Endangered orchid found at Nardoo Hill

Friday 20 March, 2009

An exciting discovery was recently made at the Nardoo Hills reserves in Victoria.

The northern golden moths (Diuris protena) has been found at Nardoo Hills reserves, Vic. Photo Paul Foreman.

The northern golden moths (Diuris protena) has been found at Nardoo Hills reserves, Vic. Photo Paul Foreman.

We've confirmed the occurrence of a very rare orchid – the northern golden moths (Diuris protena) at Nardoo Hills. The newly described orchid was listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act in 2007, and is found only in Victoria where it's classified as endangered.

The orchid was first discovered and described in 2006 in the grasslands of Terrick Terrick National Park around 60 kilometres to the north-east of Nardoo Hills. Although a number of populations have been recorded from grassy remnants in recent years, many populations are very small and vulnerable to a range of threats.

The Nardoo Hills population of over 400 plants is the largest known in Australia, and occurs in species-rich grassy yellow box woodland on the slopes of Mount Kerang.

Bush Heritage’s David Baker-Gabb, who manages the Nardoo Hills reserves, first spotted the orchid and alerted Deanna Marshall, Senior Flora Officer with the Department of Sustainability and Environment. They then had to wait for the plant to flower again before it could be collected and formally identified.

‘The wait was worth it’, says Deanna. ‘It’s a really significant find because of the population size and because it’s on secure land.’ The discovery is very good news for the orchid’s long-term survival.

The presence of the orchid at Nardoo Hills suggests that restoration work at the reserve is really paying off. As Bush Heritage ecologist Paul Foreman says, ‘I’m sure all that rabbit and weed control work done by David Baker-Gabb, Jeroen Van Veen and many volunteers has had something to do with it!’ Previously, grazing by rabbits and stock would have restricted flowering and therefore threatened the orchid’s long-term survival on the property.

Discussions with the Victorian Herbarium indicate that the likely pollinator for the orchid is a native bee that also pollinates bulbine lilies that are similar in size and colour to the orchid. Bulbine lilies are widespread across the Nardoo Hills, and often co-occur with the northern golden moths orchid.

The Victorian Herbarium is keen to collect seed from the population as a contribution to the Millennium Seed Bank Project. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, UK, is running the project, which aims to conserve 10% of the world’s wild plant species by 2010, concentrating on the ‘rarest, most threatened and most useful species known to man’.

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