Hope for Orchid survival


The vulnerable Swamp Diuris orchid has a brighter future thanks to a fungus-focused regeneration program led by the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and Jan Juc Coast Action (JJCA).

The process has involved Royal Botanic Gardens Orchid Conservation Officer Neil Anderton, with assistance from JJCA volunteers, taking small root samples of the orchid which is growing at Bird Rock, Jan Juc.

JJCA volunteers Roma Edwards, Tom Elford, and Ian Edwards with Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale (second from left) observe Orchid Conservation Volunteer Neil Anderton as he safely removes a root sample.
JJCA volunteers Roma Edwards, Tom Elford, and Ian Edwards with Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Conservation Supervisor Georgie Beale (second from left) observe Orchid Conservation Volunteer Neil Anderton as he safely removes a root sample.

Mr. Anderton said taking the root samples was the first of many steps in the process, which would hopefully result in the production of precious orchid seedlings.

“This is a non-destructive method which means the plant usually continues to grow as it would before the procedure,” he said.

After the roots were removed from the plants’ stems using sterilized equipment, Mr. Anderton worked with Nursery Technician Chris Jenek to extract crucial fungi which will be used to create healthy, thriving Swamp Diurus seedlings for future planting.

The exposed roots of the Swamp Diurus orchid. Neil removed the healthy root growing on the left side to for the fungi extraction.
The exposed roots of the Swamp Diurus orchid. Neil removed the healthy root growing on the left side to for the fungi extraction.

Neil Anderton said land clearance was a major contributor in the dwindling orchid species population, with very few Swamp Diurus communities remaining.

“I have assessed the area and estimate there are around 50 plants flowering or in bud at BirdRock presently.

“There are Swamp Diurus populations inland near St Arnaud, Stawell and Nhill, and further west from Port Campbell.

“However, land clearance has reduced the species range dramatically, meaning it is now listed as vulnerable in Victoria,” he said.

The beautiful Swamp Diurus orchid is listed as vulnerable in Victoria with one of the few communities remaining in Jan Juc.
The beautiful Swamp Diurus orchid is listed as vulnerable in Victoria with one of the few communities remaining in Jan Juc.

JJCA Volunteer Ian Edwards attended the Swamp Diurus recovery day, helping Mr. Anderton collect the fungi samples.

“We hope to learn more about the Swamp Diurus plant and how we can help protect it for future generations,” he said.

Jan Juc Coast Volunteers Tom Elford (left) and Ian Edwards share their conservation beliefs at the orchid-recovery day.
Jan Juc Coast Volunteers Tom Elford (left) and Ian Edwards share their conservation beliefs at the orchid-recovery day.

Mr Edwards, a long-term member of JJCA since 1994, said land degradation had resulted in severe impacts on the indigenous floral population, as had introduced species.

“From 1860 onwards, sheep and cattle grazed on the fragile land for about 100 years.

“Plants brought in from other countries and even other parts of Australia have also severely impacted on native species.

“Weed seedlings have spread to local land where they compete for survival with (often weaker) indigenous species, gradually killing them,” he said.

Neil Anderton of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne takes all the necessary precautions, ensuring the Swamp Diurus has the best chance of survival.
Neil Anderton of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne takes all the necessary precautions, ensuring the Swamp Diurus has the best chance of survival.

If you would like support the JJCA’s environmental work, contact Luke Hynes on 0406 113 438 or click here for more information on other groups operating in our region.

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