Along with many other colourful wildflowers, a rare native orchid not seen since 1994 has made a stunning reappearance following the wildfire that burnt most of the State Conservation Area last February.
Over 100 plants of the fire-dependent Canobolas Leek Orchid, pictured above, have been observed to flower this spring for the first time in two and half decades.
The wildfire burnt about 70 percent of the reserve removing most of the ground cover and shrubs, leaving charred trees and bare ground.
But since the arrival of warmer weather in September native grasses and a dazzling array of fire-stimulated wildflowers have sprouted out of the blackened soil.
Resilience of the mountain’s flora is starkly evident in the abundant epicormic shoots coating the trunks and main branches of the Eucalypt trees. Also reassuring is the resprouting of some heath plants from the base and the appearance of a rich diversity of herbs and forbs.
Recovery of the reserve is being monitored by teams of scientists and local volunteers coordinated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Retired Orange botanists Dr Colin Bower and Dr Richard Medd, and members of the Orange Field Naturalist and Conservation Society, are volunteering as part of the research effort.
‘It has been astonishing to see the variety and abundance of wildflowers stimulated by the fire’, said Dr Bower.
‘In most years Mt. Canobolas is known for the colourful spring displays of shrubs in the heathlands’, he said.
‘However, this year the absence of shrubs and thick grasses in the forests and heaths has made room for a kaleidoscope of orchids, lilies, daisies and other herbs’.
‘We are seeing much greater numbers of these species on Mt Canobolas than in a normal year’, said Dr Medd.
In many places around Australia the underground tubers of these plants, including Yam Daisies, orchids, Milkmaids and Bulbine Lilies, were eaten by Indigenous people’, he said.
‘The abundance of these food plants on the mountain highlights the importance of Mt Canobolas, or Ghannabulla, as a Wiradjuri ceremonial and meeting place’.
‘It is likely these plants were encouraged by ‘fire-stick farming’ for feasting by visitors during ceremonial events’.