South Australia has some beautiful and delicate orchids.  Most are not showy.  Instead they have a subtle attractive beauty.  But they are declining; and for that reason, they are protected by the law, specifically the Native Vegetation Act 1991.  Picking the flower is illegal let alone digging up the whole plant.

The only situation where a person can legally remove an orchid or part thereof is when they hold a government authorised permit. Legitimate reasons for collecting orchid material include specimen for the State Herbarium, scientific research, rescue or salvage situations when a development is occurring, or collecting seed of threatened species to store with the Seed Conservation Centre.

Without a permit, no one can remove any part of a plant even if their reason is legitimate.

It behoves members to be cautious of any one that asks for assistance with collecting, transporting or photographing potted orchids.  Ask to see their permit.  So, what do you do if you suspect someone of picking the flowers or digging up the plants?  Contact the Department Environment and Natural Resources Investigation and Compliance Unit.

There is only a very small number of NOSSA members who hold such permits.  Thelma Bridle, NOSSA Conservation Officer, is the person who will know which members hold a permit.  For more information on plant collection permits, contact DEWNR at DEWNRresearchpermits@sa.gov.au or visit the website.

Thank you to Thelma Bridle and Doug Bickerton for their assistance and critiquing of this post.

Murray Mallee Midges_2007E_6Jun11
Corunastylis sp. Dark Midge Ngarkat Conservation Park Photo: June Niejalke

Why can’t I buy that pretty blue orchid? . . . or Purchasing Aussie terrestrial Orchids on the International Market

When noticed, Australian orchids capture people’s imagination and many want to be able to grow them.  As a result we often receive request for where to purchase them, particularly from overseas.  For people overseas we are unable to help them.  Recently I came across some comments from Philip Shin and he has kindly written about his experience with trying to purchase orchids from Australia.  I trust that his experience will help our overseas people understand some of the issues involved.

So let’s hear what he has to say …..


It has been brought to my attention that there have been many requests from international buyers who wish to purchase Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids from Australia. To give you all a basic idea of who I am and why I’m writing this brief article, I will tell you a few things about me.

Firstly, I am an orchid hobbyist just like you all. I live in the United States of America. My love for orchids stemmed from repeated failures of growing bromeliads, (which I eventually learned how to grow), after which my parents had suggested I try growing orchids instead, as they might be easier to cultivate. I took them up on it and for the most part, when it came to many of the more commonly available orchid hybrids, they were right. After a few tries, I managed to not only grow some orchids, but I also was able to bloom them as well! From here, my appreciation for the hobby grew to include species orchids. Then I learned about terrestrial orchids and how people were attempting to cultivate them in their gardens/greenhouses, and that lead to me wanting to grow them too.

Some of the terrestrial orchids that caught my eyes were those pretty little blue flowered orchids in the genus Thelymitra. I was always told that there were “no such things as orchids that were true blue”, but seeing photos of them contradicted that notion, and thus I was intrigued. Then, I started hearing about how some people were attempting to grow them. I thought to myself, “I must have some!” And that was when reality hit hard.

You see, I eventually learned that acquiring Thelymitras through legal channels was quite an endeavour here in America. I had to acquire a permit through our APHIS/USDA (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/ United States Department of Agriculture) to import plants from other countries, (specifically, Australia and Europe in the case of Thelymitras and a few other Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids). Of course, there was also paying for the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permit and phytosanitary certificate in order to have them make it through our US Customs. The difficult part wasn’t necessarily with the USDA permit, but rather paying for the CITES permit and phytosanitary certificate. When Australia was open for export, the fees for CITES permits and phytosanitary certificates were rather high in price, running at about $250 USD per shipment. But shortly after making two orders to be shipped out from Australia, the exportation laws had changed radically! During this time, CITES and phytosanitary paperwork now cost somewhere in the order of $1,000 USD. It was now clear that Australia was no longer in the business of exporting goods from small companies. Which then brings us to the next option, Europe…

Europe had somehow also managed to get a hold of Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids much earlier than America did, but they were still not very prevalent in the hobby.

It then bears the question, “if Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids are already on the market, why aren’t they more prevalent or more popular?” The answer to this question would be, although people have attempted to grow these orchids, they are not necessarily the easiest orchids to grow long term. Some may be easier than others, but they are still a novelty in the hobby, partially because of this. The difficulty lies in that they are plants that have a tight symbiotic relationship with fungi. I’m not sure whether or not the orchids started to develop smaller and smaller root systems because of the symbiosis, but these orchids do tend to have rather negligible amount of roots. This often makes it difficult to cultivate these orchids, because once the roots get damaged for any reason, they pretty much die. Hence, why these orchids are not more prevalent in numbers despite the demand.

In short, this article is an explanation of the difficulties of obtaining Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids. And this is also some insight on how it is trying to obtain these plants here in America. For anyone coming across this article, I appreciate the time and effort it took for you to read through an American hobbyist’s perspective on Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids. Thank you.


Philip Shin

Pots of Thelymitra nuda cultivated by Les Nesbitt
Pots of Thelymitra nuda cultivated by Les Nesbitt in South Australia

Just as a postscript, Philip mentioned that he could grow Diuris or Donkey Orchid “but that it takes quite a bit of trial and error before you can see anything that resembles success.”


An Orchid You Can’t Buy or Grow


I like the Flying Duck orchid.  It is truly a beautiful plant.  Where can I buy one?


The Flying Duck orchid or Caleana major is an unusual and unique flower.  Unfortunately, despite many attempts, no one has been able to cultivate it, so there is no supplier able to sell it.

It is a protected plant and it is illegal to remove it from the bush.  See the November Photo Competition 2013 for more details

Purchasing Orchids in Victor Harbor


I missed the NOSSA Spring Show and I was wondering if there was a way of purchasing native orchids – Cym canaliculatum, non-hybrid Sarcochilus, Den falcorostrumD. ligguiforme & Bulbophyllums mainly, but also any others which will grow in shadehouse conditions in Victor Harbor?


There are several places where these orchids can be purchased.  Sizes vary so suggested you contact the growers.  Stick to larger and more established plants if you are a beginner.  Most will grow well in Victor with the milder climate.  If you get hold of Cym. canaliculatum make sure they are kept dry and under cover from April to October.

Orchids on Newbold, prop. Stephen Stebbing, can be accessed thru the net or better still, Ebay.  Only found Bulb. shepherdii on the net last night but I have seen exiguum (I got a piece) but in the way of species Dendrobium he has cucumerinum, pugioniforme, tertagonum, linguiformis, schoeninum, striolatum ( various clones of the species).  Has plenty of Sarcochilus but mostly hybrids, would suggest though he would have some of the typical species such as hartmanii, fitzgeraldii.  He does have the Cymbidium species such as suave and maddidum but doubtful  about canaliculatum.

Fernacres Nursery in Victoria deals will bush salvaged species from logging areas.  Mostly sold bare root but has good sized plants for reasonable prices.  This will be a better bet for picking up Den. falcorostrum and those mentioned above.  They may have cannaliculatum.

The Rock Lily Man (Gerry Walsh) I know was selling sizeable clumps of established bush salvaged falcorostrum recently and should still have a few left.  He has fabulous Den. speciosum available but be prepared to pay good dollars for show bench stuff.

Australian Orchid Nursery (Wayne Turville) specialises in natives but has moved a bit more towards Cymbidiums.  His mounted plants are first class and I know from time to time he has some of the other Bulbophyllums.

You can always ask them for other species.  They don’t always list everything and may have a piece or two of the lesser species lying around that they don’t list.

Most of these growers usually have links to other nurseries so with a bit of homework you can usually always get what you want.

eBay for the Orchid Seller

By Kris Kopicki

There’s a very good chance, that somewhere in the last fifteen years you’ve heard the name eBay. That’s right, eBay has been around for fifteen years! If you are not familiar with eBay, it’s an internet auction website. It’s the digital equivalent to the TradingPost, only a lot more sophisticated.

eBay has become a very useful tool for selling orchids by offering you a national, or potentially international market. While eBay has made it’s name as an auction site, other formats are available, such as fixed price. eBay provides all the infrastructure necessary to conduct online business, such as communicating with buyers, notification of purchases and most importantly the running of auctions or item listings. Through PayPal, a company purchased by eBay in 2002, you can even accept credit card payments. But most importantly, eBay tends to achieve higher than average prices for sellers.

As a seller, generally your goal is to get the highest possible price for your orchid. In an auction, the best way to achieve this is get as many bidders as possible. This article will give you a good overview of various strategies you can use when creating auctions.

Be Visible: Titles

To reach as many buyers as possible, you have to get your orchids noticed. People won’t bid on your orchids if they can’t find them. First you need to understand the way buyers search for items. Typically, buyers will use the quick search field, always visible at the top of the eBay site. It’s very fast and convenient, but has some caveats for the seller. This type of search only searches within an item’s title, and not the item’s description. The search only matches whole words, so for example a search for ‘Tuber’ would not find items containing ‘Tubers’. Titles are currently limited to 55 characters, this makes every word vitally important. You should put a lot of thought into it.

Knowing what people are likely to search for can be a bit of an art form, but there are some very obvious cases. Someone that is interested in Thelymitra is almost certainly going to try a search for ‘Thelymitra’. So if you are selling Thelymitra’s, it would be wise to include the full species name in the title. For example, ‘Thelymitra rubra’ would be much more appropriate than ‘T. rubra’, or ‘Thel. rubra’. It is unlikely people will search for abbreviations, as they are not specific enough. Remember people don’t just sell orchids on eBay, a search for ‘T‘ is likely to bring up thousands of items. While it’s true there are advanced searches that will help people find obscure names, if your items can’t be found easily in a quick search, you are likely to lose bidders. Sometimes less specific words can be good, such as ‘Orchid’. It’s reasonable to assume there will be many searches for that word. Be careful not to include words that are not related to you orchid though, as you may be in breach of eBay’s terms and conditions for inaccurately describing an item.

Using the previous example of Thelymitra rubra, a good title to use might be ‘Thelymitra rubra native terrestrial orchid tubers’. These are all good search terms that people may use to find your item, with the exception of ‘rubra’. Species names aren’t usually useful search terms, as there are simply too many of them. That said, they can be useful for highly desirable species that people may search for by species name. So why include details in the title that are not useful for searching?

Be Visible: Listings

When your orchid comes up in a search, it’s very unlikely it will be the only one listed. By default, items are listed with a small picture and title. So the title now has another purpose, it needs to distinguish your orchid from other people’s orchids. Continuing the Thelymitra example, lets assume for a moment that Thelymitra are very popular on eBay. If you omitted the species name, your item would be listed as ‘Thelymitra native terrestrial orchid tubers’. Its not very specific, and so it’s quite possible some people may not click on your item to read more about it, hence losing a potential bidder. You need to find the right balance between terms that people will search for, and words that will encourage people to click on your item for more information.

A golden rule when selling anything is to make your orchid stand out from the crowd. A photo is an excellent way to do this. The nicer the photo, the more people are going to view your orchid, it really is that simple. A professional looking photo is not the only consideration though. When your orchid appears in search listings, only a very small preview of the photo is shown. 80 pixels by 80 pixels to be precise. You want to make sure that your photo has an impact at this very small size. Perhaps try tighter cropping of your photos to get that little bit of extra detail. Needless to say though, image editing is well outside of the scope of this article, so if you didn’t understand a word, find someone that can show you what to do.

Be Visible: Timing

Unlike traditional auctions that finish when bidding stops, eBay auctions end at a specific time. The time of day is determined by when you created the item listing. It’s a good idea for your auctions to end when most people are likely to be on the internet. This is typically between 6pm and 9pm. Keep in mind that not all buyers will be in your time zone, so you may want to target the time zone that most of your buyers will come from.

The length of the auction is another important aspect. You can choose from 1 to 10 days. Typically the longer the auction, the more likely additional buyers are to discover your orchid. The downside to a long auction is that the entire process from listing to receiving payment can take up to two weeks. There is also a danger that someone selling the same orchid may create a shorter auction in that time frame, taking the highest bidder out of the market. You will find that once you become known to regular buyers, your items will be discovered quite quickly, so even quite short auction times of 2-3 days will still receive a lot of interest.

When dealing with live plants, you need to be mindful of postage. Typically Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to send parcels, so it may be helpful to have your auctions end either just before or on a weekend. This way, orchids can be posted safely within a few days of payment being received. Ensuring your orchids arrive healthy is definitely a good thing if you want repeat business. It is a good idea to plan your auctions around holidays, as people may be away during those periods, and they can be a nuisance for parcel deliveries.

Probably the most important and overlooked aspect of timing is when to list your orchid in relation to other auctions. If you’re wanting to sell Sarcochilus falcatus, but there are currently 3 other sellers offering this species, then the bidders will likely be spread out across the auctions, and so the overall price each receives will be less. Therefore the best strategy is to be the only one offering a particular orchid. There are a lot of advantages in being aware of what others are selling. It will give you a good indication of what price you can expect for your item. You can use the ‘buzz’ created around another sellers orchid to your advantage by selling your orchid just after their auction ends, since the buyers that missed out will likely be searching for the same orchid a short time after the auction.

Listing Options: Categories

When you list your orchid, you will be asked to choose a category to display it in. In my view, categories are not all that useful, since they are not specific enough for orchids. The majority of buyers use searches rather than browsing categories. The ‘Home > Gardening > Plants, Seeds, Bulbs > Flowers > Plants’ category will be fine for the majority of your items.

Listing Options: Descriptions

Since the entire transaction is conducted online, your item description is the only information buyers have to base their purchasing decision on. For this reason, your description must be clear and concise. Try to preempt the things that you think buyers would want to ask you, and include that information in your description. For example if provenance information is known, include it. Try not to make assumptions about the knowledge of your buyers. If you are selling a plant that has won an award, don’t just use cryptic abbreviations with the assumption that the buyer knows what they are. Knowledgeable enthusiasts will understand, but remember the goal is to get as many bidders as possible, so you need to appeal to a wider audience. A short explanation of the award would take no time at all and be meaningful to someone that is unfamiliar with them. The majority of listings I come across do not provide enough information, and tend to alienate less experienced growers. Some details that people might want to know are; provenance (i.e where the plants originally came from in the wild) or clonal name; details of parentage if it’s a hybrid; brief description of cultivation requirements to help buyers determine if it is suitable for their climate; if the plant/s are flowering size or not, and if not, how far off; will the plant be sent bare root or in pot; an accurate description of the orchid and its characteristics; are cultivation instructions included with the plant; what is your policy on damaged or lost goods; do you have permits to send plants to WA, Tas, or Internationally.

Finally, you need to differentiate your orchids from others. Don’t just list Sarcochilus falcatus with a standard description. Almost all forms of orchids have some unique characteristics that set them apart from other forms. Tell people what they are. You’ll be surprised how many people collect different forms of the same species, as long as they are unique and interesting. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.

Listing Options: Pictures

We’ve covered a number of the important aspects of pictures already, but here are a few useful tips. When you list an item on eBay, the first picture you add is free, but subsequent pictures cost a small fee. One photo is usually not enough to give the buyer an idea of what they are buying. You need at the very least a close-up photo of the flower and a photo of the whole plant. If you are selling terrestrial tubers, a photo of the tuber/s is also advisable. When taking photos of the whole plant or tuber, be sure to include a ruler in your photos so that people can get an idea of the size.

Using simple image editing software, you can easily combine 2 photos into one picture, which will only count for one picture, hence saving you a little bit of money. Do not be tempted to do this for close-ups of flowers. The reason for this is the ‘Gallery picture’ option. This determines if a picture is displayed in search results or not. You most definitely want to do this, as omitting a picture makes your item very easy to overlook. When you enable this option, you can choose which picture you want to use. Whichever photo you choose, make sure it looks good at 80 x 80 pixels. In most cases, the best photo to choose is of the orchid flower.

Listing Options: The Reserve

Choosing an appropriate reserve price is very important, and will depend upon a few factors. A low reserve price will attract less fees and can sometimes peak more interesting in your orchid. However if there are few bidders, you run the risk of getting a low price. My advice is to set the reserve at the minimum you are prepared to accept for your orchid, even if you are sure that the orchid will sell well. Just as an auctioneer selling a house will try to start the bidding off high, so should you. It generally does result in a better price. Don’t forget to factor in eBay and PayPal fees into your reserve price.

Armed with this knowledge, it should be possible to get some good results on eBay. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, since there is no substitute for experience. So get out there and give it a go.

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