Pub challenge sparks successful search for rare orchid

Four new populations of a rare orchid have been discovered after a ‘Science in the Pub’ session spurred bushwalkers and nature lovers to look out for the yellow flowers.

Close-up of a buttercup doubletail orchid (Diuris aequalis)

Department of Planning and Environment Threatened Species Officer Laura Canackle said the discovery of the new endangered buttercup doubletail orchid populations was fantastic news for the species.

“Only about 2,000 of the plants are known to exist in the wild in New South Wales,” Ms Canackle said.

“It’s a great conservation outcome from a Saving our Species idea to bring science, private landholders and citizen scientists together.

“The buttercup doubletail is a beautiful yellow orchid with a mutually beneficial relationship with soil fungi. The fungi provides the orchid with extra nutrients which helps the seeds of the orchid to germinate.

“The more we can harness the knowledge of local communities, including through citizen science projects like this one, the better we can protect what we may not have previously known,” Ms Canackle said.

This discovery is part of the successful NSW Saving our Species (SoS) program, backed by $175 million over 10 years.

The ‘Spring Orchid Challenge’ was launched during Biodiversity Month in September at a ‘Science at the Pub’ night in Canberra.

Citizen scientists were encouraged to actively look for and photograph the buttercup doubletail while exploring nature reserves in their usual habitat in woodlands and forests along the Great Dividing Range in south-east New South Wales. 

The 4 new populations were discovered near Queanbeyan, Bungendore, Braidwood and in the Blue Mountains National Park.

This comes after private landholders helped SoS record 3 new populations of buttercup doubletail in 2020, and 5 in 2021.

Queanbeyan hobby farmer Tim Booth found one of the populations in a nature reserve near Queanbeyan.

“This was incredibly exciting to discover. My passion for this orchid comes from the importance of conservation, and the need for diversity in ecosystems,” Mr Booth said.

“We need to support diversity in ecosystems, as healthy ecosystems also support all of us.”

For more information, visit the Saving our Species website

People can help by taking photos if they think they have seen the orchid, and submitting them to