Safeguarding Nillumbik’s Charming Spider-orchid from extinction


Council and its project partners are celebrating a significant milestone in an on-going collaborative project to save the nationally critically endangered Charming Spider-orchid (Caladenia amoena) from extinction.

The Nillumbik Threatened Orchid Recovery Team came together to plant 400 Orchids at three sites across Melbourne’s outer North East, in an effort to increase the wild populations ten times over and reducing the risk of extinction.

This dainty orchid, which grows to just 12 centimetres, is one of Australia’s most endangered plants. It is currently only found in Nillumbik across three sites, with less than 50 plants left in the wild.

Scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Orchid Conservation Program have successfully propagated the orchid using seeds collected from the three Nillumbik populations.

Boosting existing populations and increasing the number of sites with secure populations reduces the risks from climate change as well as fire, drought and disease. Council has committed to ongoing management, to support the orchid and its habitat, which will benefit other species within the reserve.

Nillumbik’s Senior Environment Project Officer, Warren Tomlinson explained that the tiny plant had a sophisticated, symbiotic relationship with its ecosystem.

“It relies on and at the same time supports a specific sub-soil mycorrhizal fungi and is pollinated by a native wasp,” Mr Tomlinson said.

“Getting more plants into protected areas in Council’s bushland reserves is a significant milestone for the project, and its taken seven years to get to this point. We have a long way to go to ensure plants survive and create sustainable long term populations,” he said.

“It’s essential we keep these locations secret to prevent people taking orchids or inadvertent trampling of habitat from keen photographers and orchid lovers.”

Nillumbik Mayor Ben Ramcharan said that Council’s involvement in the collaboration reflects an ongoing commitment to protecting and enhancing Nillumbik’s biodiversity.

“This project is a practical example of our commitment to protecting the biodiversity of our Shire”, Cr Ramcharan said.

“We’ve heard through recent community engagement for our draft Biodiversity Strategy that the Nillumbik community expects us to be leaders in biodiversity and our new strategy has a commitment to no new extinctions in Nillumbik.”

In the long-term it is hoped that these new plantings of Charming Spider-orchid will form sustainable populations.

The project team consists of Council’s Strategic Planning and Environment team members, and representatives from Department of Energy Environment and Climate Action, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Australian Native Orchid Society Victoria, Parks Victoria, Australian National University, and expert volunteers.

To learn more about the range of native plants that call Nillumbik home go to: Native plants – Nillumbik Shire Council

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