The future of one of the State’s most endangered orchids is looking a whole lot brighter after researchers this year made a major scientific breakthrough. Once found in several locations across southern WA, the Queen of Sheba’s population has been decimated from land clearing and is now restricted to small pockets near Bunbury and Albany. And with the remaining populations suffering at the hands of poachers and trampling, the clock is ticking to save the iconic species. In March, after more than a decade, researchers at Kings Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria finally unlocked the recipe to propagating the orchids to create insurance populations. It’s reliance on a particular fungus to grow posed a huge obstacle, but a chance conversation at a conference last year between Dr Davis and RBGV’s Dr Noushka Reiter — who was also struggling to propagate orchids in the same genus — led to a major breakthrough. This year, they successfully extracted the fungus from the roots of a wild plant and were able to grow it in the lab to be used with seeds they had collected. And instead of a handful of seedlings germinating, they had hundreds. “It’s incredibly exciting.” “We’ve already been in talks with the regions about reintroducing them back into the bush — which is really exciting.” Dr Davis said the breakthrough would not only help conserve the purple and gold hued bloom, but WA’s many other flora species and by building up their seed orchard, they would no longer have to collect them from the wild.