Friday, 3 January 2014

Giant comeback for stars of the swamp

It might grow to the height of a man, with bright flowers are as large as a saucer, but giant swamp orchids are still hard to spot.

Arguably one of the world's most endangered plant species with just 100 growing in the wild, Australian scientists think they've found the answer to propagating the orchid, claims a report.

Griffith University's Professor Roderick Drew has used tissue from one giant swamp orchid to reproduce between 200 and 300 others in a lab setting.

Orchids have tiny seeds, like particles of dust, which are tricky to handle. According to Professor Drew, ‘once you do manage to tissue culture an orchid … you can multiply it in the laboratory and go a long way towards saving it’. Encouraging news, especially as  plant tissue culture technology could be used to resurrect other endangered plant species, according to the professor.

Micropropagation involves using cells from one plant and growing another in a light and temperature-controlled laboratory. The lab orchids will be transferred to a nursery before being planted in the wild.

Its red-brown flowers measure as much as 12cm wide and smell similar to jasmine. It’s probably that it’s in decline because people are so impressed by its size and beauty they dig it up or pick the flowers.

By Pamela Kelt 

Pictured: a Phaius orchid, Magnus Manske