Prasophyllum affine and Cryptostylis hunteriana photos and text by Alan Stephenson
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
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
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.
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.
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
This field is used by the high school across the 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.
number) and Diuris
aurea (beautiful flower), Diuris sulphurea,
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
high school sporting field.
is a Schedule 1 Part 1 Threatened Species under the Commonwealth
Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This is the
level of protection which can be given and it is also listed as
under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 in
manner. Federal acts take precedence over state acts in these matters,
the federal act has only been used to protect threatened species on
occasions since its inception.
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,
and Rhizanthella slateri
Alan W Stephenson
National Conservation Officer
Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS)
Australian Orchid Council (AOC)