Hutt at Heart

Collaborating for orchid conservation

In the last few years, Hutt City Council’s Ecology and Horticulture Advisor, Jonathan Frericks, has been researching orchid propagation, at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), in collaboration with Carlos Lehnebach, Curator of Botany for Te Papa Tongarewa. This research is important because some of New Zealand’s endemic orchids are endangered, so we need to understand how to breed them and support their natural populations. So far Jonathan and Carlos have been successful in propagating a native wetland orchid, Spiranthes australis, and some of their resulting plants have been donated to the collections at Wellington Botanic Gardens and Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

Jonathan Frericks looking at orchid samples under a microscope
Jonathan isolating orchid fungi
An orchid sample on the microscope
Cultured fungi from orchid roots








Percy Scenic Reserve in Lower Hutt has a special relationship with Otari-Wilton’s Bush because we have many similarities with them in our purpose and direction. As part of a skills exchange between Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Te Papa Tongarewa and Percy Scenic Reserve, Jonathan has been showing Karin Van der Walt (Otari-Wilton’s Bush) and Jennifer Alderton-Moss (VUW) how to isolate and culture fungi from within the roots of orchids, in the Lions Plant Conservation Lab. The fungi will be used to germinate orchid seeds in the future, because orchid seeds need a symbiotic relationship with a fungus in order to germinate naturally. At Percy Scenic Reserve we have a nationally significant collection of plants that are important for research and for understanding relationships between New Zealand plants, we also have a small alpine plant propagation programme running.

Jonathan Frericks, Karin Van der Walt and Jennifer Alderton-Moss completing orchid research
Jonathan Frericks showing Karin Van der Walt (Otari-Wilton’s Bush) and Jennifer Alderton-Moss (VUW) how to isolate and culture fungi from within the roots of orchids

The eastern hills in Lower Hutt and especially Eastbourne are a diversity hotspot for native orchids so if you are keen to go orchid spotting, there are many tracks where you can often see different types of orchids growing together. The best time to go find them in flower is spring and early summer – you’ll need to look hard though, some of them don’t grow taller than 2cm!

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