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Rare native orchid returning to Kimberley thanks to TAFE program

Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul female rangers have learnt how to cultivate a rare native tree orchid thanks to a new training program offered at North Regional TAFE in Broome.

The once abundant cymbidium canaliculatum tree orchid is now extinct in many areas of the Kimberley due to the illegal collection of the flower, altered fire regimes and other environmental changes.

The orchid program is part of a collaboration between North Regional TAFE and Curtin University to help local communities rebuild wild populations of the rare flower.

John Curtin distinguished professor Kingsley Dixon contributed to the training.

He said he enjoyed teaching the rangers and was glad they found the exercise of value.

“The questions they asked indicated they were ready to do some deep dives into propagation theory, which is so encouraging,” he said.

The advanced training aims to give rangers the skills to grow the Kimberley tree orchid and reintroduce it into the wild in areas where the flower used to thrive, such as the Dampier Peninsula and along Gibb River Road.

Nyul Nyul ranger Lilian Lawford said the rangers were given baby orchids and experimented with different techniques to duplicate and grow the plants locally as part of their training.

“It was really interesting to learn more about orchids and we are interested now to record where they still are on country,” she said.

The program will work with Aboriginal communities in the Broome and Derby regions to develop a seed collection, propagation and replanting program.

Another key aspect of the program will be to seek out and obtain seeds of the rare apple-green variety of the orchid that has been hard hit by illegal collectors.

The flowers cultivated by the program will be supplied to local nurseries in hopes that collectors can get the orchids without damaging their wild populations.

Bardi Jawi Oorany ranger Tiayana Edgar said she found it interesting learning about different plants and how to grow them.

“I reckon we could do more research on the orchids and try grow some in our nursery,” she said.

“I hope our nursery can look as good as the TAFE nursery and have more plants so we can rehabilitate more areas of country for the future.”

Local care and maintenance of the reintroduced species along Gibb River Road will be supported by three major stations, with the program wrapping up in 2026.

Bardi Jawi Oorany ranger Vivien Hunter said she and the other rangers who took part in the training program were passionate about growing plants and caring for country.

“This course helped us to do that work better and understand the nurturing needed to grow orchids,” she said.

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