HELPING HANDS: Volunteers Josee Carrigan, foreground, and Len Carrigan help plant federally-endangered metallic sun-orchids at Kiata yesterday. Pictures: PAUL CARRACHER RARE OPPORTUNITY: Bianca Gold from Parks Victoria and volunteer Peter Kiernan of Melbourne plant metallic sun-orchids at Kiata yesterday.

HISTORIC DAY: Horsham Orchid Conservation Facility orchid conservation manager Dr Noushka Reiter and volunteer Mary Argall prepare to plant metallic sun-orchids at Kiata yesterday.

WIMMERA researchers hope a series of plant-outs in the region will help save a federally-endangered orchid species.

The Horsham Orchid Conservation Facility team, led by orchid conservation manager Dr Noushka Reiter, has developed a process to propagate thousands of metallic sun-orchids.

There are just 30 of the species left in the Wimmera and 1000 worldwide.

The project team began planting the first of 3000 metallic sun-orchids at Kiata yesterday.

Dr Reiter said three years of research at the Horsham laboratory led to a successful technique for mass propagation.

Dr Reiter, who is based at Wimmera Catchment Management Authority in Horsham, said the metallic sun-orchid was known for flowering in a variety of vibrant metallic colours such as red, blue, purple, green and yellow.

She said the Australian Orchid Foundation contributed money for the group to investigate how to grow the plant.

“We were over the moon to have mass germination in the lab,” she said.

“The whole aim is to reduce the species from federally-endangered to vulnerable.

“We are keeping the plant-out sites secluded for the time being while the plants get established.

“Hopefully we can then start showing them to people.”

The metallic sun-orchid will be one of many species to benefit from the research project.

Dr Reiter said the team was growing 30 different species of federally-endangered orchids using similar methods in the Horsham lab.

“We now have successful methods for growing more than half of Victoria’s orchids,” she said.

The project team includes the Australian Orchid Foundation, Australasian Native Orchid Society, RMIT University, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Department of Primary Industries, Wimmera CMA, Parks Victoria and volunteers from the Wimmera community.

The Federal Government Caring for our Country initiative also contributes money to the project.

The team will be planting more metallic sun-orchids in the Little Desert National Park today and at two more sites during July and August.

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