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Collection of seed, soil and tissue samples

Orchid seeds are extremely small and don’t have a readily available store of nutrients to start the germination process.

In natural environments, the nutrients are obtained via a mycorrhizal fungus that resides in the soil and grows into the cells of the orchid embryo.

Ex situ conservation of orchid seeds therefore also requires the conservation of their fungal partners. In order to develop collections of seed and fungi that will be useful for future restoration programs we use the following protocol:

  • The orchid is identified and tagged while in flower
  • Flowers are hand-pollinated (if needed) to ensure seed set and prevent collection of hybrid seed
  • Pollinated flowers in remote locations are bagged and possibly also cagged to limit loss of seed through predation and dispersal
  • Soil samples are collected with the seed pods to enable isolation of the mycorrhizal fungus. The soil samples may be held for several months before use and still retain viable fungi.
  • We may also collect tissue samples to attempt to directly isolate mycorrhizal fungi

Habitat of Diuris callitrophila, a threatened terrestrial orchid.

Tagging helps to locate orchids on subsequent visits to field sites. This is Diuris callitrophila, a terrestrial orchid species.

Hand pollination is sometimes required to ensure seed set for threatened terrestrial orchid species.

Bagging pollinated flowers minimises seed loss due to predation and dispersal. This species is Diuris platychila, a terrestrial orchid.

A bagged Genoplesium plumosum plant at Tallong - K Sommerville

Bagging Calochilus pulchellus at Vincentia - L von Richter

Caging plants in the field to prevent predation - K Sommerville

A flower of Calochilus pulchellus after being hand pollinated - Z Newby

Obtaining a tissue sample from Thelymitra kangaloonica for isolation of mycorrhizall fungi - K Sommerville