Article by Rhonda Bordonaro, community conservation officer, Sunshine Coast Council
Jim McWilliam is a volunteer at E.J. Foote war memorial sanctuary in Buderim and has worked in plant research for most of his working life. He has a passion for endangered plants and was concerned about the declining populations of the endangered lesser swamp-orchid (Phaius australis) so he decided to do something about it.
10 years ago Jim and another volunteer, Tom Crerar, attempted to grow the plant from seed sourcing the seed from a few remaining plants found at the Foote sanctuary. Unfortunately only a few seeds germinated and they were hoping for a higher success rate.
To increase their success rate they partnered with Griffith University to propagate the plant by tissue culture in the universities lab. This method had great results and although it was a slow process, most of the samples they tried worked.
When the plants were big enough they were propagated into pots and stored at Fairhill native plants until they were ready to be planted in the ground.
4 years ago, mother nature created the perfect site conditions for the orchids when a big tree fell over in a swampy area, creating the ideal dappled light. Jim and Tom saw this as the perfect opportunity to plant the orchids that they had worked so hard to propagate. They planted 100 orchids and today they are absolutely thriving, beautiful flowering orchids.
What a success story and an achievement! Congratulation Jim and Tom!