Thursday, December 13, 2012

Returning to tissue culture

I mentioned previously that I had decided to return to tissue culture at home, although space and TIME remains a serious luxury. As many of you will be aware, I joined the Walker Bay Orchid Society here in Hermanus shortly after I relocated here. The area is a biodiversity hotspot and boasts many different species of native terrestrial orchids. Some of these are endangered, especially those in the low-lying regions that are subjected to urban sprawl, farming and the spread of alien vegetation.
I have been in discussion with one of the members of the WBOS about our involvement in conservation of these local species which was briefly mentioned at the last AGM. Of particlar concern is a small local colony of Disa hallackii in Vermont. This species is considered one of the most threatened of all South African orchids and is currently listed as an endangered species on the SA red data list. We have approached the Vermont Conservation Trust through Mr. Duncan Heard who forwarded our correspondence to various role-players in Cape Nature and local government. We proposed to culture seeds in vitro collected from a known source and to raise seedlings that could be acclimated and returned to other localities under the control of Cape Nature. I have offered my time and my skills to do this free of charge in support of this species' local conservation. I believe in taking action, not just sitting around a few remaining plants in the wild and hoping they will remain there for my young daughters to see one day. The reality is that this species is in decline and if we don't mitigate the threats to this species by utilising our collective knowledge and skills I fear that it will become yet another memory of failed hope.
We are still waiting for a response to our proposal from all those recipients. In the mean time Patrick Donnelly and I have been actively looking into the permiting requirements which will allow us to proceed. I have ordered and received the media for the work and I have begun to optimise an experimental recipe using other terrestrial orchids from my own collection. One of my recipes was also recently used by Richard King for Disa uniflora which he found to provide significant shoot growth.
Lets hope that this story carries a happy ending...

15 December 2012: Follow up

Today I went to the plot in Vermont with Patrick and Dot Donnelly to see the Disa hallackii for myself. I felt an overwhelming sense of priveledge being there and seeing the few remaining plants in the entire area. The last count was 17 individual plants. We only counted 10 in the whole time we were there. What's worse is that this plot of land IS going to be developed and stands are already demarkated for several houses to be built. Much rubbel has also been dumped on this site close to the road. The majority of the area was previosuly covered by Port Jackson, which have since been cut down. However it is clearly evident that the remaining Disas are only found in the clear areas where the Port Jackson had not yet invaded and this is only a thin band! Since 19 November when my intial request for support went out to various role-players, I am disappointed to report that I have had no response from anyone yet - nearly a month later. C'mon CapeNature and local government! Please get involved! If you can't see the value in acting and acting NOW, then how do we maintain our faith in you and what you are mandated to protect?


  1. Good initiative! This year I started sowing orchids, tropical epiphytics as well as european terrestrials. My goal is to do so on mediums that are homemade, because chemicals are hard to obtain here and very expensive. After a year of trying I have some recipes with reasonable results. You developped a good recipe. Is it secret or can you share it with me? You can get mine too if you want to. By the way: I love your blog! Greetz, Paul

  2. Hi Paul. Where are you from?

    Send me your email address and I will fill you in on what works well for me with media.

    Cheers, David