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Unravelling the secrets of the orchid

Led by RBGV's Dr Noushka Reiter and colleagues from RMIT and ANU, a recent discovery to conserving the endangered Metallic Sun Orchid (Thelymitra epipactoides) isn't in the plants you can see, but the fungi you can't. 

Now presumed extinct in NSW, this orchid survives in Western Victoria and the south-east corner of South Australia. It grows in heathland near the coast, but rising temperatures mean that some locations might not be viable in the future. 

The team have been investigating what will give this orchid the best chance of success and have discovered the importance of the mycorrhizal fungi providing nutrients and, in some, defending the plant from disease. Orchids, like many plants, are dependent on their mycorrhizal partners to survive. In this case they cannot even germinate without their fungal allies. 

Fungi are particularly important for orchid conservation. Successful re-introductions and translocations depend upon matching orchids and fungi for each location. It turns out that different fungi are needed for different habitats. You can read more about the study here.

RBGV's fantastic Orchid Conservation Program is entirely dependant on donations. If you would like to support us, please contact our Development team. ​


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