Scientists battle to save orchid at the edge of extinction
Monday, November 11, 2013 - 01:26
Nov. 11 - A team of scientists in Australia are collaborating on a mission to save one of the world's rarest plants - an orchid species of which there are believed to be only two in existence. So vulnerable is the species of Caladenia spider orchid, that the team won't reveal its name or location in the wild as they try to rehabilitate it in a controlled environment. Rob Muir reports.
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It's one of only two plants of its kind known to exist. A species of orchid from the Caladenia genus, its location is known to only a handful of people, including environmental scientist Graeme Lorimer.
(SOUNDBITE) GRAEME LORIMER, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, SAYING: "We're down to two on the planet. We had a couple of dozen a couple of decades ago."
Lorimer is on a mission to save the species, not only from environmental factors like drought, but also from the people who care about it most.
(SOUNDBITE) GRAEME LORIMER, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, SAYING: "Sadly, it's loved to death, people love orchid flowers. There's a class of people who must have photographs of the rarest orchids and last year when this plant came up it only took a day before somebody holding the stem, bent it and the thing flopped over.
But there's hope. A team led by horticulturalis Rob Cross at Melbourne's Botanical Gardens have collected pollen from the plant in hopes of fetilising its flower to produce seeds. They already have fifty seeds stored from previous collection efforts, which they're trying to turn into plants.
(SOUNDBITE) ROB CROSS, HORTICULTURAL BOTANIST, ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS, SAYING: "We will use those plants to set up a seed orchard here at the Royal Botanic Gardens where we can cross pollinate plants and produce more seed that can then be used out in the wild again."
(SOUNDBITE) GRAEME LORIMER, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, SAYING: "Well, we live in hope for one more plant."
The state of Victoria is home to more than 400 orchid species, half of which are regarded as threatened. The scientists however, say none are at greater risk than this one.
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