Close shave for bearded orchid

News release
01 December 2017

Copper Beard Orchid. Photos courtesy of Leo Davis, Native Orchid Society of South Australia

Photo courtesy of Leo Davis, Native Orchid Society of South Australia

An intense effort involving weeding and fencing has resulted in the beginnings of the recovery of one of the Australia’s rarest orchids.

The extremely threatened Copper Beard Orchid (Calochilus cupreus) had declined to just three plants last year, but has now bounced back to 19.

A conservation reserve on the northern Fleurieu is the only known site in the world where the orchid is found.

For the past few years, the plants have been carefully monitored by staff from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges (AMLR) and dedicated volunteers from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA).

Natural Resources AMLR threatened flora ecologist and orchid expert Dr Rick Davies said orchid numbers had plummeted from 55 to just 3 plants between 2010-2016, due to kangaroo grazing, weed infestation and off-road vehicles. Alarmed at the decline, staff from Natural Resources AMLR last year built a protective fence around the orchids, and also implemented a program of targeted weeding by volunteers and contractors.

“Some of the plants this year have produced more than 30 flowers, which is very impressive and great news, as it means more seeds will be produced,” said Dr Davies.

The name of the critically endangered Copper Beard Orchid was inspired by the distinct green and red striped flower, which has a coppery tint and purple hairs resembling a beard.  The flowers appear from October to early November and are pollinated by just one species of native wasp.

 “It’s really important not to disturb wild orchids in any way,” said Dr Davies.

“Anyone can help protect our own local beautiful and rare orchids by joining a volunteer group involved in the restoration of their bushland habitat.”

Find out about volunteering

You can contact the manager Volunteer Support via a web form or call (08) 8273 9102.

Related links

More information

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges