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

Advertisements

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 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

NOSSA 2012 – 2016

The Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA) is affiliated with the national body of native orchid society, Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS).  NOSSA regularly sends reports of its to ANOS.  This year’s report covered four years of the society’s activities and is reproduced here to give readers an idea of the many things that we do.  This report was produced by Robert Lawrence (currently Vice President).

NOSSA REPORT 2012 to 2016

I believe that the last annual report from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia was in 2011 when we were just commencing a three-year plan with the establishment of a series of subcommittees. All of the committees have since ceased to exist, but not without significant accomplishments.

The Website Subcommittee had established a website, but a Webmaster has since been appointed. The website now uses WordPress and is maintained so that its management could easily be transferred to another person. The website provides a weekly educational post about Australian orchids. It has also provided a point of contact from those outside of the Society. It is linked to a Facebook page that increases the profile of NOSSA among those interested in orchids throughout Australia and beyond.

The Education Subcommittee had established a picture competition at the monthly general meetings. There is still only a small number of contributors, but many excellent pictures are shared. The winning picture from each meeting is used as a basis of one of the weekly posts on the website.

Advertising v1

The Education Subcommittee had a vision to produce a brochure of 20 common orchids of the Adelaide region for free distribution to the general public. The NRM (Natural Resources Management) Education ran with the idea and produced a poster of Common native orchids of the Adelaide Hills. This provided brief, but comprehensive, profiles of 29 native orchids and the weedy species. This has been printed as a double-sided poster and is available from the website of Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges. NOSSA members worked with NRM staff on the details of the poster and NOSSA members contributed many of the photographs. This poster was completed and launched in April 2015.

NOSSA also provided monetary assistance as a loan with the publication of the field guide entitled, Start with the leaves. A field guide to common orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills. This guide covered 50 orchid species as well as native lilies and some weeds in the Iridaceae family that are sometimes mistaken as orchids. The contribution of $8,000 was recovered only 8 months after publication.

The Disc Publication Sub-editing Subcommittee saw the publication of South Australia’s Native Orchids on DVD discs in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both the DVD and the book were published in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both continue to sell.

Title Page

A new subcommittee has been established in February 2016 to oversee the publication of a field guide, expected to be called Wild Orchids of South Australia.  It is proving to be a challenge to be brief enough to reduce the information to a size suitable for a field guide. (Editor’s note: it has since been decided to defer this until after the development of the interactive website, see below.)

NOSSA members have being working since 2014 to establish an interactive website and database modelled on the Go Botany website run by the New England Wild Flower Society in the USA. This was supported by a grant from the Australian Orchid Foundation.  The project is called Wild Orchid Watch. It is hoped to produce an interactive, web-based orchid identification tool. Recording sightings through such means as apps on mobile telephones are also being investigated.

In 2014 NOSSA made a donation to help establish the Orchid Conservation Program. This was led by Dr Noushka Reiter. Once established, staff in the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources began to organise a trial with four threatened orchid species from South Australia. Noushka visited South Australia during 2015 and collected samples from each of these species and isolated fungi from these. Seed was also collected and work on propagation commenced in 2015. During 2016 NOSSA sponsored the propagation of one of the four species through the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Caladenia gladiolata, an endemic species, was selected.

20150922_210750

Paul Beltrame, a secondary teacher at Kildare College, contacted and joined NOSSA during 2014 with the interest in getting girls at this school involved in the propagation of native orchids. A program was organised modelled in the Orchids in Schools program run by the Orchid Club of South Australia with Les Nesbitt’s involvement.

A delegation from Kildare College, ably assisted by their enthusiastic laboratory assistant Nenah McKenzie, visited Noushka in Melbourne and learnt the technique for separating and growing fungi. They have since separated fungi from two of our more common greenhood species and supplied this for seed kits that were made available to members as a trial at the start of the 2016 growing season.

The trial of seed kits was done for Pterostylis nana and Pterostylis sanguinea. A trial was conducted in this growing season of seed kits for members. Kits included a pot, growing media, seed, fungus, mulch and instructions. There seems to be limited success with the current round, but improvements are planned from the lessons learnt. One particular growing mix proved successful with a small number of seedlings appearing. The contribution of the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College has been necessary for the isolation and production of fungi for the kits.

In October 2012 Cathy Houston and Robert Lawrence collected seed of Pterostylis arenicola from the only population on the Adelaide plains after monitoring in September indicated a good year for seed production. The seed was germinated in 2013 and was deflasked at a working bee at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens in early August 2016. The students from the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College participated. Latest reports are that 40 plants look like surviving. These will be used for seed production and for reintroduction.

Oligochaetochilus arenicolaHL

Typical of the rufus hood this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum. Photographer: H Lawrence

In 2012 NOSSA was asked to care for and propagate rescued Diuris behrii plants from Hillgrove Resources Mining Lease near Kanmantoo in the Mt. Lofty Ranges. The plan was to maintain the rescued orchid clones in cultivation for several years and to produce additional plants for reintroduction within the mining lease area each Autumn. A comprehensive recording and auditing system has been put in place to track each clone and any seed/daughter tubers/plants. By August 2015 there were 609 plants with 75 original mother plants. There were 95 daughter plants returned to the site for revegetation in each of the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, a total of 285 plants.

Funding from Hillgrove Resources has assisted NOSSA financially and has made it possible to consider funding conservation work. NOSSA is planning to apply for charity status so that donations can be used for tax deductions. Donations will then be feasible through our website. We are also starting an orchid seed bank. Seed will be available only to members and it is hoped that this will increase our membership. There is a demand for Australian orchids overseas and it is hoped that this will become a means for raising funds for conservation. Other means of fund-raising such as sausage sizzles and selling kits for craftwork are also being considered.

NOSSA members still continue to be involved in surveys and monitoring threatened orchids.  Members have been involved in the planning of monitoring.

montage-weeding

Weeding and Monitoring, two of NOSSA’s conservation activities

The management committee of NOSSA is currently working on a revision to the Rules of Association. In the current version there is a two-year limit on the term of the President of two years. In the first 16 years from 1977 there were there were eight different presidents before one had a second term. Bill Dear was president in alternate terms until he retired and moved to Western Australia in 2012. Robert Lawrence was elected president in March 2014, but for the first time in 2016 there were no nominations for president and he was nominated to the role of vice president with no other nominations. The management committee has appointed a subcommittee to review the Rules in relation to the terms of the president. Another change planned is change from having monthly general meetings to having less formal monthly meetings at which no decisions are made or minutes kept. All resolutions will require calling a formal special meeting. This idea is adapted from the approach used by ANOS Victoria.

Over the last two years NOSSA has asked new and renewing members to complete a survey of their interests. This has proved to be an effective way of getting information on the interests of our members with 79 responses, this being about half of the number of memberships. This is an overall summary of the results ranked according to number of responses:

 Area of interest

Responses Percentage
General Orchid Knowledge 53 67%
Field Trips 48 61%
Photography 47 59%
Conservation 46 58%
Growing Terrestrials 35 44%
Surveys 30 38%
Growing Epiphytes 28 35%
Citizen Science 20 26%

At its establishment NOSSA was primarily a Society of orchid growers. These figures reflect a decline in interest in growing orchids. The figures are somewhat surprising in that the numbers interested in growing orchids are much larger than the number of growers. Presumably some of these are interested in learning with a view to getting involved with growing later.  At least we hope this is the case.

We are certainly noticing a decline both in our numbers of growers and in members involved in surveys due to age and health.

The greatest number expressed an interest in general knowledge and we are relying on the Journal and the Website help to keep people interested and informed. Next was field trips, but we haven’t had that many that have attended field trips in in the last few years. Only 11 of those who expressed an interested in field trips are not interested in photography, the next item of interest, and only 10 people interested in photography were not interested in field trips. Not many of these share their photographs at monthly meetings. We are hoping to get members to make their photographs available for the identification guides.

Bearded Orchid

Bearded Orchid Photo: Helen Lawrence

It is pleasing that 58% are interested in conservation, thus supporting the efforts of our Conservation Officer.

Growing terrestrial orchids was next on the list; we hope that the tuber bank and the NOSSA Seed Kits are meeting the demand from members. Twenty-two of the 41 interested in growing orchids are interested in growing both terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. Only 8 of the respondents are bringing plants to meetings and a couple of others have not completed the survey. Of those interested in growing terrestrial orchids, one is a former grower and another is interested in growing them in situ at revegetation sites.

Thirty members expressed an interest in doing orchid surveys and three of these are interested in participating in the future, presumably when more time is available.

Citizen science is a new concept to many and came last in our list of interests. One who did not indicate an interest said he was monitoring orchids at a particular site; this has been taken as an interest. Surveys are certainly one form of citizen science and only 2 of those who indicated an interest in citizen science did not indicate an interest in being involved in surveys now or in the future. Thirteen of the 30 interested in surveys did not express an interest in citizen science. If these were included, interest in citizen science would be 43%.

Only seven members indicated an interest in all of the categories and one of these wants to keep in touch with the club and with old friends.

The Annual Spring Show in September 2015 was a particular success, largely due to the efforts of one our new members in promoting the show through local media and by other means. We also benefited from the donation of collections of growers who had decided not to continue with their collections.

Garden display

Annual NOSSA Spring Show

NOSSA has continued to maintain a tuber bank that is available for members. A small number of our members are also members of ANOS Victoria, and have obtained tubers from their collection. This is hopefully contributing to the variety of terrestrial orchids grown by our members.

Working bees continued to be conducted in association with the Threatened Plant Action Group at Belair National Park for improving habitat for the nationally endangered Pterostylis cucullata (Leafy Greenhood), at Grange Golf Club to protect and monitor Pterostylis arenicola (Sandhill Greenhood) this being nationally vulnerable and locally endangered and on York Peninsula in conjunction with a local Friends group for the nationally endangered Caladenia intuta.

NOSSA has for many years used Australian Orchid Club (AOC) judges and knowledgeable members, who have all studied the ANOS judging rules, to judge orchids at NOSSA monthly meetings and shows. As the number of judges has fallen in recent years, judging training sessions have had to been discontinued. We wait in anticipation for a proposed ANOS judges correspondence course, as we have for more than 10 years. There are at least three AOC judges interested in the ANOS judging correspondence course. It is disappointing that ANOS Awards are still limited to Queensland, New South Wates and Victoria.

In summary, NOSSA continues to be active in many ways and these activities are working together to support each other.

Interested in these activities, why not join up and get involved.  Click here for Membership details.

10 sm RAL Diuris brevifolia

Diuris brevifolia (Late Donkey Orchid)

 

 

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

 

Orchids the Flagship Plant Group: How Do We Protect Them?

This week’s post is taken from the IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group Facebook post concerning Resolution decided upon at the final session of the International Orchid Conservation Congress Conference, held in May 2016 at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Hong Kong

It was posted by Michael Fay of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  He is also the Chair of the IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group.  According to their website, “The Orchid Specialist Group is a global network of experts who volunteer their time and expertise to build a scientific and practical foundation for the conservation of orchids (Orchidaceae).”

(A list of the meanings of acronyms appears at the end of this post.)

Michael’s post follows

Here are the Resolutions from the final session of IOCC VI in Hong Kong:

03 KK sm Sarcochilus falcatus Mt Banda Banda

Orchids are a flagship plant group with a high profile in human culture. They are known from all vegetated continents on earth but their occurrence reflects patterns in the global distribution of biodiversity and their intricate ecological associations, particularly with pollinators and mycorrhizal fungi, reflect sensitive ecosystem processes. Accordingly, orchids are indicators of ecosystem and climate health. Many orchids and their associated biota have been exposed to a variety of threats as a direct consequence of human-driven global change, with almost half of the ca. 27,000 known species now potentially at risk of extinction. Delegates of the IOCC support all efforts to research and mitigate these threats and secure environments on which orchids depend, and are committed to achieving meaningful conservation by recommending that:

  1. The creation of orchid enhanced habitats is a priority for ecological restoration.
  2. Enhanced in situ orchid protection requires the creation of orchid reserves. These will benefit a wide array of other species and biological communities and can be financed through various public and private sources.
  3. The international and domestic wild plant trade is widely recognised by governments and civil society as a major threat to the persistence of many orchid species, and that its curtailment requires concerted government action and enforcement.
  4. The propagation and cultivation of threatened orchids by small and local orchid enterprises should be supported for the sustainable production of orchids used in horticulture, medicine and food.
  5. Orchid cultivation should be licensed and audited by government or other government-approved body through a national (or international) accreditation scheme that specifies adequate safeguards to ensure best practice. Propagated orchids should be traceable and distinguishable from wild orchids so as to minimise the risk of laundering wild plants.
  6. National, regional and international networks should be established and strengthened for promoting in situ and ex situ orchid conservation.
  7. The next generation of orchid taxonomists, ecologists and conservationists is nurtured through improved training, education, publicity and awareness-raising programmes.

    Paracaleana minor 123DM

    Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid) Photo: David Manglesdorf

  8. Members shall strengthen the work of OSG by:
  • Facilitating and conducting national and global Red Listing of orchids, and contributing to the Sampled Red List Index (SRLI);
  • Monitoring and reporting on the illegal trade in orchids to national enforcement agencies and to TRAFFIC;
  • Reviving Orchid Conservation International as a vehicle for web-based education and channelling funding to orchid conservation programmes, along the lines of Birdlife International;
  • Embracing social media and other web-based interactive tools as dynamic and effective means of stimulating communication, raising awareness and building networks;
  • Using citizen science as an effective means of motivating individuals and amateur groups to record orchid occurrence (e.g. OrchidMap, iNaturalist) and help scale-up the collection of verifiable data;
  • Establishing and maintaining a global database of orchid reintroductions (including both successes and failures) and ex situ orchid collections that can be accessed and updated by members and which is linked to the IUCN Reintroduction Specialist Group;
  • Creating new sub-groups focusing on trade and molecular identification, to reflect important cross-cutting themes and challenges.

Thanks to Stephan Gale and Phil Cribb for producing the final version of these.

Bearded Orchid

Calochilus cupreus (Bearded Orchid)  Photo: Helen Lawrence

IOCC VI refers to the International Orchid Conservation Congress Conference was held in May 2016 at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Hong Kong

IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature

OSG: Orchid Specialist Groups

SSC: Species Survival Commission

TRAFFIC: Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce

Orchid Specialist Group Website: http://www.iucn.org/species/ssc-specialist-groups/about/ssc-specialist-groups-and-red-list-authorities-directory-7

Caladenia procera

Gleanings From The Journals: Who Was Our First Conservation Officer?

As the following article indicates there is much to be learnt from the old journals so much so that from time to time there will be a series of posts titled Gleanings from the Journals.

This first of the series was taken from Volume 36 No 10, November 2012 Journal of the Native Orchid of South Australia.

WHO WAS OUR FIRST CONSERVATION OFFICER?

Recently I’ve been looking over the old NOSSA Journals. I like (my husband says addictive!) reading history and even more reading original source material, so it’s not surprising that I’ve enjoyed this activity. There are some lovely gems in them. I like to read about the people, which brings me to the title of this article – Who was our first Conservation Officer?

Well if you ask Thelma Bridle, she’ll say that it was Karen Possingham but when I read in the April 1984 edition, I see that Margaret Fuller is said to be “the initiator of the Conservation Group” back in 1982. Margaret had a long involvement with the Bird Care and Conservation Group. She headed the NOSSA group who collaborated with the Education Department to produce Pic-a-Pac, an orchid teaching package for the schools.

Yet was Margaret the first? For I then read of two foundational members. Roy Hargreaves who is described as a “keen conservationist, ambassador and liaison person with numerous groups including SGAP, OCSA, Parks and Wildlife, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Black Hill Flora Research Centre, … an initiator of the R. S. Rogers Orchid House.” The other is Ron Robjohns who “drafted the Society’s Constitution and By-laws and formulated the Society’s Conservation Policy.” But ….. there is a third contender amongst the founding members – Peter Hornsby, the Society’s first editor and an organiser of field trips. Peter was always putting articles in the Journals relating to conservation. A keen conservationist and current member, he resigned his role as editor in 1981 to “concentrate on his study of the behaviour of the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby in the North Flinders Ranges.” And yet we could continue for there were other foundational members who took a keen interest in conservation.

So who was our first Conservation Officer? Well, Thelma is right. It was Karen Possingham. She was the first one to have the title Conservation Officer when she was appointed to the role in March 1992 – fifteen years after the founding of the Society, and remained in that role until May 1997 when she became a councillor with the Burnside City Council. Karen formalised many activities, organizing bi-monthly meetings, Conservation Booths at the various NOSSA shows, lobbying, weeding, etc

Below is her report of their first meeting.

CONSERVATION GROUP PRIORITIES SET                                       K. Possingham

The first meeting of the 1992 NOSSA Orchid Conservation Sub-Committee was held on Wednesday 15th April. The following priorities were set at the meeting:

1) Lobby politicians; resolution to write letters to the Minister of the Environment, to National Parks and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Planning, Woods and Forests and Leaders of the Opposition Parties, and request a meeting in July to discuss Orchid Conservation strategy.

Liaise with other Conservation groups such as the Conservation Council; join at first as an Association Member and find out about South Australia’s conservation concerns and needs.

3) Monitor Hills Zone development; – liaise with Mt. Lofty Ranges Conservation Association.

4) Prioritise high risk sites that are not managed properly and in danger of clearance, habitat degradation etc.

5) In short term adopt a Reserve such as Belair National Park in order to monitor known Orchid populations, raise Society profile and provide assistance in weeding and other such requirements. This will provide conservation experience for members. There is easy access to Belair from Adelaide and the park and conservation activities should appeal to younger members as well as older members: we’ll be doing something concrete!

6) Possibility to apply for funding from Endangered Species Program, World Wildlife Fund and Save the Bush, to work on endangered orchids.

7) Education: area at Warrawong to be fenced off from animals for native orchids to be established and protected.

Meetings are to be held bi-monthly: Next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10th June at 8

P.M. Anyone is welcome. Enquiries Karen Possingham, Conservation Officer, ph 364 0671.

Karen remained involved with the Conservation Group until the family moved to Queensland in 2000 where her husband Hugh took a chair in the departments of Mathematics and Biological Sciences at the University of Queensland. Prior to leaving Adelaide, Hugh had been President of the Nature Conservation Council, Professor of Environmental Science and Management at Adelaide University and instrumental in initiating biodiversity planning in South Australia. Hugh has made various trips back to Adelaide will be back here on 27th November to talk about Citizen Science prior to the Uni SA and ABC 891 Great Koala Count the next day.

I have wandered a bit from Karen as NOSSA’s first Conservation Officer but from what I can see in reading the Journals Hugh and Karen worked together in conservation and though no longer in South Australia are still actively involved in conservation. The objectives of that first meeting Karen left with NOSSA and continues to this day, albeit with changes to adapt to current issues and thinking.

Protect Our Orchids – Stay on the Path

This week there was a workshop South Lofty Block Orchid Recovery Project with representatives from Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management, SA Water, Forestry SA, Park Rangers, Threatened Plant Action Group and NOSSA. Many issues were discussed. One issue briefly discussed was the development of unofficial bike and walking tracks in parks and the negative impact that this would have on rare and endangered orchids.

This issue is not unique to Australia, the American Orchid Society whose mantra is Education, Conservation and Research published in their journal Orchid February 2008 a summary article titled Watch Your Step: Possible Consequences of Walking off the Trail.  The authors are Maryilyn H.S. Light and Michael Mcconaill and the original paper can be found in the Lankesteriana 7:294 – 298  Click on the titles to read the articles.

The researchers studied the effects of visiting a site once a day and standing in the same spot for 10 minutes ie the effects of trampling. Their research suggested that there are possible longer term consequences as they found that the effects of compaction was still observable 18 months later. This does not seem like much but it was sufficient for them to offer some advice such as

  • stay on the tracks,
  • don’t walk on the side as even walking on the side of the track can result in unintended damage as the track is widened,
  • when one person walks off the track others are likely to follow
  • think carefully of the consequences before walking off the track
  • where possible step on rocks, not soil

The research was carried out in Canada and though there are differences between the two countries, there are so many similarities it is worth our while to take note of their advice.

Possibly there is scope for research here in South Australia but in the meantime their summary sentence says it all – Until we know what is happening beneath our feet, we should really watch our step

Stay on the Path

Fortunately our orchids like the edges of paths and so the are easy to spot.  But at the same time, trampling on the edge of the paths means that the orchids can be destroyed and so be lost forever.

Related Article

Orchid Etiquette – Tread Carefully

Understanding the Conservation Status of South Australia Orchids

Endangered, Threatened or Rare?

Sometimes a particular species of orchid is said to be rare or endangered, for instance Thelymitra circumsepta* is listed as endangered in South Australia but has no listing federally whilst the endemic Prasophyllym murfetii* is listed as Critically Endangered federally but only Endangered in South Australia.

Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel's Leek Orchid)

Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel’s Leek Orchid)

What do these listings mean and why are they different for the same species?

What are the Conservation Categories?

Conservation listing by governments gives species a legal status, which can then be used to determine the type of consideration to be given to individual species in decision-making processes for species conservation.

In South Australia, the two main legislations affecting native orchids are the state National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (NPW) and the national Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPB). There is also the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List which is used for international treaties. Each has their own set of categories resulting in terms with slightly different meanings.

The IUCN classification is quite detailed but in summary the conservation status used are

  • Extinct – not seen for fifty years or despite intensive searching not seen at a previously known site
  • Extinct in the Wild – no natural populations exist; only surviving in cultivation
  • Critically Endangered – known only from a single non-viable population
  • Endangered – in danger of extinction unless the factors causing decline are arrested
  • Vulnerable – likely to become endangered if the only large populations is wiped out for whatever reason
  • Near Threatened – close to qualifying or likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future
  • Least Concern
  • Data Deficient
  • Not Evaluated

The Australian Federal government, under Section 179 of the EPBC Act, has six categories

  • Extinct – no reasonable doubt that the species has died out
  • Extinct in the Wild – no natural population existing, surviving in cultivation
  • Critically Endangered – faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future
  • Endangered – faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future
  • Vulnerable – faces a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium term future
  • Conservation Dependent – if the cessation of a specific conservation program ceased the species could become vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered

South Australia uses three categories based on the categories from the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.

  • Endangered (Schedule 7) – includes Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild and Extinct
  • Vulnerable (Schedule 8)
  • Rare (Schedule 9) – this is a South Australian term not recognised elsewhere but the criteria are consistent with the IUCN Near Threatened category and refers to uncommon species that are naturally limited in location or are in decline. Hence it is possible for a species to be common interstate but threatened in South Australia, for example Anzybas unguiculatus* is rated rare.
07 sm JP Anzybas unguiculatus 2

Anzybas unguiculatus (Little Pelican or Cherry Helmet Orchids)

Another term that is frequently used is Threatened. For the IUCN Threatened encompasses the three categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable. It means that a species rated as threatened with extinction under these three categories may have different degrees of threat – note the adjectives in the IUCN definitions above. This serves as a guideline for its usage in South Australia. It should also be noted that Threatened and Rare are not interchangeable but a species rated Rare may be threatened by outside influences.

There is another level of conservation which is the regional status. This level does not have any legal standing but it is helpful in managing the species. The IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria are used to assign a regional conservation status. This is helpful in managing species at this level.

Why does a species have different Conservation Categories?

Looking through Part Two of South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011, it is not uncommon to find a species with two different conservation statuses. It is not surprising when they have the same status eg Arachnorchis behrii* is rated Endangered both state and nationally but why are the others different? Some of this is due to the different number of categories – six federally but only three at the state level so Diplodium bryophilum* is nationally Critically Endangered but only Endangered in South Australia as there is no critically Endangered category. Others have a state status but no national status, for example the endemic Diuris brevifolia* is rated Endangered. Curiously there are no endemic species with the combination of a national status but no state status, although there are five non-endemic species found in South Australia that do have this combination.

Diuris brevifolia (Late Donkey Orchid)

Diuris brevifolia (Late Donkey Orchid)

This comes about because there are two different bodies determining the statuses through two very different processes.

Nationally under the EPBC Act any individual can nominate a species which is assessed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, put out for public comment, changes adjusted as necessary and then the recommendations are passed onto the Minister who approves or rejects the nomination.

In South Australia, DEWNR (Department Environment Water and Natural Resources) initiates the process by asking the experts, compiling data, holding workshops with the experts. A report is written for the National Parks and Wildlife Council outlining the changes under the NPW Threatened Species Schedules. Once the changes are approved, it is sent to the Minister for approval before being released for public comment. After any necessary adjustments the report is then sent to the South Australian Parliamentary Cabinet for final approval.

Both processes check the species under consideration against the IUCN criteria.

How many South Australian orchids are under threat?

On 22nd July 2014, Doug Bickerton presented a talk at the Native Orchid Society on the conservation status of South Australian orchids. The comparison between the State and Federal listings was as follows:

Number of Orchids with a Conservation Status under the NPW Act (State)

  • 77 species Endangered
  • 33 species Vulnerable
  • 32 species Rare

A total of 142 species or 49% of all South Australian orchids are recognised to be under threat.

Number of Orchids with a Conservation Status under the EPBC Act (Federal)

  • 4 Critically Endangered
  • 22 Endangered
  • 19 Vulnerable

A total of 45 species for the State have a Federal government legal conservation status.

The fact that one authority recognises a species and the other authority does not doesn’t mitigate against the seriousness of the threat to that species. The fact that a species does not have a conservation status from either authority does not mean that it is not under threat. It could still be in danger of extinction.

Cryptostylis subulata (Moose Orchid)

Cryptostylis subulata (Moose Orchid) State Conservation Status: Vulnerable National Conservation Status: not listed

Currently in South Australian there is a State-wide assessment underway and the results will be published in 2016.

This article was inspired and is based upon notes taken from a talk given by Doug Bickerton in 2014 at the Native Orchid Society of South Australia. I would like to thank Thelma Bridle, Conservation Officer, Native Orchid Society of South Australia, for her help.

*Based on information found in South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011

References:

South Australia’s Native Orchids Bates 2011

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/species#categories accessed 13th November 2015

http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/managing-natural-resources/Plants_Animals/Threatened_species_ecological_communities/Conservation_status_of_threatened_species/State accessed 13th November 2015

IUCN RED LIST CATEGORIES AND CRITERIA Version 3.1 Second edition Prepared by the IUCN Species Survival Commission As approved by the 51st meeting of the IUCN Council Gland, Switzerland 9 February 2000