UniQuest start-up company Aussie Colours has come to the rescue of two rare and endangered Australian native Phaius orchids.

Phaius orchids are native to South-East Queensland and among the largest ground varieties in the world, flowering prolifically in winter.

P. bernaysii, also known as Yellow Swamp Orchid, has sulphur-yellow flowers making it highly attractive and sought after by collectors. P. australis, also known as the Giant Swamp Orchid, has red-brown flowers. Both species are impressive plants capable of producing several flower spikes up to two metres tall, with more than 16 large blooms each about 10 cm in diameter flowering from August to November.

P. bernaysii, is almost extinct and P. australis is endangered, both as a result of development, recreation, and over-collection in the wild.

Aussie Colours Managing Director, Cameron Turner, said the native plant breeding company was working with The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Dr Dion Harrison to develop commercial tissue culture propagation of both varieties, utilising both seed and clonal production methods to help maintain the genetic diversity of these species as much as possible.

“These rare orchids are sold in some nurseries specialising in Australian natives, but demand is greater than the supply of varieties propagated by enthusiasts,” Mr Turner explained.

“Aussie Colours has named its range of Phaius orchids ‘Aussie Giant’, because they are so large, and the flower spikes can be taller than the average Aussie. We have already started commercial production, so thousands of these orchids will soon be available from more nurseries for home gardeners and revegetation programs.

“This means many more Queenslanders will be able to purchase the plants within the next two months and be enjoying these rare orchids in their gardens during Spring.”

Dr Harrison, from UQ’s Centre for Native Floriculture, said the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) listed P. australis and P. bernaysii as endangered, with P. bernaysii also listed as endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland).

“P. bernaysii is currently known to occur in only one area on Stradbroke Island. This population was recorded in 1992 as just 20 flowering plants over an area of 60 m by 10 m.  History, however, records this species as also being collected from Peel Island, Bribie Island, and Noosa Heads,” Dr Harrison said.

A limited number of Aussie Giant Orchids will be on display and for sale at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, 15 – 16 September during The Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) flower and plant show.

Aussie Colours will also have some new prickle-free native hibiscus and new rice flower varieties on display and for sale at this event.

Keen gardeners will also be able to see Aussie Giant Orchids at the Queensland Orchid Society show also at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on 21 – 23 September.


Media enquiries:
Leanne Wyvill +61 7 3365 4037, 0409 767 199 or l.wyvill@uniquest.com.au

Commercial enquiries:
Cameron Turner  0437 448 773 or c.turner@uniquest.com.au

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