Australian Orchid Foundation


Project: 294/2014

Title: A website-based interactive identification key to the orchids of South Australia
Applicant: Robert Lawrence
Institution: South Australia

This project will involve liaison with the Native Orchid Society of South Australia, the New England Wild Flower Society, the State Herbarium of South Australia and the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.

Identification of native orchids can be daunting for those who are not already familiar with them. This project will aim to bring together work compiled on the native orchids of South Australia and the website approach used by the New England Wildflower Society. This will produce an interactive key to make identification much easier with high quality photographs aiding the process. The key should be applicable from a range of users from the novice to the experienced field practitioner wanting to check for rare species. The key will use the domain name

The New England Wild Flower Society has developed the Go Botany website based on the Flora Novae Angliae (Haines 2011). The platform has been successfully transferred to the North American Orchid Conservation Center to produce the Go Orchids website, which was adapted specifically for use on mobile telephones. The grant will enable the transfer of technical assistance required to commence with the software available.

The Native Orchid Society of South Australia published a DVD of South Australia’s Native Orchids (Bates 2011) which will provide the information used as the basis for the interactive identification key. Some material used in Start with the Leaves (Lawrence 2011) will also be incorporated.

It is envisaged that the initial version will be a guide to 40 common orchids of the Adelaide Hills and that more species will be added progressively until all species in South Australia are covered. There will be the potential for the scope to be expanded to other Australian States.

It is hoped that eventually the site will provide a portal for entry of data from citizen science in the Databases of South Australia and through that into the Atlas of Living Australia. Appropriate security measures will be taken to ensure that the specific location of any threatened species is not disclosed, but the data will be available for scientific research.

Wild Orchids will become an important tool for possible citizen science projects. The following three areas for citizen science have been identified:

  • Collect data on the distribution of each species of orchid. This could include density and abundance estimates.
  • Phenology: study of the timing of the lifecycles of orchids. This would include the timing of flowering, studying dormancy and observing pollination of orchids.
  • Documenting the variation of plants within a species. This could include measuring and recording features such as the size of bracts on Thelymitra species, for example.

NOSSA plans to work with the staff of the State Herbarium of South Australia to produce protocols for the collection of observations and the taking of photographs in order to gather scientifically useful information.

It is hoped that a greater knowledge of native orchids will lead to more interest in their conservation.


Bates, R.J. (2011) South Australia’s Native Orchids. Native Orchid Society of South Australia.
Haines, A. (2011) New England Wild Flower Society’s Flora Novae Angliae: A Manual for the Identification of Native and Naturalized Higher Vascular Plants of New England.
Lawrence, R.W. (2011) Start with the leaves: a simple guide to orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills. Heritage Bushcare.



The plan to use and adapt the software from the New England Wild Flower Society did not turn out to be feasible.  In mid-2016, a decision was made with our volunteer information technology support to start afresh with an even more ambitious plan. We began partnerships with local universities for undergraduate student projects.  Then, in 2017, we were successful in applying for a Citizen Science grant from the Science Engagement Programme funded by Inspiring Australia.  A poster about the project was presented at a Australian Citizen Science Conference 2018 #CitSciOz18.