2018 February Winning Photograph

1802 sm RP Caladenia carnea

A small but varied number of entries for our first competition of the year. Andrew Primer entered a lovely picture Thelymitra azurea from Eyre Peninsula; Thelma Bridle entered Calochilus cupreus one of South Australia’s endangered orchids; John Fennell’s close up of Caladenia prolata and Rob Pauley’s mass flowering of Caladenia carnea.

The winner was Rob Pauley’s C. carnea a wide spread orchid which ranges from across the Eyre Peninsula through to the South East as well as occurring in the Eastern States and Tasmania. Although considered common both nationally and at a state level, there are regions within its range where it is considered to be Near Threatened, Rare and even Vulnerable. Also, despite being common, the Seedbank notes that there are areas of probable decline: Fleurieu (KAN02), Mt Lofty Ranges (FLB01), Eyre Mallee (EYB05), Wimmera (MDD05) and Southern Yorke (EYB01). It is a reminder that not only the rarest species but also that common species can be in decline.

The situation is complicated by taxonomic issues; C. carnea is not only a highly variable species but also a complex of several similar species plus many undescribed species which continues to challenge botanists.

References:

http://saseedbank.com.au/species_information.php?rid=815 accessed 8 March 2018

Backhouse, G., et al, (2016) Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria, Australia, Electronic version.

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version. NOSSA

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Orchids in the Snow?

It’s Christmas and usually, despite Australia’s hot climate, we associate Christmas with snow and cold but we don’t tend to associate them with orchids. And yet, for Australia we do have not one but two Christmas flowering orchids in snow country, that is, on the isolated sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, an island where “[r]ain and snow are frequent, with only a few days each year with no precipitation”. Admittedly at this time of the year, being summer it is warmer with an average temperature of 7.9degrees Celsius.

The first species was only discovered in 1978 and not recognised as an unique species until 1993 when it was named Corybas dienemus (syn. Nematoceras diemenum). Previously it had been linked with Corybas macranthus.

The second orchid species is  Corybas sulcatus (syn. Nematoceras sulcatum) and this species, possibly the world’s rarest orchid, has gone travelling. Staff from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens have manage to collect and amazingly propagate the seed.  Amazingly because orchids, particularly the terrestrial orchids, are difficult to grow. It is now flowering, this Christmas season, but under very carefully controlled conditions in Hobart.

Click here and here to see images and read about this amazing journey.

So Christmas, orchids and snow do go together in Australia, albeit in the far flung island of the south.

Corybas sulcatus (Grooved helmet-orchid) is one of two endemic orchids which occur on Macquarie Island (Photo: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens) Image Source

Reference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nematoceras_dienemum accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/macquarie-island/location/climate-weather-tides accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2017/sub-antarctic-orchid-shows-true-colours-far-from-home accessed  23 December 2017

 

Orchids In Remnant Roadside Vegetation

This week’s post written by Leo Davis is an article (slightly edited) from The South Australian Naturalist 91 (1): 34 – 37 January – June 2017. In this article, Leo highlights the importance of  the role of roadside vegetation in preserving the native orchids and flora.

All photographs are by Leo Davis.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 OrcFig 1: Thelymitra antennifera hybrid

One of my rules of thumb is ‘If I am in a Conservation Park, I’m on ground that nobody could make a living from.’ One, usually more, of nutrient poor soils, excess salinity, extreme rockiness, steepness, poor moisture retention, low rainfall or even being waterlogged, will be a feature of the location. There are a few odd spots that have survived partly intact, that have good soil, sufficient rainfall, etc. These include cemeteries (The Nationally Critically Endangered ghost spider orchid (Caladenia (syn. Arachnorchis) intuta) holds on in a cemetery on Yorke Peninsula) or exclusion zones around water storages (including a reservoir reserve in Lobethal that the public can now access) or abandoned railway yards (including Sherlock, where so far I have found 21 species of orchids and part of a reserve in Halbury.)

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 2: Little Yellow Club Mallee Spider Orchid Caladenia (syn Arachnorchisverrucosa

When I go in search of plants with the Botany Group of the FNSSA (Field Naturalist Society of South Australia), or for orchids with NOSSA (Native Orchid Society of South Australia), or when I do surveys of threatened orchid species with DEWNR (Department Environment, Water and Natural Resources), or orchid seed collection with the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, or go on weeding parties to protect endangered species, the destination is always one of these deprived, rejected sites. The orchids I see are those adapted to or just hanging on in such sites. We never see orchids that lived on better soils, say on the Adelaide Plains. How many have become extinct?

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 3: Common Mallee Shell Orchid Pterostylis dolichochila

Wherever the land was suitable for agriculture it was clear felled. Almost nothing of the original flora and little of its associated fauna, were left. But there is a tiny flimsy exception. Crossing these highly productive agricultural zones are roads and sometimes these have remnant vegetation. For a person interested in orchids, these narrow strips are normally areas of slim pickings but occasionally finds are made. Near Halbury, the Nationally Endangered Halbury rufoushood (Pterostylis sp. Halbury or Oligochaetochilus lepidus) can be found in some roadside spots.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 4: Mallee Bearded Greenhood Pterostylis (syn Plumatichilos) sp. Mallee Bearded Greenhood

The most remarkable piece of roadside vegetation that I have come upon was discovered by and shown to me by Glenn Dean, the Environment Officer with the City of Murray Bridge. He found a section of predominantly broombush (Melaleuca uncinata) vegetation, only about 200 m. long, on the verges of a single car sandy track, east of Murray Bridge. It is so close to the vegetation that cars can be scratched. I have found 24 species of orchid (Glenn has found more) blooming there sometime between March and October each year. All images shown here (Figs 1–11) were made at this site. If the little used road was not there the land would have been under crop, being equal in quality to regularly cropped fields to either side, and is of much higher quality than any normally allocated to Conservation Park status. Most of the orchids found can indeed be found in some of the poor sites dedicated as Conservation Parks, including species similar to those found at Ferries McDonald and Monarto Conservation Parks with their poor sandy soils. But this spot, which for some reason supports species that do not grow just 100 metres east or west along the road, has such species as the Nationally Critically Endangered Mallee Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum constrictum) (Fig. 8), that requires soils as good as those demanded by wheat, so it is essentially doomed.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 5: Rusty Rufoushood Pterostylis biseta (syn Oligochaetochilus bisetus)

Its single plant sighting here is regarded as a ‘rediscovery’ of a species not seen for years. In the longer term I guess this tiny site of orchid species richness is in a transitory state and most species will disappear. The surrounding cropping land is neither a source of seed nor a suitable landing site for it and it provides damaging wind blown nutrients and other chemicals. So I will cherish it while it lasts and hope others appear, if only briefly. Here is a reminder, that most of you do not need, of the value of roadside vegetation (with the understanding that it can contribute to native animal mortality) and that we should manage, extend and guard its presence.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 6: Rufoushood Pterostylis (syn Oligochaetochilus) boormanii complex sp.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 7: Cinnamon Donkey Orchid Diuris palustris

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 8: Mallee Leek Orchid Prasophyllum constrictum

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 9: Limestone Tiny Shell Orchid Pterostylis cycnocephala
(syn Hymenochilus calcicolus)

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 10: Caladenia (syn Jonesiopsis) capillata x Pheladenia deformis hybrid

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 11: Small Rustyhood Pterostylis pusilla (syn Oligochaetochilus pusillus)


Returning the Water

Each month the Native Orchid Society of South Australia has a special speaker. April’s speaker was Mark Bachmann from Glenelg Nature Trust. He spoke on the The Hydrological Restoration of Glenshera Swamp, Stipiturus Conservation Park.

At time of settlement swamps were common on the Fleurieu Peninsula but now they have almost all but disappeared. This has come about because of the clearing of land for farming beginning in the 1940s. There are now very few swamps left in the area. As a result in this region, the swamp orchids potentially face extinction.

BUT Mark’s talk was a good news story. In April, the Glenelg Nature Trust with the help of the Conservation Volunteers Australia (a Green Army program) began the work of reinstating the original creek by the judicious placing of regulating structures along the principal drain.

The good news is that the water returned as they were building the structures.

It was also a good news story because of the cooperation of different groups including a local land owner who was willing to have some of their land returned to swamp and no longer be available for their horses to graze.

We look forward to seeing the swamp refill and learning how the orchids respond.

Below are some of the orchids found at Stipiturus. Click on the images to go to the three articles documenting the work at Glenshera Swamp.

Thelymitra cyanea

Thelymitra cyanea

Cryptostylis subulata 008

Cryptostylis subulata (Moose Orchid)

Prasophyllum murfettii sm

Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel’s Leek Orchid)

Growing Leek Orchids – Is it Possible?

The Native Orchid Society of SA has been involved with the Threatened Orchid Project which is attempting to propagate some of our most threatened orchids.  There has been some success such as Thelymitra epicaptoides (Metallic Sun Orchids) but others are proving elusive.  Marc Freestone, from the Orchid Conservation Project, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, is a PhD student who is researching one such difficult to grow orchid genus, the Prasophyllum.

Prasophyllum murfettii sm

Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel’s Leek Orchid)

To assist with his research Marc has the sent the following request.

CAN ANYONE GROW LEEK ORCHIDS?

South Australia has about 40 species and Victoria about 74 species of the native Leek Orchids, Prasophyllum.  Some are on the brink of extinction.

A major problem hampering efforts to prevent our Leek Orchids from going extinct is that they have proven next to impossible to grow in cultivation.  They have proved extremely difficult, usually not germinating at all, or germinating but then dying soon after.  Occasionally some success has been had (particularly with symbiotic germination) but successful germination trials to our knowledge have so far proved un-repeatable.  Working out how to grow Prasophyllum is critical for the survival of many species at risk of extinction across southern Australia.

To try and change this, I will be studying Prasophyllum and their relationships with symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.

But I need your help!

I am wanting to hear from as many people as possible who

  • have tried (either successfully or unsuccessfully) to grow Leek Orchids or the closely related Midge Orchids (Corunastylis).
  • have observed Leek Orchids (or Midge Orchids) recruiting from seed in the wild.

If you can help, or know of anyone who might be worth talking to, please contact me at: marc.freestone@rbg.vic.gov.au or 0428 304 299.

(Funding and support for this project: Australian National University, Federal Government National Environmental Science Programme, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, University of Tasmania).

I would encourage people to contact Marc with whatever information that you have, no matter how insignificant you may think it is.  Every little bit helps including unsuccessful attempts.

His eventual aim is to be able to work out how to grow them reliably from seed in cultivation.

ORCHID COLLECTING AND THE LAW

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

Orchid Seed Conservation

There are many different activities involved with orchid conservation.  In situ conservation consists of looking after the orchids where they are growing; maintaining and protection of habitats and ecological systems.  On the other hand ex situ conservation is caring for the orchids in cultivation in a similar way that zoos maintain an animals species that is extinct in the wild.

For the orchids one form of ex situ conservation is via seed collection and the propagation of new plants. With many of our terrestrial orchids this is not an easy task but here in South Australia an attempt is being made with four of our endangered orchids.

Unlike some of our terrestrial orchids these are ones which we have not been able to grow.  There is a collaborative effort co-ordinated through the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre (Seedbank) to change this.  Amongst the people helping the Seedbank are members of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia, students from Kildare College and Dr Noushka Reiter of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.

On July 30 2016, Dan Duval of the Seedbank was interviewed by Jon Lamb on Ashley Walsh’s ABC 891 Adelaide Talkback Gardening program.  It is an informative interview and well worth the listen.

For more information on the work of the Seedbank, visit their website

Video as heard on Talkback Gardening with Jon Lamb and Ashley Walsh – Saturdays from 8.30 on 891 ABC Adelaide.

September 2016 Winning Picture

Spring is here and it was reflected in the variety and large number of entries.  Lorraine Badger and Ros Miller entered Western Australian species – Caladenia x ericksoniae (Prisoner Orchid) and Paracaelana nigrita (Flying Duck Orchid) respectively.  The other six entries were all from South Australia, Diplodium robustum (Common Green Shell Orchid), Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) both from Jane Higgs, Greg Sara’s Oligochaetochilus sp (Rufoushood), Judy Sara’s Arachnorchis leptochila (Queen Spider Orchid), Claire Chesson’s Diuris behrii (Cowslip Orchid or Golden Moths) and the outstanding winning picture Pterostylis cucullata by Bevin Scholz.

 1609-sm-bs-pterostylis-cucullata

In many ways, Bevin’s picture of P. cucullata (Leafy Greenhood) is a special picture because it represents some of the conservation work with which NOSSA is involved. For many years NOSSA has worked with the Threatened Plant Action Group (TPAG) to weed the areas in Belair where this species is located and to see such a good show of plants is encouraging.  It is a tribute to all who have contributed with their time and labour.

P. cucullata is rated Vulnerable both in South Australia and Victoria, and Endangered in Tasmania. It is also rated Vulnerable under the EPBC Act (Federal). Nationally it is known from about 110 sites with most of these sites being in Victoria and only a few sites in South Australia with Belair National Park having the largest and most important population for the state.

Historically this species covered an area of 2107 km2 in the Lofty Block region but that has now contracted by 82% to only 366 km2 with few locations. With such a reduced range, recovery plans were developed, both at state and federal level.  The plans examined the risks and threats to the survival of the different populations.

One of the threats to this orchid is fire, including proscribed burns.  Unlike some species such as Pyrorchis nigricans, Leptoceras menziesii or Prasophyllum elatum which flower well after fire, P. cucullata is fire sensitive; populations decline substantially.  There does not seem to be a safe time to burn for this species.  Should a population survive a burn, it would take it many years to recover.

Fire also leaves the population vulnerable to another threat, that of weed invasion.  Unfortunately, it is weedy where this species survives but over the years, a consistent, targeted weeding program has resulted in a declining weed population.  NOSSA and TPAG have appreciated the work and effort of volunteers and gladly welcome anyone else who would like to join. And one of the rewards? A beautiful, sunlit display of flowers as seen in Bevin’s picture.

Reference:

Duncan, M. (2010). National Recovery Plan for the Leafy Greenhood Pterostylis cucullata. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/14e1ae30-5cf7-4be6-8a35-2c752886c14f/files/pterostylis-cucullata.pdf

Nature Conservation Society of South Australia (2009) DRAFT RESPONSE ON THE BELAIR NATIONAL PARK TRAILS MASTERPLAN: PRELIMINARY ISSUE January 2009  http://www.ncssa.asn.au/images/stories/ncssasubmission_belairnptrails_masterplan_jan09_final.pdf

Quarmby, J.P. (2010) Recovery Plan for Twelve Threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region of South Australia 2010. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/e362cfd2-a37b-443a-b007-db3a2b7b64dd/files/lofty-block-orchids-recovery-plan.pdf

Hands On Conservation – Getting into Conservation at the Ground Level

Conservation of orchids takes many forms, one of which is weeding.  NOSSA members often assist the Threaten Plant Action Group in this area.  There are several sites where significant orchids are under threat from invasive weeds; and over the years, through consistent weeding, the weed front has been pushed back allowing the orchids an opportunity to recover and even increase in numbers.  It is an ongoing task but seeing the orchids recover makes it an encouraging task BUT …

This activity is heavily reliant upon volunteers.  And those who regularly volunteer deserve a big thank you from the community.  BUT ….

More helpers are always needed.  If you are interested in seeing the orchids, consider joining one of the weeding activities that are held throughout the year (these are advertised on this website).  Often the weeding activities target a specific weed, so it is great for a beginner who does not have an in-depth knowledge of plants.

montage-weeding

 The orchids are first marked with tags as they can be difficult to see whilst weeding but afterwards they can be clearly seen.

 

Snapshot of Australian Orchid Conservation

Internationally, there is concern about the decline of orchids as seen in the resolutions passed in May 2016 at the International Orchid Conservation Congress Conference.  In Australia, there are many orchid conservation projects in progress both in situ and ex situ.

The following are some examples of the varied work being done around the country by volunteers, orchid enthusiasts, ecologists, conservationists, academics and government departments.

And here in South Australia there are also various projects. Dr Noushka Reiter is also working with the South Australian Seedbank to help propagate four of our very threatened orchids.  Members of the Native Orchid Society are assisting as also are Paul Beltrame (teacher) and students from Kildare College through the Orchid in Schools Project.

06 sm PM Arachnorchis argocalla