On 17-2-2010 this small multi-flowered terrestrial species became the latest addition to the growing list of orchids afforded protection under the Commonwealth Environment Protection BiodiversityConservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).The level of protection is high and it is now listed as being Critically Endangered.This is due to three factors, the first being it is endemic to an area to the west of Nowra on the NSW South Coast, secondly the population is estimated to be limited to between 450-500 plants and finally the habitat and immediate area surrounding the largest section of the population already contains a tertiary institution and is about to be subject to a residential development, which following this decision will need to be re-examined.
The nomination submitted by David L Jones and Dr. Dean Rouse was lodged with the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in 2006 but due to the extremely slow process, exacerbated by a lack of resources, has a final determination been realised in 2010.The impending residential sub-division has no doubt brought the plight of this species into a sharper focus.
S. vernalis was first discovered by Leo and Edna Cady on 21-9-1958 and was from then until recently, known as Pterostylis sp. aff. parviflora Flatrock Creek.Only following the revision ofPterostylis by David L. Jones and Mark Clements was the name Speculantha vernalis used.It has taken a long time to emerge from the "too hard basket” and now joins 13 other species on the Shoalhaven list of rare and endangered orchids, six of which are only found in this area.This species grows among islands of Kunzea ambigua and Leptospermum sejunctumover sheets of sandstone and differs from others of its type in that it is spring flowering and the appearance of the rosette which actually terminates the old tuber, with the inflorescence emerging from the top of the replacement tuber.In all other species of Speculantha the rosette emerges post flowering, borne on a lateral growth from the base of the flowering scape.
One can only hope those who are in a position (locally) to adversely impact upon this rare species will not try to circumvent this very timely formal recognition.