Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sand lover

Leporella fimbriata – Fringed Hare Orchid

A leaf of a Leporella fimbriata

This common orchid is found in sandy soils flowering mainly from March to May.  However it can grow in gravelly soils, but requires fire to encourage flowering, where as colonies will flower readily in sandy soils.  This species like many of Australia’s orchids, is endemic to Australia, and can be found from the west to the east of the country, across the southern band of the continent.

Its Latin species name, fimbriata, refers to its fringed labellum, or the lip of the flower.  Its flower will appear before its leaves.  The leaves of this species are very distinct and beautiful, with vivid red stripes and red edging contrasted against a green with a hint of blue.  The leaves on there own are very spectacular.  The leaves are very stiff.

Upon seeing a photograph of these orchids, it is easy to be deceived by their size.  The height of a flower is just over 2cm, while the flower is only 1cm wide.  The whole flower would fit into a postage stamp! The flower stem will be between 15cm to 20cm tall, but less rain may cause it to be stunted.

Know Them

Fascinating Plants

“Lilies that smell like chocolate and orchids that bloom underground are some of Adelaide’s most fascinating plants…” so begins the newspaper report (Advertiser,18th May 2012, page 4).  A catchy sentence and it did catch my attention – particularly the ‘orchids that bloom underground’.

There are orchids that bloom underground and they are unique to Australia.  So far they have definitely been found in Western Australia and New South Wales.  Based upon the interstate information, it doesn’t appear likely that there would have been underground orchid on the Adelaide Plains but there are many other places in South Australia with similar habitat to the interstate species.  This then begs the question – did they or do they occur in South Australia?

Now for a further question, has anyone seen or have knowledge of an underground orchid sighting in South Australia?  If you do have any information, contact the Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA)

Now back to that catchy sentence.  There are many fascinating orchids that were on the Adelaide Plains and perhaps the opening sentence could have read Lilies that smell like chocolate and orchids that have beards

What makes Australian Orchids Different

Most Australian orchids are terrestrial orchids, which means they grow in the ground.  This is different to the epiphytic orchids which grow in trees.  Structurally these two types of orchids are vastly different.

Epiphytice orchids are pseudo-bulbous  with leaves that last all the year around.  The new plant will grow off these pseudo-bulbs, complete with roots which are exposed to the air.

In contrast, terrestrial orchids can be likened to lilies.  They grow in the ground but unlike lilies many rely on fungi to survive.  They have a bulb or tuber under the ground.  Their leaves vary quite a lot.  However most of the leaves begin to appear around autumn or this time of year.  The flowering time is also variable, with orchids flowering in every month.  However, most of the orchids flower from early winter to the end of spring.

Cyrtostylis reniformis

Linguella nana

Terrestrial orchids reproduce in a variety of ways.  Most require a pollinator which can be a Australian bee (Not a European bee, as these actually destroy the flowers), wasps and sometimes ants.  A lot is still needs to be discovered about orchid pollinators.  Some orchids reproduce by producing a new tuber from their old one.  In these cases, they may not flower very often, but their leaves will be present.

Pterostylis nutans
Nodding Green-hood

What makes our Australian terrestrial orchids so special is their variety.  The common names of many or our orchids indicate the variety.  There are Donkey orchids, Flying Duck orchids, Moose orchids, Helmet orchids, Green hoods, Sun orchids, Onion orchids, Mosquito orchids, Cockatoo orchids, Hyacinth orchids, Spider orchids, Bearded orchids and more.

Our orchids are a barometer of the quality of the surrounding bushland (vegetation).  Though some can be cultivated it is difficult to re-establish, and in some cases impossible to replace orchids once lost.  Within in South Australia, most of the land around Adelaide has been cleared for housing, and within the surrounding Adelaide Hills many areas they are left have had weeds take over.  In the Adelaide region only 5% of original vegetation is left.  This figure is larger in the Eastern states as terrain is steeper and therefore harder to clear.

Diuris beiri
Cowslip Donkey Orchid

Orchids in Australia are protected under law.  This means that no part of the flower can be taken.  This includes the flower, seed pod, leaves and tubers.  The key example of an orchid being collected too much is the Cowslip Donkey Orchid.  This orchid used to be very common, and people would collect baskets of them.  Now they are endangered, and I’ve never seen more than a dozen plants at once.

However orchids can be enjoyed by photographing them.  After the flowers have finished, I return to pictures and remember the enjoyment of a day looking for and photographing these unique flowers.

Orchid Leaves in May

The orchids are on the move.  At this time of the year, most of the orchids will have started putting their leaves up.  So out in the bush somewhere there will be Thelymitra leaves, Leporella, Pyrorchis, Cyrtostylis, etc, etc.  Arachnorchis are just starting.  Corybas is among the last.  But among the very last, Microtis might just be emerging and Prasophyllum has not yet started.

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Orchid Photographs

Photographing orchid is an excellent way to enjoy orchids.  Not only is it fun to find the orchid and photograph them on the field, but when you are home again, you can look over the pictures and enjoy looking at those orchids.

Duck Orchid

Some ask, “What camera do you use to get such clear picture?”  Personally I use the Richo compact digital cameras.  The reason is that these cameras have excellent macro focus allowing you to get within 1cm of the flower and it will still focus.  Also this company offers a good service if you need a camera repaired, and it is affordable.

Thelymitra rubra

Thelymitra antennifera

It is interesting to note that the above pictures were all taken with a 4mega pixel camera.  However the next picture was takes with a Sony camera.

Corysanthes diemenica

The above pictures is one of my favourites.  I’ve always wanted to take a picture of a field of orchids, and here I was able to with a field of helmet orchids.  It was interesting to discover that all the flowers were facing one direction, (partly why they can be easily seen in the above picture) in fact they were all facing south.

Here are some tips I use when photographing orchids:

  • Have the flower in focus (sometimes anti-shake helps)
  • Don’t use a flash – avoid black backgrounds and colour distortion
  • Try and capture the flower in the sunlight
  • Have the background slightly blurred so the orchid stands out, but not so much that it becomes a single colour
  • Take lots of photos from different angles, looking for unusual angles
  • Enjoy taking photo
  • Find a camera that suits you (this helps make it enjoyable, and you don’t need to pay a fortune)
  • Identify the Orchid (It could be you have photographed something that is rare or unusual)

Theylmitra rubra

Orchids in Swamps

Orchids grow in swamps.

At least, they do in South Australia and I have no doubt they do in other parts of the world.  Most orchids love water.  And there are at least three very different orchids that refuse to grow anywhere else beside swamps.

First is the Moose Orchid.

Then there is the Spiral Orchid.

The Spiral Orchid comes in a white variety as well as pink.

And there is also a little Sun Orchid.

Orchids without Leaves

Some orchids have no leaves at all.  They depend entirely on fungi to grow.

Below are two such orchids.  The first is a Hyacinth Orchid, of which there are a few.  One is very common, flowering throughout the Adelaide Hills during the summer months.  There is a rarer Hyacinth Orchid, a spotted Hyacinth Orchid, which similar in appearance but a different species.  The common Hyacinth Orchid is the one shown below.

The Hyacinth Orchid is so named because of its resemblance to the hyacinth flowers.  Both the common and the spotted varieties of the Hyacinth Orchid flower at Christmas time.

Then there is the Cinnamon Bells, or the Potato Orchid.  It is rare like the spotted Hyacinth Orchid.  Cinnamon Bells is a very appropriate name with its cinnamon coloured bell like flowers as well as its scent.