Rare orchid find a love potion

THERE is hope for single women in Ballina looking for a bloke.

A rare orchid has been found in the area, and Aboriginal women believe it has special powers as a love potion.

But, sorry girls, we can't tell you where the swamp orchid (pictured right) is growing because it is an endangered species.

The plant's beauty and rarity has made it one of Australia's most highly desired orchids, so the illegal collection of the orchids is now a major threat to its survival, along with loss of habitat.

There are about 14 known populations in NSW, but most only consist of a few plants.

Troy Anderson, the son of a local Aboriginal Elder, said the swamp orchid was believed to have "special powers".

And it's lucky it grows locally, because Ballina - and East Ballina in particular - was a meeting place for tribes in the Bundjalung nation, and a chance for single girls to meet up with single men.

The plant gave the girls an extra edge in the ancient equivalent of the bachelor and spinster balls.

"It's a very spiritual plant," Mr Anderson said.

Ballina Coastcare's media officer, Lee Andresen, said poachers looking for cash were the plant's biggest threat.

Over the years, the numbers of the species locally has reduced dramatically.

But he said a research team from Newcastle had visited Ballina in the past year to assess if seeds could be taken and grown to repopulate the local area.

LOVE POTION FLOWER

The swamp orchid has flower stems up to 2m tall.

It has large broad leaves with a pleated appearance.

Produces the largest flowers of any Australian orchid, about 70-110cm long, with up to 20 flowers on each stem.

The flowers have four petals which are white on the outside and brown with white or yellow veins on the inside. The central tongue of the flower is pink and yellow.

The orchids are ground-dwelling.

Source: NSW Environment and Heritage



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