Australian Orchid Foundation


Project: 283/2012

Title: The taxonomic status and ecology of Sarcochilus hartmannii
Applicant: Dr. John Dearnaley (Chief Investigator), Mr. Mathew Irwin MSc student
Institution: Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments, The University of Southern Queensland


Sarcochilus hartmannii (Waxy or Hartman’s Sarcochilus) is a lithophytic/epiphytic orchid with erect leaves and distinctive red-brown centred white flowers. Currently listed as vulnerable by the EPBC Act (1999), it occurs from north of the Richmond River in NSW to Maleny in South-East Queensland. Threats to the species appear to be excessive collecting by orchid fanciers, fire and weed invasion. This study intends to answer some basic biological questions regarding Sarcochilus hartmannii of which little is known.

The taxonomic status of the species will be clarified in comparison to related taxa including associated forms and other members of the Sarcochilus genus. The site attributes suitable for growth of the species will be determined through detailed documentation of habitat characteristics. The mycorrhizal fungal partner of the species will be identified through DNA sequencing and seed germination experiments. The pollination vector for the species will be determined via monitoring and photography of flowering plants in situ. The main outcomes of this project are to improve knowledge of the species as well as elucidate ecological aspects critical to the orchid’s management and conservation.

Figs. 1 & 2. Sarcochilus hartmannii in the wild in South-east Queensland

Project Summary:
This project was aimed at improving basic knowledge about the taxonomy and ecology of Sarcochilus hartmannii. ITS-DNA analysis of Sarcochilus aequalis (the so called southern form of S. hartmannii) demonstrated that it is a species in its right and thus deserves separate protection status. S. hartmannii occurred in a variety of habits (ie. lithophytic, terrestrial and epiphytic), elevations and aspects at four sites in SE Queensland and NE NSW. The main mycorrhizal partner of the species appears to be a Tulasnella sp. although this would need to be confirmed by seed germination tests and colonisation studies. The species appears to be pollinated by species of hoverfly (family Syrphidae) as these insects were captured visiting flowers of the orchid over two years of observations. This study will inform future conservation and management plans for S. hartmannii.