With over 28,000 species, orchids are one of the largest plant families in the world. Australia is home to more than 1,800 species of orchid - the majority being ground-dwelling (terrestrial) in the temperate south of the country. Victoria has in excess of 400 species of native orchids with many occurring nowhere else on Earth. Their habitats vary from our alpine peaks to semi-arid mallee, in swamps, native grasslands, heath lands, and eucalypt forests of all types. The majority of our native orchids emerge from an underground tuber in late autumn, flower in late winter/early spring and set seed before the summer, when they retreat back to their underground tuber. All orchids are reliant on a particular type of mycorrhizal fungi in order to germinate in the wild and are often pollinated by only one species of insect.
Why do orchids need help?
Many of our native orchids are at risk of extinction. Alarmingly, 17% of all nationally threatened plants in Australia are orchids, more than any other plant family. The causes of these declines include: historic land clearing, introduced weeds, grazing by introduced animals and illegal poaching. Due to reduced numbers many species are now vulnerable to inbreeding depression, climate change and inappropriate fire regimes. Without our help many of these species won't be around for future generations to enjoy.
To continue the conservation of orchids we are currently seeking funding for propagation, pollinator distribution studies and reintroduction of five of Victoria’s most threatened species. We hope to raise $100,000 for each of: Caladenia amoena (Charming Spider-orchid), Caladenia audasii (Audas Spider-orchid), Caladenia pumila (Dwarf Spider-orchid), Caladenia rosella (Little Pink Spider-orchid) and Thelymitra mackibbinii (Brilliant Sun-orchid). If you would like to support the work of the Orchid Conservation Program, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Gardens, and add the word ‘Orchids’ in the comments box when you make your donation.
Orchid Conservation at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is entirely supported by grants and individual donations. Donations from members of the public are critical and our entire lab has been fitted out thanks to the generous donations of individuals and foundations including the Australian Orchid Foundation, The Australian Communities Foundation, The Australasian Native Orchid Society, local community groups and amazing individuals.
In 2014 the ANPC's (Australian Network for Plant Conservation) Orchid Conservation Program joined with Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria under a partnership. The resulting program is now the largest of its type in the world and, in 2020, has grown to a conservation collection of over 150 species. These include 44 nationally endangered and 16 state threatened species grown from seed for conservation and introduction. With our partner organisations, we have undertaken over 50 introductions of over 20 species of endangered native orchids across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
We aim to prevent extinction by:
- Storing a genetically diverse representation of seed and mycorrhizal fungi
- Propagating suitable numbers of each of our threatened orchids for reintroduction.
- Reintroducing these species to protected public and private land where the appropriate vegetation, climate conditions and pollinator are present.
The key to the success of our Orchid Conservation work is collaborations and relationships with many government and non-government organisations and private individuals. The work of the Orchid Conservation Program is wonderfully supported by the following partners:
- Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
- Australian Network for Plant Conservation
- Wimmera Catchment Management Authority
- NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage
- South Australian Government
- Adelaide Botanic Gardens
- Trust for Nature
- Parks Victoria
- Project Platypus
- La Trobe University
- Alcoa/Portland Aluminium
- Murray Local Landcare Services
- Corangamite Catchment Management Authority
- Australian National University
- Hindmarsh Landcare Network
- Friends of the Grampians
- Amaryllis Environmental
- Nilumbik Shire
- RMIT University
- Private landholders
The work of countless volunteers has been critical to the success of Orchid Conservation and in particular volunteers from the Australasian Native Orchid Society - Victorian Branch.