Phaius australis (a tall swamp orchid) - endangered species listing

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to insert Phaius australis F. Muell. (Orchidaceae), a tall swamp orchid, as an ENDANGERED SPECIES on Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act and, as a consequence, to omit reference to that species as a vulnerable species on Schedule 2 of the Act.

The Scientific Committee has found that:

1. Phaius australis F. Muell., a tall swamp orchid, was first described by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller in 1858.

2. Phaius australis is one of the largest species of ground orchids in Australia (Benwell, A.S. (1994) Recovery Plan for Swamp Orchids Phaius australis and Phaius tankervilleae. Report for Australian Conservation Agency and NSW NPWS). It is closely related to Phaius tankervilleae, also a tall swamp orchid listed as endangered on the TSC Act, but differs in the shape and markings on the flowers. Phaius australis has striated flowers with the column visible between the lateral lobes of the labellum, whereas P. tankervilleae lacks the streaks on the sepals and petals, and has the labellum completely enclosing the column (Bishop, T. (1996) Field Guide to Orchids of NSW and Victoria. University of NSW Press, Sydney).

3. Phaius australis is endemic to Australia, occurring chiefly north from the Evans Head District, though has been recorded as far south as Lake Cathie (Port Macquarie) (Harden 1993). The northern limit is the Barron River in north-east Queensland, though most of the populations are on the mainland and the large sand islands off the south-east mainland of Queensland (Benwell 1994). In NSW, most of the populations are on the coast between Coffs Harbour and Ballina.

4. There are currently about 14 known populations. Only 50% of these have records of plant numbers. Most populations have very few individuals with a total of only about 180 plants known in the wild.

5. The main threats are from land clearing and the illegal collection of plants. Orchid enthusiasts regard the species as one of the most desirable species for their collections and exploitation of the wild populations is a continuing and constant threat.

6. In view of 3, 4 & 5 above the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the species is likely to become extinct in nature in NSW unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate.

Proposed Gazettal Date: 12/6/98

Exhibition period: 12/6/98 to 17/7/98

About the NSW Scientific Committee

Page last updated: 28 February 2011