Anyone who thinks swamps and bogs are merely dirty puddles of water to avoid at all costs is missing out on hidden treasure! DOC’s Jack Van Hal explains…
The swamp helmet orchid, otherwise known as Corybas carsei, loves life in the bog. Once upon a time it could be found in several bogs, but today these little beauties occur only in one site, in one peat bog within the Whangamarino Wetlands in the Waikato.
It is a tiny nationally critical orchid, only 10-30 mm tall at flowering, which has suffered from orchid thieves and wetland drainage.
The single remaining population at Whangamarino is currently at risk from vegetation succession within its preferred habitat, among open sedge and wire rush.
The flower is a conspicuous maroon-red in colour and is raised above a single leaf. It appears from September through to November. It is such a rare thing that New Zealand Geographic recently came to photograph it for an article, but they were not allowed to identify its exact location.
At Whangamarino, DOC staff have been managing the threats to this little beauty and monitoring shows that numbers have increased from a low of 77 individuals in 2008 to 195 individuals by 2011.
Rangers have been helping to create disturbance regimes by controlled burns to promote growth of the orchid.
Other management and research options being explored include translocations to appropriate habitat within and to other nearby wetlands, and time lapse photography to determine how the orchids are pollinated and what time of year they flower and produce seed.
Thanks to the concerted effort under the Arawai Kākāriki wetland restoration programme the plight of Corybas carsei looks promising.