The First International Orchid Conservation Congress

An activity undertaken by the Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, Perth, WA, and supervised by K Dixon

Orchid conservation is at a cross-roads. World wide orchids are diminishing as habitats are cleared or pests and diseases take their toll. Today more than ever, conservation of this remarkable and popular plant group is a crucial and urgent task. And with the Orchidaceae being one of the largest families of flowering plants, the importance of getting conservation right the first time with this group would have important collateral benefits for many other plant groups.

The First International Orchid Congress held in Perth in September 2001 represented a turning point in orchid conservation. With pivotal sponsorship from the Hermon Slade Foundation, 200 botanists, orchid professionals and regulators were brought together for the first time to both celebrate orchids and to provide a synthesis of how science might assist to protect endangered orchid species.

Delegates represented 21 countries and was the largest and most diverse meeting of orchid scientists concerned with orchid conservation. Running over five days the congress covered many of leading areas of orchid biology and conservation research including taxonomy and nomenclature standards, conservation genetics, molecular phylogeny, orchid pollination biology, propagation science including mycorrhiza, conservation legislation and reintroduction programs. International delegates were impressed with the displays of Australian orchid species and the quality and breadth of orchid conservation research being undertaken in Australia.

Field trips to orchid rich habitats highlighted the wealth of Australia's orchid flora and some of the important issues being addressed in conservation of some of the nation's more critically endangered orchids. Delegates were impressed with the organisation and support of the lead sponsor, The Hermon Slade Foundation in bringing the first congress to fruition.

The success of the first congress resulted in multiple bids to hold the next meeting now scheduled for Florida in 2004. The Hermon Slade Foundation provided key financial support for the first congress that has enabled an important series of further forums to occur to address the decline in the orchids of the world.