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Monday, January 19, 2009

Kangaloon Sun Orchid "listed" on EPBC Act

Breaking News: Kangaloon Sun Orchid listed on EPBC Act, as a Critically Endangered Species.

I am delighted to pass on the news that the Kangaloon Sun Orchid, a newly described species of Orchid, which is known to occur in Butler's Swamp, Kangaloon, (near Robertson) has been accepted by the Federal Minister for Environment, the Hon Peter Garrett MP, for listing under the Federal environment legislation for protection - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It is classed as "Critically Endangered".
Kangaloon Sun Orchid (Thelymitra kangaloonica)
You may see the listing details here:

The earliest records for this species are old records from Stockyard Swamp, and from the Wildes Meadow Swamp, (prior to that Swamp being flooded to form the Fitzroy Falls reservoir). These plants have been studied by members of the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society for many years.

Wildes Meadow Swamp lost 80% of its swamp area, when it was flooded in the early 1970s, to form the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir, as part of the "Shoalhaven Transfers" system, to help supply water to Sydney and Wollongong.

Butler's Swamp and Stockyard Swamp are both potentially at risk from recent proposals by the Sydney Catchment Authority to pump water from the Kangaloon Aquifer. Although the Mr Rees declared last year that the Kangaloon Aquifer proposal was to be "put on hold", the SCA is still preparing to get the Minister for Planning to grant Development Approval to the proposal - so the threat is still live (even if not imminent).

I welcome Mr Garrett's decision to recognise the risk to this species, and to list it with the highest status of protection under the EPBC Act.
Like most Sun Orchids, this plant is shy to flower, and will only open its flowers on a bright, sunny day, and then only for a few hours. Like most Sun Orchids the flowers open and close, depending upon the weather. This plant is a lavender blue colour, with darker stripes. It was photographed flowering on the edge of Butler's Swamp in early November 2007.

Only one single flower was reported as flowering in that season - and this is that specimen. I photographed it several times, several days apart. I also reported it to the researchers from SMEC, environmental consultants for the SCA. This image is of the flower as it darkens, after having opened (presumably several times), over a period of a few days.
Few plants are as rare as this one is. I am glad that it has been recognised as "critically endangered" under the National environment protection legislation.

Here is a close-up of the "column" of the Kangaloon Sun Orchid, showing the details of the column arms (the "mop-like hair tufts"), and the distinctively notched "post anther lobe" (the yellow bit on top of the column). The shape, form and colour of these details of the column are diagnostic features of Sun Orchids. I must admit to finding these details infuriatingly difficult to photograph well, and then to describe. But, I assure you, these details are very important for getting the correct identification of Sun Orchids.
Here is a link to the post I published on 9 May 2007 when I nominated this species for listing under the EPBC Act.

And here is the Ministerial Instrument, signed by the Minister, Mr Garrett, on 19 December 2008.

The listing was announced by the Minister yesterday (18 January 2009).


mick said...

Fantastic photos - as usual! Having tried to photograph a similar species up here a few months ago I recognize your skill. Great work! Also great work in having the flower 'listed'.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick.
Yes, they are really hard to get right depth of field, and the colours are always hard. Too blue, too mauve, too something.
I was absolutely delighted that the nomination was successful.
Private messages also received from Bernie, Kim, David and Gavan and my daughter Zoe. All much appreciated.
Thanks folks

Duncan said...

Let's hope the listing carries weight Denis. Unfortunately bureaucrats are not noted for common sense when it comes to issues like this. Remember Jeff Kennett and the Orange-bellied Parrot or "trumped up Corella" in his words. Expletive deleted.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Duncan
Kindly allow me 24 hours of euphoria, before you bring me down to reality!
Already the Catchment people are claiming there will be no impact on the swamps - just "some drying", and maybe a change in species living there, but it will still be an "Upland Swamp".
There go your Orchids, folks.
The battle continues, Duncan - as you would expect!

Tyto Tony said...

Cheering story Denis. I don't have much time for those touting for cloning Tassie Tigers from museum hairs, but I presume the orchid's 'captive breeding' future is assured.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Tony.

I have not considered it, myself, Some of the Orchid people might have done so. I do not know if Sun Orchids are successful as potted plants.
I prefer to think about keeping the habitat intact.

Joe said...

That is an interesting color!

Denis Wilson said...

Our Sun Orchids are mostly blue - some are really intense (there are some pink, or yellow ones, but 90% are blue. A very rare colour in nature, generally.
They are small ground orchids, and grow individually, not in colonies. The books say "some are easy to grow, some hard". Usual stuff.
Check out availability of the genus Thelymitra, to look for tubers on sale in America.
Obviously this one is rare as hens teeth, and protected. But many Aussie Orchids are "in cultivation" already.