Terrestrial orchid conservation

Learn about the conservation work and key project details of Australian PlantBank scientists in researching and protecting New South Wales terrestrial orchids.

Scientist Zoe Joy Newby examines an orchid flower

The Botanic Gardens of Sydney has been dedicated to the conservation of orchids for over 20 years, and since 2018, we’ve been working on a number of orchid species as part of the NSW State Government's SoS (Save our Species) program. This program aims to ensure that as many threatened NSW species as possible survive securely in the wild for the next 100 years.

Many of our native terrestrial orchids are threatened, with habitat loss, herbivore browsing, small population size, and protracted drought being major contributing factors. Catastrophic climate change may also pose a threat to their survival. 

Our team is focused on understanding better the germination and propagation requirements of eight terrestrial orchid species from NSW, including: 

  • Pterostylis despectans 
  • Calochilus pulchellus 
  • Caladenia tessellata 
  • Thelymitra kangaloonica 
  • Prasophyllum petilum 
  • Genoplesium plumosum 
  • Rhizanthella slateri and 
  • Rhiaznthella speciosa 


We're using ex-situ conservation techniques like soil and in-situ baiting, hand pollination and seed collection to help develop propagation techniques for each species, along-side symbiotic germination to try to grow them. 

Our research goals include:

  •  identifying suitable mycorrhizal fungi 
  •  develop suitable culture and storage methods for mycorrhizal fungi,  
  • develop suitable germination and growth conditions for the orchids  
  • Establish potted collections of plants suitable for translocation, and 
  • preserve orchid and fungal germplasm at the Australian PlantBank, within the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan 
  • Contribute to the translocation of some of these species to support their survival in the wild. 


In 2022-2023, we’ll build on previous results, extend current findings, adopt new methods, and optimise techniques that have already succeeded. Our primary objective is to develop propagation techniques for each species and the conservation of other closely related species. Together, we can safeguard the future of these beautiful orchids and contribute to their continued existence in the wild.

Project team:

  • Zoe-Joy Newby  
  • Jessica Wait  
  • Karen Sommerville

Related publications: 

  • Isolation, propagation and storage of orchid mycorrhiza and legume rhizobia 2021 In ‘Plant Germplasm Conservation in Australia: strategies and guidelines for developing, managing and utilising ex situ collections. Third edition.’ (Eds AJ Martyn Yenson, CA Offord, PF Meagher, TD Auld, D Bush, DJ Coates, LE Commander, LK Guja, SL Norton, RO Makinson, R Stanley, N Walsh, D Wrigley, L Broadhurst) pp 373-402. 

Dr Zoe-Joy Newby examines a terrestrial orchid specimen in a nursery