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Scientists Battle To Save Orchid At The Edge Of Extinction

posted 11 Nov 2013, 11:47 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Nov 2013, 11:48 ]

A team of scientists in Australia are collaborating on a mission to save one the world's rarest plants - an orchid species of which there are believed to be only two in existence.

So vulnerable is the species of Caladenia spider orchid, that the team won't reveal its name or location in the wild as they try to rehabilitate it in a controlled environment.

 MELBOURNEAUSTRALIA  (AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION)  In a reserve to the east of Melbourne, Victoria, grows an orchid so rare that its exact location can't be revealed.

Only a handful of scientists, including Graeme Lorimer, knows where it and one other, survive in the wild.

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"We're down to two on the planet. We had a couple of dozen a couple of decades ago," said Lorimer.

The scientists are protecting the flowers as they try to rescue the species.

"Sadly, it's loved to death, people love orchid flowers. There's a class of people who must have photographs of the rarest orchids and last year when this plant came up it only took a day before somebody holding the stem, bent it and the thing flopped over." said Lorimer, who has spent 20 years searching for examples of the orchid, the ABC reported.

Of the two known plants, only one has flowered this year. Pollen from the flower is being collected in the hope that it can be used to fertilise the plant and coax seed production.

Over previous years, botanists and violunteers have collected a total of about fifty seeds which are being kept in in a cool, climate-controlled basement at Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens, where horticultural botanists Rob Cross is leading efforts to turn them into plants.

"We will use those plants to set up a seed orchard here at the Royal Botanic Gardens where we can cross pollinate plants and produce more seed that can then be used out in the wild again," said Cross.

Lorimer says he's keeping his fingers crossed for success.

"Well, we live in hope for one more plant," said Lorimer.

Victoria is regarded as a hotspot for orchid diversity with up to 400 different species, about half of which are threatened. According to the scientists howewever, none are more vulnerable than this particular species of Caladenia orchid.