The Sunshine diuris orchid used to be known as “snow in the paddocks”.
The scented orchid used to grow so abundantly across the native grasslands north-west of Melbourne that from a distance their delicate white petals made fields seem like they were blanketed in snow.
While they flourished around Victoria in the early days of European settlement, there are now just 20 plants left on land alongside a railway corridor in Sunshine.
The orchid has suffered catastrophic decline due to rampant urban development, including the introduction of foreign species, such as the house mouse and Chilean needle grass.
But the Victorian branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society is not sitting around waiting for the chocolate-scented flower to become extinct in the wild.
It’s started a Pozible campaign, Save Sexy Scented Orchids, to raise $13,900. The plan is to grow juvenile orchids, protect grassland habitats and return plants to Melbourne’s wild west. Conservation co-ordinator Richard Thomson said the group has spent the past 10 years restoring the flower’s native grassland habitat at Sunshine, and at another protected site at Laverton Grasslands Flora Reserve.
“The plan now is to expand the area, put a fence in, get a lot of the weeds out, and all herbaceous plants planted back in,” he said.
So far the campaign has raised almost $8200, with about $6000 to go in the next few weeks. Mr Thomson said the group needs to reach its goal before November 23, because if it fall short, pledges could be withdrawn. To donate, go online https://pozible.com/project/205451.