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Leafy Greenhood Orchids back from the brink

An endangered native orchid species that was wiped out in fire ravaged Lobethal is being reintroduced to the region as part of an Adelaide Hills Council supported regeneration program.

The population of nationally threatened Leafy Greenhood Orchids (Pterostylis cucullata) in Lobethal Bushland Park, one of only three sites left in the Mount Lofty Ranges, was completely lost during the 2019 Cudlee Creek bushfire.

Now a dedicated propagation program is reintroducing the orchid from seeds collected prior to the fire as part of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens' Seed Conservation Centre storage of threatened species.

Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom says biodiversity is critical to the Adelaide Hills region because it drives the ecosystem services that support every resident's quality of life.

"We are extremely fortunate to live in a region with such striking beauty that also provides habitat to many plants and animals unique to this area," Mayor Wisdom says.

"We are thrilled that our biodiversity is being further protected with the return of the Leafy Greenhood Orchid to Lobethal Bushland Park."

Adelaide Hills Council Biodiversity Officer Tonia Brown says Lobethal Bushland Park is an important piece of habitat and is excited to see the return of the Leafy Greenhood Orchid; an incredibly important source population.

"After the fire the orchids were burnt and didn't recover, but fortunately the Seed Conservation Centre had collected seeds from previous years and was able to propagate them in the lab," Tonia says.

"We have been able to translocate them back into Lobethal over the last month - it's very positive because these orchids are an integral part of the local natural history."

Senior Seed Collection Officer at the SA Seed Conservation Centre, Dan Duval, has been propagating the orchids for a number of years and is overseeing the translocation project.

"Just weeks before the Cudlee Creek fire we counted 144 plants in leaf and so far we have put back 120," Dan says.

"We hope to put hundreds more back over the next few years."

Dan says prior to the fire the Leafy Greenhood Orchid was already the focus of a rejuvenation project because of its endangered status and the ever-present fire danger.

"We grew some using seed collected from the colony in 2004, 2011 and 2019, so we actually had three samples from different time periods," he says.

"We were lucky we had been propagating this endangered orchid prior to the fire because each plant takes three years to propagate before it can be translocated."

While visitors are welcome at the Lobethal Bushland Park unfortunately the area where the Leafy Greenhood Orchid have been placed is not publicly accessible because it is critical to the survival of the species that they are left undisturbed to thrive.

Tonia Brown says the Adelaide Hills Council has a strong Biodiversity Strategy, endorsed by all elected members, that is focussed on actively reducing the decline of biodiversity in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

"Our Biodiversity Strategy enables us to manage all of our natural areas, but this particular area is under a heritage agreement which means we have a permanent conservation covenant with the State Government to formally protect it for the future," Tonia says.

"We are very serious about threatened species management and have a number of nationally threatened, state threatened and regionally threatened species in the Adelaide Hills Council area.

"Supporting and collaborating with organsations such as the Seed Conservation Centre and the State Government to help manage those populations into the future is so important."

The Leafy Greenhood Orchids are being propagated with the assistance of Threatened Species Ecologist, Jerry Smith, and Landscapes Officer Hills and Fleurieu, Will Hannaford, from the Department for Environment and Water, and are being planted with the generous assistance of the Friends of Lobethal Bushland Park.

A Leafy Greenhood Orchid
Council acknowledges that we conduct our business on the traditional lands and waters of the Peramangk and Kaurna people. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging as the Custodians of this ancient and beautiful land.
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