Rare orchid flowering in the Shoalhaven

A critically-endangered orchid endemic to the Shoalhaven area is currently flowering, offering plant lovers a rare glimpse of its unique qualities before it disappears underground until next Autumn.

Pterostylis ventricosa orchid

The orchid Pterostylis ventricosa only flowers for around three weeks each year and is restricted to the Shoalhaven area where it was listed as critically-endangered in 2011.

Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) Threatened Species Officer, Illawarra David Bain said OEH and a number of partner organisations are using a portion of $650,000 in funding provided by an Environmental Trust Saving our Species Partnership Grant to ensure the orchid continues to be a unique feature of the Shoalhaven area.

"The orchid was first described as a unique species in 2008 and the remnant population is estimated to be around 1000 plants," Dr Bain said.

"The orchid is described as a small green-hooded flower that is often difficult to find in the wild due to it flowering for only three weeks per year and it retreating underground shortly after flowering ceases."

Orchids are one of the oldest plant families in the world and are one of the largest and most diverse. They are highly specialised and many have a symbiotic relationship with fungi which plays a role in restricting their distribution.

"Lots of orchids also have close ties with insect pollinators, which we believe for this orchid is a small fly," Dr Bain said.

"It is a subtle yet beautiful orchid and you could count yourself very lucky to see one flowering in the wild so work continues to ensure it not only survives but thrives in the local area."

The Partnerships Protecting Shoalhaven Plants project, which received the funding from the Environmental Trust Saving our Species Partnerships Grant Program, supports 10 endangered plants in the Shoalhaven area and includes 13 partner organisations which provide in-kind support such as local councils and landcare groups.

Photos for media of Pterostylis ventricosa.

Contact: Sam Bartlett