Monday, 25 March 2013

Shining example of orchid conservation



Sun-orchid. What an exotic name.

But Wimmera’s metallic sun-orchid is endangered. Not only that, says Dr Noushka Reiter, from the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, it’s a vital link in Australia’s biodiversity.

“While the metallic sun-orchid in itself might not do much for people, other than its beauty, it plays a critical role,” she says in an interview.

Before the Europeans arrived, the orchid numbered in the tens of thousands. With the misguided introduction of rabbits and weeds, the species declined to just 30 in the Wimmera and 1,000 around the world.

However, and isn’t that a nice word sometimes, this year, thanks to 20 years of science and conservation work, the first wide-scale reintroduction of an endangered orchid species in Australia has meant that 3,000 metallic sun-orchids have been planted across four sites in south-west Victoria.

Dr Reiter is the team leader who has been working at the Horsham Orchid Conservation Facility where  a recent breakthrough ensured that thousands of orchids could be grown.

Orchids are rather demanding, it seems, being reliant on a fungus which, in turn, requires a certain vegetable community. But with Noushka’s help and insights, the sun-orchids will shine again.