Habitat Loss                                          A grassroots movement towards orchid conservation


Link to Prasophyllum affine, Cryptostylis hunteriana and Rhizanthella slateri update 2008

R slateri Vincentia Rhizanthella slateri

orchid species alan stephenson
Alan W Stephenson's  Orchid Species of Shoalhaven, NSW Australia

A book about Australian orchids, habitat,  and conservation

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C hunteriana
C hunteriana

paffine habitat before leisure centre 1997
Orchid habitat before Leisure Centre

Leisure Centre
Leisure Centre

existing temporary access road
Temporary Access Road

P affine at school site
P affine

P affine habitat near sporting field
Sporting Field and Orchid Habitat

Orchid Habitat Loss 

Prasophyllum affine and Cryptostylis hunteriana  photos and text by Alan Stephenson

P affine vincentia
Prasophyllum affine The total number of P. affine over the three known sites is 1150 with just 81 plants secure in a National Park. All others are on private land. Very few plants of C. hunteriana are situated in National Parks or reserves.

C hunteriana
Cryptostylis hunteriana

I found the orchid (not the people paid to undertake surveys) on a site which is earmarked for development of a large regional shopping centre and 700 homes. As you can see a $12M Leisure Centre has already been constructed by the local Council. The decision to construct the shopping centre and the homes will be announced very soon as the state planning minister has approved the concept plans and all that remains is for the federal environment minister to say the plans to protect the orchid and its pollinator are adequate. The development company is to give 19 acres to the Department of Environment and  Conservation (DEC) a state body.

The 19 acres comprises the habitat of P. affine, its pollinator on which it totally relies for its existence and the habitat of another threatened species Cryptostylis hunteriana. The development company will surround the habitat with a swimming pool style fence. This will make the area an environmental island but the major problem is that the hydrology of the site will be greatly altered and I fear this will contribute to the slow but eventual death of the 300 plants of P. affine (on this site) and also all plants of C. hunteriana. Domestic pets will also be able to access the fence and run through the site causing physical damage and depositing faeces which will change the chemistry of the site. This is something which is vital to both species, as P. affine is about 75% reliant on mycorrhiza. It does not produce tubers and does not self-pollinate. When the leisure centre was constructed, nine plants of P. affine were killed by Council and that has been admitted in public.

leisure centre
Leisure Centre

P affine habitat before leisure centre 1997
Orchid Habitat before Leisure Centre

I am concerned about the colony of P. affine (45 plants) very close to the sporting field as they will suffer from water run-off and also spray drift of fertilisers and pesticides used in maintaining the sporting field.

Sporting field
Sporting field

This field is used by the high school across the road.

Temporary bitman road
The bitumen road in the photo has been considered temporary since the centre was constructed and is to be removed when the major development takes place as another road is to be constructed. Prior to this road being built numerous terrestrial species were growing where the road is now. They were P. affine (unknown number), C. hunteriana (unknown number) and Diuris aurea (beautiful flower), Diuris sulphurea, Cryptostylis erecta, Cryptostylis subulata, Glossodia major, Speculantha parviflora and several other species.

Since the orchid was first found I have worked (voluntary) each year with DEC to monitor several "Control Plots" recording and measuring any plant which emerges. All plants in the control plots are referenced in one of three 100 square metre grids with numbered steel pegs to record flowering or non-flowering events over a period of years. I have been a member of the P. affine Recovery Team since inception in 2001 and since then the developer has not been able to formulate any type of plan to protect this species, so has decided to give the land away to the state environment body and have everyone think they are good environmental citizens.

P affine at school site
Prasophyllum affine at high school sporting field.

Prasophyllum affine is a Schedule 1 Part 1 Threatened Species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This is the highest level of protection which can be given and it is also listed as Threatened under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 in the same manner. Federal acts take precedence over state acts in these matters, although the federal act has only been used to protect threatened species on five occasions since its inception.

Cryptostylis hunteriana is Vulnerable which is the level below threatened.  P. affine has wide colour variations from alba (green) to rich brown and reddish. Pollination rate is low generally for Prasophyllum genus but P. affine is much lower than the average (about 7%). Flowering is good given good seasonal conditions but last season was poor due to lack of rain but so far this year promises better. Plants get to about two feet maximum. C. hunteriana usually has only one flower open at one time with the plants in my area usually supporting four to seven flowers. It is very irregular in its flowering habit in that it might be seen in one part of a site for a year or two, then not seen again for five or six years. They vary in height over many sites from about 10 inches to three feet or more with a commensurate flower count.

Link to Prasophyllum affine, Cryptostylis hunteriana and Rhizanthella slateri update 2008

Alan W Stephenson
National Conservation Officer
Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS)
Conservation Director
Australian Orchid Council (AOC)