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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wild Orchids dug up in the bush near Mittagong


I am so angry about this.

Last year I found a colony of very fine Bunochilus tunstallii near Mittagong (a bit out of their normal range).

I foolishly reported this event on THIS blog.

Several months later, I was back in the same area, and realised somebody had dug a hole where these plants had been (or so I believed). I could not be sure, at the time (when I first saw the hole), as these Orchids go dormant after flowering, so I could not be absolutely sure that the plants had been stolen - but in my heart of hearts I knew that was almost certainly the case.

So, this year,
I went back to look for the same Orchids,
in the same place.
Not a leaf, not a flower.
Bloody nothing!
Just dead leaves blown into the hole.
Hole marks where Orchids were stolen.
To prove that it was not my imagination, and that my timing was not wrong, I searched further around and found a few (just a few) Bunochilus tunstallii in flower. These were not the same plants as I found last year, as they were much more "overgrown" than last years plants (last year's plants were growing quite "out in the open").

Bunochilus tunstallii today,
at Mount Alexandra Reserve
But the point is, I now have evidence that someone has removed the main colony of Bunochilus tunstallii which flowered on Mount Alexandra, last year.

Photographic evidence clearly shows the excavation.
The top edge of the excavation has left a wall of soil approximately 100mm deep (about 4 inches).
The excavation is approximately 600 mm long (north to south), and 300 mm wide (east to west).

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the handiwork (spadework) of an Orchid "enthusiast" - someone who had marked out the location of these plants and has come back when the plants were dormant, to dig and remove the tubers. In fact he (or they) dug the entire colony of these plants and removed soil and all. 

What annoys me so much is that this is so obviously the work of a "collector". Only an Orchid specialist would even know there was something special about these plants.

So, while supposedly an "Orchid Lover", this person has put his lust to "possess" these plants over and above the well-being of the species. That is not the act of an orchid lover, but the act of a selfish individual - one who has lost perspective of what is important about these plants.

This species of Orchid is uncommon (it is very limited in its distribution). But it is not yet "listed" as a rare or threatened species, as the bureaucratic process involved in getting a plant "listed" is very slow, and hopelessly "behind" what ought be the real list of threatened species.

However, all Orchid enthusiasts know "All native plants including orchids are protected and it is illegal to remove them from the wild."

This statement (or a similar warning) appears on most ANOS websites
"All native orchids in Australia are protected in the wild;
- their collection is illegal."

This illegal action occurred within the Mt Alexandra Reserve.
I shall report this to the Wingecarribee Shire Council, which "administers" this area.
Bunochilus tunstallii
note the dark brown labellum

(click on the image to enlarge it to see the detail)
As Bunochilus tunstallii is not readily available for sale, if someone suddenly turns up to show this species on the Show Bench, I for one will be wanting to ask about the provenance of those plants. And I will do my best to spread the word amongst Orchid Societies in Australia. and overseas.


Flabmeister said...

Very sad. The word 'collector' seems as bad a description to apply to a person in the world of orchids as it is in birds.


Mr. Smiley said...

Good one Denis

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Martin and Dave.
As you will have noticed, I was "totally gutted" about this one.
Almost as if my children had been abducted (well i exaggerate, but...).
Of course, there is always an ambiguity about collectors.
How else do wild plants come into the public arena in the first place?

I once had someone explain to me (with a straight face) that he NEVER COLLECTS PLANTS FROM THE BUSH - ONLY "CAPSULES" (seed capsules).

It seems to pass his understanding that such things are no different from Lizard and insect collectors taking (and selling) eggs.

Oh well, at the very least, I might throw a spanner in their works if they wish to win medals for their plants.



Anonymous said...

It is so........upsetting to hear of the orchids being stolen!!

Denis Wilson said...

I agree entirely, Anon.

For once (joke) I am letting my emotions show in my Blog!

Upsetting and quite possibly futile, as many Orchids fail to thrive as pot plants.


mick said...

I am commenting a little late! I am sorry to hear about the orchids being 'stolen' out of the bush. It's so foolish to think that things like that will simply transplant. Up here we have a special nursery (City Farm Nursery) - a not for profit enterprise to grow local plants for local projects. All rate payers can get a couple of free plants each time they pay their rates! However, I was and am intrigued at how many plants from the bush they tell me they have trouble propogating because the soil or the associated plants can't be readily duplicated in the nursery. Surely orchid collectors must realize this as well???

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Thanks for the comment.
You are exactly right. Many Orchids will not survive transplanting, or even if they do, will not thrive.
So, it becomes an exercise in futility.
But the "novelty value" of an unusual plant is the attraction, it seems.
But this large hole seems an extreme case - a determined action to capture the entire colony.