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Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella habitat
Habitat of Arachnorchis rosella
photo by Dr. Randall W. Robinson

Arachnorchis (Caladenia) parvahttp://www.orchidconservationcoalition.org/pr/arosella/arosella.html
Arachnorchis parva (Small Green-comb Spider Orchid)an orchid that share the same habitat photo by Dr. Randall W. Robinson

Corcorax melanorhamphos
Corcorax melanorhamphos (White-winged Chough) photo by Dr. Bronwen Scott

briza maxima
Briza maxima (Quaking Grass)
photo by Joseph Rossi

Leucopogon virgatus
Leucopogon vigatus (Common Beard Heath) photo by Dr. Randall W. Robinson

distribution map
Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella distribution map
link to Australian Government, Species Profile and Threats Database


Links for Donations:

Dunmoochin Foundation

Trust for Nature

Orchid Habitat Preservation

Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella habitat saved!

Good news, the habitat of Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella in Australia that Dr Randall Robinson wrote about has been purchased.  A philanthropist that read the article on the Orchid Conservation Coalition website donated the additional funds needed to purchase the habitat.  The purchase of the land happened on May 23, 2009 by a coalition of the Trust For Nature, Dunmoochin Foundation, the local people and the very generous philanthropist. After the successful auction bid there is enough money left over for management of the habitat.

Dr Robinson says, “We went through too many bottles of champagne after the auction! Needless to say we are all just over the moon. Thank you so much for your input. The monies we gained through the philanthropist that found us through your website tipped us over the edge and allowed us to have a wonderful outcome.”

Everyone should be proud of the successful preservation of the habitat of Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella. There are only about 140 known plants in the wild. So this purchase is very important. It is a good example of how networking and getting information out about orchid conservation can make a positive impact.  Thanks to all the people, orchid societies, businesses, and conservation organizations involved in the Orchid Conservation Coalition may we continue to have successes.

Mark Sullivan

Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella
Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella insitu photo by Dr. Randall W. Robinson

Arachnorchis (Caladenia) rosella text by Dr. Randall W. Robinson

Your help is needed to help save one of the last habitats of the endangered Rosella Spider Orchid. Local residents, the Dunmoochin Foundation and the Trust for Nature have expressed interest in purchasing the land. Subsequently, there is a proposal to form a consortium of people and groups to purchase the land.  Even with all the pooled resources, there is not enough money to make the purchase and mange the plants. We are dedicated to save this special wild orchid species, but we need financial help. Both the Trust for Nature http://www.trustfornature.org.au/ and the Dunmoochin Foundation http://www.dunmoochin.org/ are charitable trusts. You can contact either one.

The following is information from Dr. Randall Robinson on the Rosella Spider Orchid and its current habitat preservation status.

In 1981 I went to visit my friend, Geoff Carr in Victoria, Australia. Geoff Carr is one of Australia's best overall botanists. He took me to visit a good friend of his, Cam Beardsell an extremely knowledgeable naturalist to check out a colony of Spider Orchids that were highly distinctive and represented an undescribed species. At this time, the colony that we were going to see was the only colony known to exist. It contained hundreds of plants scattered over a couple of hundred hectares. Apparently, the plant used to grow in scattered areas in Victoria and New South Wales. It occurred from an isolated mountain range in the western parts of Victoria called The Grampians to the hills near Albury and Orange just north of the Victoria/New South Wales border. The final refuge of this small pink Spider Orchid was half a dozen blocks of private land on the outskirts of Victoria's capital city, Melbourne.

Geoff, Cam and I had a wonderful day looking at every plant we could find and spent the rest of the day wandering around most of the forested private land blocks of the area looking for other orchids which were abundant in this remnant of forest/woodland. Later Geoff formally described the species we had observed several years earlier. He named it Caladenia rosella (Rosella Spider Orchid or Small Pink Spider Orchid).

Unfortunately, in the time between my visit and Geoff describing the species, its numbers in the wild have dwindled. The site has become invaded by the introduced grass Briza maxima (Quaking Grass) which competes for the meager nutrients and available water at the site. Another threat is the locally common bird species the White-winged Chough. A bird that looks superficially like a crow or raven with bright red eyes. These larrikin, slightly maniacal birds live in colonies and behave much like chickens, picking and scratching through the leaf litter eating just about anything including orchid tubers. Housing development which brings an increasing number of people with their fireplaces and wood burning stoves into the area is a greater threat.

Cam Beardsell is a very strong advocate for this beautiful species.  Before I met Cam, he was recording every detail about each plant in the remaining colonies. Over the past 25 years, Cam has been the lone caretaker of this precious orchid.  He has protected most of the plants from the Cloughs' and rabbits' diets.  The weeds that appear near the plants have been meticulously removed by hand. Even the small wattles that the pollinators rely on for food have been replanted. The solitary female pollinator bees  collect the wattle pollen and store it as small balls in their nests in the ground.  They lay their eggs on the pollen balls and the larvae use them as food.

Others have helped to sustain this orchid in situ.  The Australian Native Orchid Society in cooperation with the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne has carried out in vitro propagation to reintroduce the orchid into a suitable wild habitat.  The Trust for Nature in Victoria has encouraged local land holders to put conservation covenants on their land to preserve the habitat. Clifton Pugh and his legacy the Dunmoochin Foundation have purchased several blocks of land that have colonies of the species. One of these blocks has been donated to the Trust for Nature. The local Dunmoochin Landcare Group is doing a splendid job of rehabilitating the land by planting hundreds of plants to rehabilitate the forest and getting rid of large swathes of weeds.

Despite all these efforts, these orchids continue to decline in number. This was mainly attributed to the drought that we have had for the past decade. Caladenia rosella is now listed as Endangered under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the State of Victoria's Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. Both of these acts have strengthened the overall protection of the species and in association with the conservation covenants from the Trust for Nature brings much needed attention and money to help in saving this species from extinction.

Recently, a block of land was purchased to build a house.  Needless to say, the local council and the local residents did everything in their power to stop this development. The Caladenia rosella grows on this block of land.  Clearing the land for development with attendant gardens, sheds and water tanks would have destroyed not only the plants, but also the possibility for future growth.  There are only about 140 known plants in the wild.

The developer, unhappy with a rejection of development from the local council, took his case to the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Several in the local community argued the case against development, but our efforts failed.  Even invoking the state and federal legislation did not sway the decision of VCAT.  A slight ray of hope appeared at the end of the hearing.  The developer agreed to a list of conditions to be met before any building was done.  There was a stipulation by the federal government in cooperation with the state government to halt any development until it could be established exactly where the plants occurred on the block of land. This spring, the orchid recovery team of the Department of Sustainability and Environment with members of the Dunmoochin Landcare Group located a thriving colony of the Rosella Spider Orchid growing in the exact same place as in the past.  Other plants in the area are Arachnorchis parva (Small Green-comb Spider Orchid) and the small shrub, Leucopogon parviflorus (Common Beard Heath).

The conditions on the developer have proved too great for him to meet and he is in the process of selling the block of land.

Dr. Randall W. Robinson

Course Coordinator/Lecturer (Ecology and Environmental Management)
School of Biomedical & Health Sciences
Victoria University

A shorter article with picture for orchid society newsletters: A shorter article with picture for orchid society newsletters: http://www.orchidconservationcoalition.org/pdf/articles/arosellaconservation.pdf