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By Andrea Wild 11 December 2022 2 min read

The IUCN Red List records the conservation status of animals, plants and fungi from around the world. Their ratings range from extinct to least concern. Of the nearly 150,000 species on the list, around 25 per cent are threatened with extinction. However, there are still gaps between species listed as threatened at the national level and those on the IUCN Red List.

The project to transpose orchid species listed as threatened in Australia onto the IUCN Red List was led by Dr Heidi Zimmer, a botanist at the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research (CANBR) and the Red List Coordinator for Australasian orchids within the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group.

“The addition of these 23 species brings the total number of threatened Australian orchids on the IUCN Red List to 51,” Heidi said.

"All but one of the 23 species are terrestrial, or ground-dwelling, species. This reflects the diversity of terrestrial orchid species in Australia. Most of the world’s orchids are epiphytic, or tree-dwelling, species.

“Their inclusion on the Red List helps raise awareness of Australia's orchid flora and opens up international funding opportunities for people working to conserve these orchids,” she said.

Orchids in Australia

Australia has approximately 1600 orchid species. Around 90% are endemic, meaning they only occur in Australia.

“Orchids form specialised relationships with fungi and pollinators. Fungi are essential to them, providing nutrients that enable their tiny, dust-like seeds to germinate and grow,” Heidi said.

“The incredible diversity in orchid flowers is driven by their adaptation to specific pollinators, which can be flies, moths, bees, wasps, ants, beetles or birds,” she said.

Heidi works at the Australian National Herbarium, which is part of CANBR. Orchid experts at the herbarium have described, classified and named hundreds of Australia’s orchid species.

“This work in defining species provides the foundation for their conservation,” she said.

Newly added orchids

The orchid species added to the IUCN Red List are:

  • Caladenia attenuata (Duramana Fingers)
  • Caladenia dienema (Windswept Spider Orchid)
  • Caladenia graniticola (Pingaring Spider Orchid)
  • Caladenia granitora (Granite Spider Orchid)
  • Caladenia hopperiana (Boddington Spider Orchid)
  • Caladenia leucochila (Collie Spider Orchid)
  • Caladenia luteola (Lemon Spider Orchid)
  • Calochilus cupreus (Copper Beard Orchid)
  • Corunastylis insignis (Wyong Midge Orchid 1)
  • Dipodium campanulatum (Bell Flower Hyacinth Orchid)
  • Diuris aequalis (Buttercup Doubletail)
  • Diuris flavescens (Pale Yellow Doubletail)
  • Genoplesium baueri (Bauer’s Midge Orchid)
  • Oberonia attenuata (Mossman Fairy Orchid; the only epiphytic species among the 23 orchids added to the IUCN Red List)
  • Prasophyllum bagoense (Bago Leek Orchid)
  • Prasophyllum laxum (Lax Leek Orchid)
  • Pterostylis oreophila (Blue-tongued Orchid, Kiandra Greenhood)
  • Pterostylis psammophila (Two-bristle Greenhood)
  • Rhizanthella gardneri (Western Underground Orchid)
  • Rhizanthella johnstonii (Southcoast Underground Orchid)
  • Thelymitra adorata (Wyong Sun Orchid)
  • Thelymitra hygrophila (Blue Star Sun Orchid)
  • Thelymitra jonesii (Sky-blue Sun Orchid)

The addition of 23 Australian species to the IUCN Red List was announced at COP15.

This work was supported by the Commonwealth Threatened Species Scientific Committee and the interjurisdictional Threatened Species and Ecological Communities Working Group, which coordinates threatened species listing assessments.

The Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research is a joint venture between Parks Australia’s Australian National Botanic Gardens and the National Research Collections Australia at CSIRO.

Read about how we're digitising our herbarium collections

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