A Phaius orchid
A Phaius orchid
11 September 2012

University of Queensland start-up company Aussie Colours has come to the rescue of two rare and endangered Australian native Phaius orchids.

Phaius orchids are native to South-East Queensland and among the largest ground varieties in the world, flowering prolifically in winter.

P. bernaysii, also known as Yellow Swamp Orchid, has sulphur-yellow flowers making it highly attractive and sought after by collectors.

P. australis, also known as the Giant Swamp Orchid, has red-brown flowers. Both species are impressive plants capable of producing several flower spikes up to two metres tall, with more than 16 large blooms each about 10 cm in diameter flowering from August to November.

P. bernaysii, is almost extinct and P. australis is endangered, both as a result of development, recreation, and over-collection in the wild.

Aussie Colours Managing Director, Cameron Turner, said the native plant breeding company was working with UQ's Dr Dion Harrison to develop commercial tissue culture propagation of both varieties, utilising both seed and clonal production methods to help maintain the genetic diversity of these species as much as possible.

“These rare orchids are sold in some nurseries specialising in Australian natives, but demand is greater than the supply of varieties propagated by enthusiasts,” he said.

"Aussie Colours has named its range of Phaius orchids “Aussie Giant”, because they are so large, and the flower spikes can be taller than the average Aussie.

"We have already started commercial production, so thousands of these orchids will soon be available from more nurseries for home gardeners and revegetation programs.

“This means many more Queenslanders will be able to purchase the plants within the next two months and be enjoying these rare orchids in their gardens during Spring."

Dr Harrison, from UQ’s Centre for Native Floriculture, said the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) listed P. australis and P. bernaysii as endangered, with P. bernaysii also listed as endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland).

P. bernaysii is currently known to occur in only one area on Stradbroke Island. This population was recorded in 1992 as just 20 flowering plants over an area of 60 m by 10 m. History, however, records this species as also being collected from Peel Island, Bribie Island, and Noosa Heads,” he said.

A limited number of Aussie Giant Orchids will be on display and for sale at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, on September 15 and 16 during The Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) flower and plant show.

Aussie Colours will also have some new prickle-free native hibiscus and new rice flower varieties on display and for sale at this event.

Keen gardeners will also be able to see Aussie Giant Orchids at the Queensland Orchid Society show also at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on 21 - 23 September.

Media: Leanne Wyvill +61 7 3365 4037, 0409 767 199 or l.wyvill@uniquest.com.au
Commercial: Cameron Turner 0437 448 773 or c.turner@uniquest.com.au

About Aussie Colours Pty Ltd www.aussiecolours.com.au
Aussie Colours is a plant breeding and marketing company maximising the commercial potential of Australia’s native flora. The enterprise was established by UniQuest Pty Limited, the main commercialisation company of The University of Queensland and has maintained links with the Centre for Native Floriculture, an entity within the University. The Centre has an extensive flowering plant selection and breeding program which has been operating since 2003. Investment from the Brisbane Angels and TeQstart has enabled Aussie Colours to flourish as an Australian university start-up and promote unique Australian native plants to gardeners, landscapers and florists all round the world. Aussie Colours also assists other native plant breeders with commercialisation of their varieties, including assessments of commercial potential and development of commercialisation strategies.

About UniQuest Pty Limited www.uniquest.com.au
Established by The University of Queensland in 1984, UniQuest is widely recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups, benchmarking in the top tier of technology transfer worldwide. From an intellectual property portfolio of 1500+ patents it has created over 70 companies, and since 2000 UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than A$450 million to take university technologies to market. Annual sales of products using UQ technology and licensed by UniQuest are running at A$3 billion. UniQuest now commercialises innovations developed at The University of Queensland and its commercialisation partner institutions: University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, University of Tasmania, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Queensland Health. A recent addition to the company is the Queensland Government-supported ilab technology business incubator and accelerator. UniQuest also provides access to an expansive and exclusive network of independent academics to tailor a consulting or project R&D solution to meet the diverse needs of industry and government, facilitating some 500 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year. UniQuest is also a leading Australasian provider of international development assistance recognised for excellence in technical leadership, management and research. Working with agencies such as AusAID, NZAID, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, UniQuest has developed and implemented more than 400 projects in 60+ countries throughout the Pacific, South-East Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa.