Conservation Corner

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Conservation Corner for January 2020

Historically I think we have all believed that habitat destruction was the leading cause in the disappearance of our native orchids. In a presentation from the NCC (Nature Conservancy of Canada) Lions Head office at Orchidfest a few years ago, the major issues facing our native orchids are as follows:

  1. Picking and Poaching
  2. Trampling
  3. Invasive Species
  4. Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction occurs when natural habitats are no longer able to support the species present, resulting in the displacement or destruction of its biodiversity. Examples include harvesting fossil fuels, deforestation, dredging rivers, bottom trawling, urbanization, filling in wetlands and mowing fields. (see )

Habitat destruction can also be habitat erosion. In a recent article in the National Geographic online, the case is made for better water monitoring and stewardship of existing parks and reserves. The article focuses on the beautiful Ghost Orchid of the Florida swamps, but infers the need for better stewardship in all our preserved areas. To read the article copy and paste the location below in your browser.
Conservation Corner for February 2020

As we prepare for our annual Orchid Show and Sale this month, the Conservation Committee has been busy researching the meaning of elegance in the orchid world. We invite you to visit our display in the floral hall and be amazed.

My concern for conservation has always been home first, and then reaching outward as funds allowed. Recently it is difficult not to be heart-broken at the images coming from Australia and the devastating wildfires there. A quick search shows approximately 1,300 native orchid species , approximately ten percent of Australia’s native flora. Not unlike the mammalian population, there are some very unusual orchids that are only native to the region. Even as recent as John Alcock’s book An Enthusiasm for Orchids – Sex and Deception in Plant Evolution – published in 2006 by Oxford University Press, there were still new species being identified in the wild. Australia even has an orchid genus that blooms underground– Rhizanthella! Who knows what may be lost in the wake of the fires engulfing the continent. In a recent National Geographic post they outlined potential areas for donations. I have summarized them below.

Australian Red Cross' Disaster Relief and Recovery

WIRES- an organization committed to wildlife in Australia;

Local Fire Brigades.

To support people affected by the fires -

Salvation Army’s disaster appeal or the bushfire appeal fund set up by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The fires have made Australia's declining koala population even more vulnerable; consider a donation to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, which rescues koalas in regions across New South Wales.

Conservation Corner for March 2020

As usual, at the SOOS show and sale, questions arose regarding people poaching our native orchids, particularly the Cypripediums which are some of our showier native species. I have always felt that education regarding why you should leave them where they are would help to solve this problem. If you look at any reports regarding our native orchids, back as early as the 1930’s, this has been an ongoing problem. Because of the mycorrhizal relationship these orchids have with the fungi in the soil where they grow, by moving them you essentially kill the plants. There is no need to do this, and it is also a criminal offence. There are dealers who are selling Cypripediums that are ethically raised from seed. You can contact Shawn Hillis of Garden Slippers in Calgary Alberta or Robert St-Jean of the Ottawa Orchid Society who produces Cyp. Reginae from plants in his garden. Closer to home you can contact one of your fellow SOOS members Greg Warner via his website

If you see someone poaching orchids here is what you can do – if they are in a park or on crown land, or poaching a species at risk, you can call your local rep for the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. (MECP)

Here is a link to their website : You can also call their tip line 1-866-663-8477

On private land it becomes an issue of trespassing and should be taken up by the landowner and the local authorities.

So when hiking season comes – and it will be here shortly, enjoy the orchids where they grow and leave the shovel at home.

Conservation Corner for April 2020

Hiking season will be here before we know it. And with the onset of the spring weather comes the opportunity to see our native orchids. We have over 70 species of endemic orchids nationally. Of these, around 60 can be found in Ontario with 40 plus appearing on the Bruce Peninsula.

Each year the Friends of the Bruce District Park Association ( ) host a festival celebrating the orchids that can be found in the area. The Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival is a wonderful way to be introduced to the diversity of the area and to meet other wildflower enthusiasts. In addition to the orchids that grow in the area, the festival looks at other rare plants which are native to the Great Lakes basin. Guided tours help you safely explore the area without the danger of trampling these amazing plants. The festival organizers believe that through education we can help prevent the poaching and extinction of our native plants, particularly orchids. It is also a criminal offence to remove anything from a national park. The festival is the first weekend in June, from the 5th to 7th this year. Registration will open by mid-April ( If you decide to come, book your accommodation early, and register for the lunch on Saturday if available. Come to the festival and experience the truly awesome.

Conservation Corner for May 2020

I knew the minute I hit the send button for last month’s corner, that I was taking a risk of Orchidfest being cancelled this year. And sure enough, the day our newsletter came out, I also received notification that the event would be cancelled for this year.

So this month I am going to turn to one of the things that we can do, even if we are isolating. I know many of us are avid gardeners and this is an area that can help to preserve your peace of mind when everything else looks overwhelming. On a recent birthday, I was given a Spring 1994 Wildflower magazine. Near the back of the magazine was a full page from the Canadian Wildflower Society on Gardener’s Guidelines – as appropriate today as it was then. There are 14 listed, but these are of particular interest for orchids. I have left the number from the list in front of each entry.

  1. 1 Do not disrupt native plant communities.
  2. 3 Buy only wildflowers and ferns certified by the vendor as: Nursery Propagated.
  3. 8 Transplant wild native flora only when the plants of a given area are officially slated for destruction example: road construction, subdivisions, pipelines, golf courses, etc. Obtain permission before transplanting (In the case of native orchids with sensitive root systems, be sure to dig up as large a piece of soil as possible. Remember - this is only when the area is slated to be destroyed.)
  4. 12 Exercise extreme caution when studying and photographing wildflowers in order not to damage the surrounding flora and fauna.
  5. 14 Openly share your botanical knowledge with the public but ensure that native plant species or communities will not be damaged in the process.

The last two that I have listed are what usually sparks the comment “we love our orchids to death”.

When photographing, we are often too close to the plant. When you lie on your stomach ( which you should never do), think of all the habitat that you are crushing and add an additional two to three feet all around you if you are trying to photograph orchids. That’s a lot of habitat destruction! When you are thinking of photographing an orchid, keep in mind the new term we are all becoming accustomed to – physical distancing. Then see how little space you can take by squatting or kneeling at least three feet away to minimize your footprint.