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Our orchid projects and publications

The Orchidaceae family is well represented on state and federal threatened species lists. In NSW, 81 taxa are currently listed under NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, 25% of which are critically endangered (June 2020). Threatening processes such as habitat loss, browsing by native and exotic herbivores, small population size and protracted drought have contributed to these declines. In addition to this, catastrophic climate change is likely to place additional pressures on populations in the future.

Recent projects

  • Research funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Albury resulted in successful propagation and translocation of Diuris callitrophila. Watch the video tracking the first few years of this project.
  • Research on a population of Diuris platichila (previously thought to be Diuris bracteata) showed that mycorrhizal fungi from one sub-population were considerably better at initiating germination than fungi from other sub-populations. Read about this project in Tierney et al. (2017).
  • Investigations into the Ecology, Biology and Genetics of the Endangered Terrestrial Orchid, Microtis angusii (Angus’s Onion Orchid). Project funded by Roads and Maritime Services, New South Wales (Project Number: 13.2592.2001; 2013-2015)

Current projects

Ex situ conservation techniques developed for several threatened orchid genera have significantly reduced their risk of extinction. Translocation has enabled threatened species practitioners to increase orchid population sizes, maximise genetic diversity and protect populations from deleterious stochastic events. Furthermore, ex situ conservation techniques improve the adaptive capacity of orchid taxa to survive climate change by providing opportunities to establish new populations in more suitable climate envelopes.

Orchids have crucial relationships with mycorrhizal fungi which are essential for seed germination and plant survival. Consequently, raising plant stock for the purposes of translocation requires complex laboratory techniques to identify and isolate orchid mycorrhizae. We currently have two projects attempting to better understand the germination and propagation requirements of eight terrestrial orchid species from NSW. These projects will contribute to successfully translocation of these species, their conservation, and the conservation of other closely related species.

Improving ex situ techniques to support threatened orchid translocations (Genoplesium and Prasophyllum species). Project funded by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, commenced July 2018.

Project description

There are twelve threatened Prasophyllum and seven threatened Genoplesium species with conservation projects developed under the Saving Our Species program in NSW. To date, no techniques have been developed to effectively germinate and raise seedlings for the purposes of translocation. This project aims to answer the following research questions:
  1. Which fungi are required to germinate Prasophyllum and Genoplesium seeds?
  2. What is the optimal medium required for fungal growth to germinate seeds for Prasophyllum and Genoplesium?
  3. What temperatures are optimal for the germination of Prasophyllum and Genoplesium as well as the survival of their mycorrhizal fungi?
  4. What are the optimal nursery conditions that enable mature ex situ plants to survive?
Using their specialised laboratory facilities, the Australian Plant Bank are developing orchid propagation techniques for these two genera. The PlantBank scientists are working closely with Saving our Species Threatened Species Officers who are responsible for the recovery of selected Prasophyllum and Genoplesium taxa. 

Expected outcomes of the project

  • Development of orchid propagation techniques to enable the establishment of ex situ Prasophyllum and Genoplesium populations.
  • Identification and isolation of mycorrhizal fungi that play a crucial role in the germination and survival of Prasophyllum and Genoplesium;
  • Symbiotic germination of target Prasophyllum and Genoplesium taxa
The four species that are the focus of this project are G. plumosum, G. rhyoliticum, P. affine and P. petilum.
 

This project has been supported by the New South Wales Government's Saving our Species program through its Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

  

Genoplesium plumosum stems maintained for seed collection - K Sommerville

The inflorescence of Genoplesium rhyoliticum - G Phillips

Genoplesium rhyoliticum plant collected from the field with all remaining soil removed- Z Newby

The inflorescence of Prasophyllum affine - K Sommerville

Seedlings of Prasophyllum petilum raised from soil baiting experiments - K Sommerville

Developing ex situ propagation techniques and supporting future translocations for threatened orchids southern NSW. Project funded by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, and commenced in 2019.

Project description

There are several threatened orchid species with conservation projects developed under the Saving Our Species program in NSW. This project aims to develop techniques to effectively germinate and raise seedlings for four species occurring in southern NSW – Calochilus pulchellus, Caladenia tessellata, Pterostylis despectans and Thelymitra kangaloonica. Specifically, the aims are to:
  1. Isolate and culture the fungi required to germinate the seeds of each species
  2. Determine the most suitable culture medium for fungal growth and seed germination
  3. Determine suitable conditions for seedling growth and survival ex situ
  4. Develop and maintain a collection of plants suitable for translocation
To achieve these aims, the Australian Plant Bank will work closely with Saving our Species Threatened Species Officers who are responsible for the recovery of the target taxa. Coordinators will provide in kind support for the project by leading field trips to hand pollinate plants as well as collect soil, seed and plant material.

Expected outcomes of the project

  • Development of orchid propagation techniques to enable the establishment of ex situ populations of the target species.
  • Identification and isolation of mycorrhizal fungi that play a crucial role in the germination and survival of the target species;
  • Symbiotic germination of target taxa.

This project has been supported by the New South Wales Government's Saving our Species program through its Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Caladenia tessellata in flower - Z Newby

Calochilus pulchellus in flower - Z Newby

A plant of Pterostylis despectans in its natural habitat- Z Newby

A flowering spike of Thelymitra kangaloonica - Z Newby

  
Publications