Species Orchid Society of

Western Australia (Inc)

Reflections on yesteryear - the Species Orchid
Society of WA turns twenty five in 2013!

As your President suggested last meeting, over the next few months I will report on some of the highlights over the past twenty five years. I attended the first general meeting held at the Sandgate St. Hall in South Perth on 26 May 1988.

Of the thirteen members that attended that meeting, only Gordon, Joan, Neville, Noel and Eva and I continue to be members. However, from the meeting in March 1998 convened by Neville to explore the proposal to start an orchid society focussed on promoting the propagation and cultivation of species orchids, the Society has grown and prospered and we now have more than 70 members (both individuals and families).

On 27 October 1998, at a special general meeting the Society's draft constitution (modelled on the Northern Districts Orchid Society constitution) was endorsed by members and subsequently registered with the appropriate State government agency.

The first silent auction was held on 24 November 1988 as a simple, but enjoyable means of generating funds for the Society's ongoing operation, thereby helping to keep the annual membership fees to a minimum. Plants were donated by members and several local nurseries. The Silent Auction generated $440.50 which met the Society's immediate need for funds to meet the monthly expenses. By the way, in reviewing the minutes of those early meetings, I noted (as did Graham Bowden) that our hall hire expense was only $16 per night!

At their meeting in February 1989, the Committee decided to take a proposal to the next general meeting that home visits be scheduled for the Sunday following the general meeting. The first home visit was held at Neville and Olwyn's home on 26 February 1989. This innovation has been an integral part of what our society does from the very early days, an idea that I am pleased to observe has been adopted by other general societys since. These visits continue to be a core activity of the Species Orchid Society of WA.

Another integral part of the Society's monthly meetings was benching of species orchids, with the grower saying a few words about their plant(s). Sometime later, one of the members who worked for Kings Park Botanical Garden commented that given the level of knowledge displayed by members, we should be doing something to record this valuable information so that it could be made available to members. Neville took on the responsibility of designing a form to gather this information, and continued to coordinate this activity for many years until Murray offered to take it on. Murray very wisely persuaded Mich to help him.

From the society's earliest meetings, members and visiting speakers were invited to make presentations to the members on a wide range of topics including conservation and propagation of WA terrestrial orchids, slide shows of species orchids, orchid culture, plant importation and quarantine, and plant breeding. The Society has always taken advantage of visiting expertise including people such as Ross Maidment (Aranbeem Orchids), Geoff Stocker (Stocker's Orchids), Norito Hasegawa (Paphanatics), Michelle Andriamanamihaja (Mallala Orchidee), as well as that possessed by members to increase the knowledge and awareness of species orchid culture.

The Society's emblem, Diuris longifolia was adopted in October 1998 and was included on the letterhead that was designed by Eva in mid-1990 when members agreed that it was time that the Society had some formal identification. A representation of Diuris longifolia was also used on the white plastic name badge members agreed to purchase from Imprint Plastics at a cost of $3.06 each in April 1989. This name badge continued in use for many years with additional badges being ordered as required. More recently, a new badge designed by Mich has been made available to members although some prefer to use the original badge.

In January 1991, the members agreed to mount a display at the Australian Orchid Conference scheduled for September of that year, and ever since, has mounted display at major shows including the Forest Place Shows in August 1993, August 1994 and August 1995; the Horticultural Spectacular in November 1995; and the WA Orchid Spectacular events in 2005 and 2008, and more recently, the 19th AOC in September 2012.

Initially, the Society followed the well-established practice in other societies of setting up seedling competitions. The first of these were Oncidium varicosum var rogersii and Cattleya intermedia var inorata in September 1998. Consistent with the operation of seedling competitions, the growth of these and other plants were assessed over time. Subsequently, it was decided in July 1990 that to assist members to expand their species collections, that suitable orchids would be sourced at the lowest possible cost and sold to members. In the beginning, these plants were small and often sold for as little as $2! This initiative continues and over past 13 years, more than 200 different species orchids have been offered for sale to members. While there have been many of these plants that have perished many have survived and can be seen from time-to-time on the display bench at our monthly meeting.

The Society continued to grow its membership and in 1992, purchased a second-hand photocopier to simplify publication of our newsletters and other printed materials. Subsequently, it ceased operating and for some years, we relied on the generosity of others who allowed us to use their equipment free of charge. In 2004, we purchased another second hand copier that supported duplex printing and collation making newsletter editor's life simpler and substantially reducing the time taken to print and distribute the newsletter each month. In 2009, the members endorsed the purchase of a colour laser printer to enable the inclusion of some colour photos in the newsletter, which at the same time was redesigned to its current format by Michele. With Tony's assistance, more than half our newsletters are now e-mailed to members as a PDF file resulting in a substantial saving in postage costs.

In 1992-93, members of the Society considered the vexing question of whether line-bred species should be eligible for display at meetings, given the obvious superiority in flower form over a naturally occurring species. While a range of views were expressed and some robust discussion followed, ultimately, it was agreed that line-bred species were still species, and as such, their display was entirely consistent with the Society's objectives, and furthermore, would help in demonstrating desirable plant characteristics such as larger or more numerous flowers, (often a result of tetraploidy) flower life, reduce plant size etc. At the same time, it was agreed that natural hybrids (eg Dendrobium x delicatum) would be eligible for display and members were encouraged to research plants in their collection to ascertain whether some might be natural hybrids.

With help from Bill Edwards in 1991, Ken & Chris had constructed and licensed their quarantine glasshouse to reduce the difficulty in importing orchids from overseas. At that time, the glasshouse care fees charged by the WA Agriculture Department were starting to rise and given the commercial nature of that organisation, it was not always possible, despite the best intentions of quarantine glasshouse staff, to give plants the individual attention that was required to help them overcome the rigours of bare-root transportation and compulsory Methyl Bromide fumigation. Ken & Chris had used the glasshouse to bring back orchid plants on several overseas trips, and in 1994, offered the use of the facility to the Society to enable members to access species orchids that were generally not available in Australia.

This offer was accepted, and in May 1996, the first shipment of orchids for members was imported from Kabukiran Orchids in the Philippines. Since then, shipments have been brought in from suppliers in several countries.

In 2000, Tony established the society's online presence with the creation of the Species Orchid Society of WA webpages. Creating and maintaining this site on which we have many articles, the Ron Heberle photo collection along with others that have been provided by members, monthly newsletters and other information has been a labour of love for Tony as our webmaster who has continued to take responsibility for this now very substantial website. The society has received many favourable comments about the quality of material available, and several of the photos from the site photos have been used by other online and hard copy authors.

Membership of the Society continued to grow through the 90s and early 2000s, and was recently boosted by new members who joined up at the 19th AOC. There has always been a number of Eastern States members, some who joined to take advantage of the co-operative importation of plants and others who shared or common interest in species. Attendance at monthly meetings has varied 20-30 to more than 50 over the 25 years that the society has been in existence although generally higher in the spring/summer/autumn months when the weather is more benign.

Over the past 25 years, the Society has invested in a magnificent library of books, journals and more recently, digital media that is available to members. While in earlier years, many of the books purchased were those on general sale, those purchased over the last 10-15 years have often been expensive publications and/or genera and/or/country specific books that are not widely available. The materials in the library are conservatively valued at several thousand dollars, and many are now out of print and thus cannot be purchased. Members of the committee travelling overseas have often bought books back from Asia and USA to enhance the collection. Please take the time to browse through the library.

In 2000, the Society presented the first life membership to Ted and Joan. Ted and Joan were foundation members of the Society, and both were active on the committee, Joan as Treasurer from 1988 to May 2001. With others, Ted and Joan helped create the spirit and ethos of the Society, and were exemplars in their dedication and service to us. We are known as a friendly, open and sharing group, recognition of the values that were both espoused and acted out by those original members. Many others have followed their example and have been active members of the committee for many years. Since then, the Society has recognised a further six members for their long and meritorious service to us.

The Society's general meetings were held on the evening of the 4th Thursday of the month so as not to clash with any other society as many of our members were also members of one or more general societies. For the first few years, we met at the Sand-gate Street hall in South Perth. Eventually we outgrew this venue and moved to the Forster Park hall in Belmont in October 1997. We remained at this venue until the City of Belmont decided to undertake ma-jor renovations to the car parking area which would have made it difficult to operate. Additionally, The City had significantly increased the hire fees. After experiment-ing with another venue that was close, the decision to move to the present venue in Wilson was endorsed. However, as there was already a regular booking for the 4th Thursday each month, it was agreed to move the meeting to the 2nd Tuesday of each month. While this did inconvenience some members, the majority have adapted and are enjoying the benefits of a more economical, well equipped venue that is easily accessible from the local highways to members from all points of the compass.

In 2002, the Society conducted the first 'special raffle'. These are flowering sized species plants, often donated by members which are raffled at general meetings. This provides another opportunity for members to expand their species collection. For the past several years, the Society has also auctioned flowering size species, again often donated by members or acquired from collections sold when local orchid growers leave the hobby. For example, former members, Kayley and Andrew Usher gave their extensive collection to the Society and these plants were grown on by members and when in flower, either raffled or auctioned. When our Life Member, Barry Gardner passed away, the Society purchased many species from his fine collection of Catasetum and related genera. At the recent AOC, the Society purchased 50 flowering size plants from Orchid Species Plus that are being auctioned as they come into flower.
In 2013, the Melville and Districts Orchid Society (Inc) was unable to continue and ceased operating. Very generously (and in accordance with their Constitution), the members of that Society agreed to donate the funds that it held to the Species Orchid Society of WA to be used for the importation and distribution of species orchids. The Society established a separate account for this generous bequest and over the following several years, used money from the fund to purchase plants that were on-sold to members. Each was tagged with an acknowledgement of Melville Orchid Society's generous bequest. The balance of this bequest was used to acquire plants and flasks at the 19th AOC that will be distributed to members over the next few years.

Over the past twenty five years the Society has also assisted members to dispose of their orchid collections when the time comes to downsize, or when the active grower passes away. Arranging, promoting, coordinating and staging major collection auctions has meant that the families of these members receive fair value for their plants, at the same time enabling members to acquire many desirable species that might often be difficult to purchase. In this regard, the Society acknowledges its willing and capable auctioneers, most notably Tom who has always been ready to put his hand up to help, and is very successful in getting buyers to increase their bid a little more. The auctions of Reg Allison's and Barry Gardner's collections are two examples of this activity that involved many members that demonstrate the friendly, caring and supportive values of the Society.

When Reg Allison was President in 2002, he investigated and obtained approval to rescue dig terrestrial orchids from development sites, most notably the northern freeway extension. Graham and Margaret have continued this tradition and from time-to-time, have coordinated rescue digs where approval can be obtained.
Participation in these rescue digs has led to much greater appreciation of the unique WA terrestrial orchids, and to many more members actively growing and displaying these plants. Most recently, Graham and Margaret coordinated the rescue of terrestrial orchids from the Fiona Stanley Hospital site in Murdoch before construction began, and in June 2013, the replanting of rescued orchids in the hospital gardens. Graham and Margaret, and David grew these plants on for some 5 years before they were replanted. While some were inadvertently "weeded" by inexperienced contractors hired by the hospital, it is hoped that the majority will survive and be on view for patients walking in the gardens.

Over the past twenty five years, the Species Orchid Society of WA has firmly stamped its mark on orchid growing in WA and promoted the interest in species. This is evident in the increase in the number of species orchids now displayed in general society shows and offered for sale in WA. While this is broadly consistent with a worldwide trend, the broad membership of the Species Society by people who are often members of other societies has been one of the foundations of our success.

The Species Society has a reputation for being a friendly and welcoming group, where knowledge is freely shared and new members are encouraged and supported as they accept the challenge of cultivating species orchids. As a foundation member, these values are important to me and I firmly believe are largely responsible for the success that we have enjoyed.

Ken Jones, Editor