A close-up photograph of a Buttercup Doubletail Orchid

The endangered Buttercup Doubletail Orchid is one of several threatened species in John Weatherstone’s collection of native orchids.

Native Orchids of the Southern Tablelands photo exhibition and live talk with photographer John Weatherstone.

This event will be held on Thursday, October 12, at 7pm at the Hume Conservatorium.

This exhibition is jointly run by K2W Link and supported through the Cores, Corridors and Koalas – a partnership between the Great Eastern Ranges and WWF- Australia to restore the health and resilience of habitat for forest-dependent native wildlife post-fire.

“I’ve been interested in orchids since I was a child,” John said. “My father was interested in native orchids. He was a nature lover. My family told me when I was young, about 5 or 6, he took me to where the orchids were, blindfolded, and he carried me to the flowering orchids before taking the blindfold off.”

John’s passion for orchids has continued into adulthood. He has spent many years studying and photographing the plants, and he is now a Land for Wildlife (LfW) assessor and is considered one of the leading enthusiasts of terrestrial orchids in the Southern Tablelands. Through the LfW program, John visits local properties to advise landholders on protecting and enhancing remnant habitats, or rare and endangered orchids.

“There is such an incredible diversity. Some are very pretty, and some are not ornamental at all,” John said. “They are just an intriguing group of plants and the largest plant family on earth.”

John says the methods to achieve pollination are fascinating. “A number of orchids, including the Flying Duck Orchid, snap shut and temporarily trap the insect so it collects pollen to take to the next flower,” John said. “If a documentary was made on the sex life of orchids, it couldn’t be shown in general viewing time.”

A close-up photograph of a Flying Duck Orchid.

The terrestrial Flying Duck Orchid can be found in eastern and southern Australia.

Through the lens of a nature photographer

As a photographer, John uses a relatively new technique called focus stacking that gives a depth of field in close-up images, which wasn’t previously possible. The technique involves taking multiple images and combining the in-focus part of each photo into a single image.

His stunning images include threatened species, the Buttercup Doubletail, Tallong Midge, Crimson Spider Orchid and Superb Midge Orchid.

In 2020, John discovered a large population of flowering Buttercup Doubletail on a private reserve near Goulburn. He has been working with the owners of the reserve, Threatened Species Officers and Local Land Services to protect the orchids and raise awareness of the threats facing these plants.

“Orchids are very susceptible to things like fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers, physical disturbance such as cultivation, removal of tree cover in some cases, some species are threatened by fire while others are dependent on fire, and grazing by livestock and native animals, including kangaroos,” John said.

Protecting native orchids

The endangered Buttercup Doubletail has been found in very small populations in the forests and woodlands of the Kanangra-Boyd National Park. There are only a few small, scattered populations remaining in the wild.

Several populations have been found by private landholders near the Great Dividing Range on the NSW Southern and Central Tablelands. Landholders are encouraged to report threatened species by providing a photograph and the location of the plants. This is to help biodiversity and conservation officers understand how many are left, distribution and what kind of vegetation they prefer.

The best habitat for orchids is remnant vegetation, and the soil has not been disturbed or heavily fertilised. They can sometimes exist with the trees removed, but the ground layer is most important as they prefer a little protection from herbivores.

John’s talk and photo exhibition will give attendees a chance to learn more about the terrestrial orchids of the Southern Tablelands, allow landholders to find out about joining the LfW program, and view his stunning collection of photographs.

This event is free to attend, but bookings are essential. To book, please visit: https://events.humanitix.com/native-orchids-photography-exhibition

“Orchids are among the most beautiful and mysterious of all Australian native flowering plants. These plants are important and striking additions to local biodiversity. Australia hosts over 1,700 species, but many face extinction without proper management.”Local Land Services