What it looks like: This is a showy Ground Orchid with numerous white flowers on a long tall inflorescence growing from a rosette of basal leaves.

Ground Orchid - Habeneria ruphii

Photo: © Bill Lavarack

Where it lives: This Orchid grows on sandy soils in seasonally-flooded grassy areas in open forest and woodland. Found both in Queensland and overseas, in the Northern Territory it is known only from the upper Howard River catchment, where flooding is at least partly driven by ground water seepage.

Importance as an indicator: Healthy populations of this Orchid reflect an environment that is relatively unaffected by pigs, weeds or mining, and has a well-managed fire regime and healthy moisture balance. Ground water levels are particularly important, and water extraction has the potential to reduce extent and duration of flooding. Individual plants may be destroyed by sand mining or pigs, which dig up seasonally flooded country as it begins to dry out.

Look after Ground Orchid by restricting water extraction to sustainable levels, and protect key habitat from clearance and sand mining. Along with other moisture-loving plants, Ground Orchids need protecting from grazing animals, particularly pigs, as their habitat dries out. Seasonally-flooded habitats also require careful fire management. Often too wet to burn until late in the year, they are vulnerable to intense late dry season fires that destroy the canopy. However, infrequent burning can lead to vegetation thickening and replacement of ground cover by woody plants. A patchy fire regime that includes some early burning and fires lit after the first storms can help to reduce fuel loads, and restrict later intense fires. Control transformer weeds, particularly Prickly Mimosa and Para Grass. Commercial availability of this species may relieve any harvesting pressure on wild populations, but may also increase demand.

Best Practice Management for Ground Orchid

* Do not clear habitat * Maintain ground layer * Control pest animals * Control weeds * Manage fire * Do not collect from the wild * Restrict sand mining * Manage water extraction sustainably * Report new populations

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