Spark of new life for orchids

RARE orchids are booming and blooming near Bonegilla and all because they are regularly burned.

Experts say mosaic burns for 20 years have led to a tenfold increase in the native orchids and authorities are using the lessons from these burns to improve other native grasslands.

The burns replicate what happened before Europeans arrived.

Sustainability and Environment Department and Parks Victoria firefighters yesterday lit five hectacres of reserve not far off the Murray Valley Highway.

The grassland was reduced to a blackened landscape as firefighters doused still-smouldering trees.

Senior flora and fauna officer with DSE, Glen Johnson said the burn was perfect for the native plants.

“This area has been intensively managed for more than 20 years and is now seen as a barometer of how to manage other areas,” he said.

“We have seen the orchids that once were as few as 10 now number in the hundreds.

“The orchids are adapted to fire, the burn helping to reinvigorate and rejuvenate the less competitive elements by reducing the biomass and creating space between the tussocks of kangaroo grass.”

Similar ecological burns along the Melbourne rail corridor, near Glenrowan, were abandoned yesterday when fire authorities were called to a fire at Shepparton.

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