Endangered Orchids on Cape Otway’s Dunes

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The leafy greenhood orchid is an extraordinary colony forming plant. There are several populations around Victoria, occurring in both coastal and alpine habitats, although nowhere in between. On Cape Otway, several greenhood colonies survive the exposed coastal conditions.

The greenhood, considered to be threatened, suffers adversely from intensive grazing, and changes to fire regimes leading to heightened competition with other native plants. We know that on Cape Otway we have lost several of our colonies in the past decades due to adverse land management.

In response, we established a program in 2016 to keep tabs on the condition of each of the known colonies and locate new plant locations in our region so that we are in the best position to conserve them into the future. Due to the comprehensive surveys across the Cape we now know of many more populations of greenhoods than previously.

While the discovery of these undocumented colonies was exciting, threatening processes are a real threat to this fragile plant and we still consider it to be at risk. In response, we have developed a long-term monitoring program with the aim of recording the spatial extent of each colony annually. We are also observing the timing of flowering, density of plants and levels of herbivory damage so that we can learn how the species responds to management and a changing climate.