Arachnorchis pumila
Dwarf Spider Orchid

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Lost since 1926 - re-discovered 2009
DSE Press Release

All photos by Neil Anderton



This orchid was last seen in 1926 - that's a long time ago.  It was re-discovered this year (2009) while we were away in WA orchid hunting, so the above photos were kindly provided by Neil Anderton.  Neil is a volunteer at the Victorian Herbarium and was responsible for taking a fungi slice of the orchids tuber and flasking the seeds collected following manual pollination of the 2 orchids.  Neil is actively involved in orchid conservation through membership with ANOS (Vic) and the Herbarium.
DSE Press Release:  
Lost orchid re-discovered after 83 years

7 December 2009

A native species of orchid, thought extinct for the best part of a century, was rediscovered by two orchid enthusiasts in the Greater Geelong region two months ago. For the protection of the species the exact location remains undisclosed.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and plant sciences department at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) Melbourne have since been working together to conserve and protect this remarkable find.

DSE Biodiversity Team Leader Andrew Pritchard said “Until its rediscovery by Hans and Christa Korth in September 2009, the Dwarf Spider-Orchid (Caladenia pumila) had not been seen since 1926.”

“The rediscovery of this species is a wonderful surprise. To put it in perspective, when the Dwarf Spider-Orchid was last seen Stanley Bruce was Prime Minister, George the 5th was King and Don Bradman was a teenager vying for state selection,” Mr Pritchard said.

“The Korths found the two plants in a Parks Victoria reserve, subsequent searches have yet to find any more. These two plants make up the total known population of this species.”

“Since the re-discovery of the Dwarf Spider-Orchid we have been working with the land manager Parks Victoria, local volunteers and the RBG Melbourne to protect this significant find, explore opportunities to increase the number of plants and increase our knowledge of it.”

Senior DSE Scientist, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Dr Michael Duncan said: “This is an incredibly exciting discovery. It is the botanical equivalent of finding a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).

“It must be an enormous thrill for the Korth’s to be responsible for changing the status of a species from extinct to extant,” Dr Duncan said.

“One of the most exciting things about the rediscovery of this species is that we can learn so much more about it."

“Before September 2009 the only image we had of the species was a water colour painting by renowned orchidologist William H Nicholls, now we are able to observe it in person and collect critical data about its life cycle and reproductive processes."

Other than its rarity, the greatest threats to this species are trampling, browsing, and theft.

A range of works have been carried out to protect the species, including hand-pollination to encourage seed production, the isolation of the mycorrhizal fungi associated with the orchid and the collection of seed.

Attempts are being made to propagate Caladenia pumila through the Orchid Conservation Program at both the RBG Melbourne and DSE Horsham so the plants can be reintroduced to the wild. The recently opened Horsham program is successfully growing many of south west Victoria’s rare and endangered orchids.

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Original release: