Carrai National Park double celebrations as botanist finds new plants

Botanists have cause for double celebrations after uncovering a new species of leek orchid and a new population of a rare donkey orchid on the Carrai Plateau near Kempsey.

Diuris eborensis Donkey orchid

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) working on the NSW Government's Saving Our Species (SoS) program, made the discoveries on a field trip to a remote area of the Carrai National Park.

OEH Ranger Piers Thomas said the discoveries were possible due to fortuitous timing.

"Luckily the discovery occurred in December when this species is flowering as it may not have been so visible if it wasn't in full bloom.

"These orchids only flower for a couple of weeks in December so a week or two earlier or later and we would have missed them.

"The new species of leek orchid has vibrant yellow, lime green and maroon flowers.

"As with all potentially new species, a specimen is taken and sent away to be analysed. It appears to be an extremely rare Prasophyllum species only occurring in an area of less than one hectare," said Mr Thomas.

"The second discovery on the field trip was finding a new population of an endangered terrestrial orchid (Diuris eborensis), also known as a Donkey orchid.

"This is the first time this orchid has been recorded on the Carrai Plateau and the discovery now fills its distribution between Ebor, Backwater and Werrikimbe which is 30 kilometres south.

"Our plan is to conduct another survey next year in this area, when the orchids are flowering again.

"The SoS program aims to secure a number of threatened animals and plants from extinction.

"Our work to protect endangered plants, such as these rare orchids, under the SoS program involves monitoring.

"This is vital to informing ongoing conservation management decisions, improving habitat and controlling threats via weeding and pest management programs.

Dr Lachlan Copeland, senior botanist, renowned for his broad knowledge of Australia's native plants, was involved in the field trip and said the recent discoveries are exciting. It is one of several new species of ground orchid he has now found in northern NSW.

"We hope to soon get this new species formally described and named, and this will help secure these endangered plants in the wild into the future," said Dr Copeland.