Orchid: Geodorum densiflorum.
Orchid: Geodorum densiflorum.

Endangered orchid discovered

IN April 2008, Clarence Environment Centre botanists discovered a ground orchid while undertaking a flora survey in a National Parks’ reserve near Grafton, identifying it as geodorum densiflorum, a large plant with paddle-shaped leaves similar to the better known swamp orchid.

Normally reliable reference books, ‘Significant vascular plants of North East NSW’, which failed to mention the geodorum, and ‘Flora of NSW’, which simply informed that the species occurs north of the Macleay River, failed to immediately alert the botanists to the fact that the species is extremely rare in NSW.

In fact, not only is it listed as an endangered species, but the geodorum has only previously been recorded north from Evans Head, so this find near Grafton represents a considerable range extension to the south.

When the botanists became aware of the orchid’s endangered status, they knew it was important to receive independent confirmation of the plant’s identity, so photographs were sent to the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water’s (DECCW) regional office, and the New England University, where orchid specialist Lachlan Copeland confirmed its identity and advised the species has since been renamed – geodorum terrestre.

The site was also revisited, and a search revealed three specimens, one mature and two juveniles, confirming the good news that the species was still surviving at the site. GPS readings were taken and the records are now posted on DECCW’s NSW Wildlife Atlas.

All around the world the range of most threatened species continues to shrink, and their numbers continue to decline year by year. So, while it is not uncommon to find threatened plant species growing outside their known range, to find these plants, not only growing well beyond their previously recorded boundary but growing in a conservation area, is encouraging and further adds to the Clarence Valley’s remarkable plant diversity.

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