importance of growing native orchids to ensure their preservation in the hard years ahead – for all things green!
To support would-be growers, he referred members to some valuable references – such as NOSSA’s Green 1985 handbook: “Native Orchids of South Australia” – an invaluable guide to members interested in growing Native Orchids. There are also numerous articles on orchid culture in the early NOSSA Journals.
Lamentably, the emphasis nowadays is more on photographing and recording terrestrial native orchids in the field.
Les also mentioned the Tuber Bank, successfully run by Jane Higgs until severe frosts killed her orchids. Sadly, there are no members prepared to organise it now.
Les also mentioned other significant initiatives such as the New Members’ Group that met before General meetings, the 2016 “Flagship Orchids” 1-day orchid workshop initiative of the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators – in creating orchid-enhanced habitats.
Les also mentioned the $2.00 seedling plant-growing competitions with annual recalls until the first plant flowerings and the 2016 and 2017 Seed kits for the culture of – (mycorrhizal) fungus-dependent terrestrial orchids. These included detailed growing instructions –still available to those willing to “give growing a go!”
Notwithstanding the Covid-19 challenges, there were the most recent propagation initiatives of 2020-2021.
In a recent talk, Robert Lawrence has described the importance of indigenous native orchids as an indicator species of a healthy bushland. If we don’t respond to the challenges Les has thrown out to our membership – it may be a matter of “Where have all the orchids gone – long time passing”! There won’t be any orchids left for us to photograph. So it’s really up to us!
Who’s prepared to step up to the challenge?
I’m rapidly approaching 80! It’s too late for me to build space-demanding infrastructure such as a temperature-regulated shade-house/green-house and benching tables. But I do want to “step up to the plate” as a native orchid mini grower! I believe that the years ahead will be challenging ones for anything green, including me! Les reminded us that our common terrestrial are most at threat as the seedbanks of researchers tend to focus on the rare and endangered terrestrials.
Les’s talk has challenged me to establish a local (indigenous) terrestrial orchid presence in my native garden – where I’ve already got a burgeoning population of Microtis – dumped accidently in one of the loads of woodchips that replaced my lawn – 30 years ago. I’m hoping this indicates the presence of sufficient mycorrhizae to help me to establish some of the common greenhoods that Les said were most at threat from climate change. And hopefully, they will keep the microtis company! Dr Teresa Lebel, a speaker I’ve scheduled for March 22nd, 2022 is a fungi expert.
I hope Les’s talk – or if you missed it – this inadequate account of it – will challenge you, also – to become a mini-grower. As Henry Schoenheimer once said of our finite, depleting – and depleted – planet – in his book of the same name – “Small is Beautiful”!
John Eaton, NOSSA Speaker Coordinator, 28/08/2021