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.
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 Orchid Conservation Program undertakes research on all aspects of orchid ecology, including pollination, mycorrhizal associations, propagation, demographics and reintroduction science.