‘Extinct’ orchid found after 70 years

By Amy Middleton 8 November 2013
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An Australian orchid thought to have gone extinct 70 years ago has been rediscovered in Victoria.

AN AUSTRALIAN ORCHID THOUGHT to be extinct has been spotted for the first time since 1941, by a team of expert eco-saviours at Bush Heritage Australia.

The robust greenhood (Pterostylis valida), which was listed as extinct under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999), has effectively been rediscovered in north-central Victoria, on a reserve at Nardoo Hills, 100km out of Bendigo.

Bush Heritage Australia bought the 817-hectare property at Nardoo Hills in 2005, adding it to their growing allocation of protected reserves. The non-profit organisation, startd by Bob Brown in 1990 currently manages 32 such reserves across the nation, each dedicated to fostering the survival of native wildlife species and their habitats.

Nardoo Hills is also home to a significant population of another species of threatened orchid, the northern golden moths (Diuris protena). Jeroen Van Veen, Field Officer the reserve, hopes the robust greenhood will grow to a similar state of opulence. “We purchased Nardoo Hills with the hope that we might find species like this,” Jeroen says. “With more searching and ongoing management of threats, we hope it will be the start of a strong comeback, like we have seen with the northern golden moths orchid.”

Orchids such as the robust greenhood waver under threat of habitat loss from such forces as ploughing, fertilizers and herbicides, grazing livestock and feral herbivores. Allowing the rare flower a chance to flourish is a matter of managing weeds around the population, and protecting the growth area from rabbits and wallabies.

As the sun sets on the international year of biodiversity, it’s extremely gratifying to hear that Bush Heritage – an organisation that toils throughout the year to nurture Aussie ecosystems – has seen its efforts rewarded with such a find, just in time for Christmas.

Bush Heritage Australia’s current vision is for one per cent of the country to be protected under the organisation by 2025. And as environmental debate drones on between the political parties, I think we would all breathe easier to know that one per cent of this land lay in the experts’ nurturing hands.