Saturday, 16 June 2012

Spiders on the web

There are only five Audas’ Spider orchid in the world, all in Victoria. State government cuts had threatened to kill off the species – and 30 other endangered orchids – until the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority launched a ground-breaking research program at Horsham, according to an article in the Australian press.

Program leader Dr Noushka Reiter will soon begin introducing 3,000 Metallic Sun orchids into south-west Victoria to help boost its population of just 30 flowering plants in Victoria and 1,000 worldwide. The reintroduction of the rarer Audas species will begin next year.

It is said to be the first large-scale reintroduction of an endangered orchid species in Australia.

Each species of flower is pollinated by a particular species of wasp via process of sexual deception’, meaning the wasp mistakes the flower for another wasp.

The tiny seeds are scattered by wind and only germinate if they land on soil occupied by mycorrhizal fungus.

A specialist laboratory will simulate this process whereby orchid seedlings are created by introducing the seed to the stringy fungi in petri dishes in large numbers.

Pictured above: Australian orchid, the Candy Spider Orchid (Caladenia versicolor)


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