Monthly Archives: May 2013

The tiny Mosquito Orchid

Over the last week I have been frantically busy, and… well, wishing I had more time to go and hunt for some orchids.  So today’s post is going to be rather informal!  I do have some pictures to share with you, that were taken about this time of year, 15th May 2012.  They are of the Mosquito Orchid (Acianthus pusillus).  I have written about them before.

The flowers are very small, and the whole plant can stand up to 10 cm for a tall plant.  However, most seem to be closer to 6 or 7 cm high.  The following leaf shows the different growth stages.  If there has not been rain for some time, it generally stays the same size, but after a downpour, the leaf expands.

Acianthus pusillus

I thought the follow picture was quite cute.  It is so tiny, but as the buds open, it would probably become taller.

Acianthus pusillus

And here are some other, healthy specimens.

It is not uncommon, either to find fields of these orchids.

Acianthus pusillus

Enjoy your weekend, and hopefully I’ll see some orchids soon.

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Small Wonder

Corunastylis sp. Adelaide Hills – Midge Orchids

This genus would have to be one of the most frustrating orchids to identify (at least I think so), and when found in the wild only looks like a twig sticking out of the ground, but when looking at a picture is a surprisingly beautiful flower.  However Bates 2011 said, “Basically if one finds a woodland species in the Mount Lofty Ranges it will be this taxon,” so I guess it is not that hard to identify.

The variety of colourings

The variety of colourings

So it is the Corunastylis sp. (Adelaide Hills), an unobtrusive flower showing itself from late February to May.  The distinguishing feature of this orchid is its labellum which is so tiny, and so difficult to get under to see!  The whole plant stands under 10 cm, with many small brown and green flowers along the stem.  It is fairly widespread in South Australia, growing from Eyre Peninsula across to the Flinders Ranges, and down to the South East and Kangaroo Island.

2009 036a

Note: this is the Mt. Billy species

This orchid does have a leaf which wraps around the stem of the plant.  However it can be difficult to see.  The flowers are pollinated by a small little fly.  It is quite common to find the little pollinator sitting on the flower, with pollen on its back.

Mostly the orchid is found in sandy soil, or open areas.  Quite often it seems to enjoy living dangerously, growing in the middle of tracks and paths.

This genus is not just unique to Australia, as there are other species which can be found in New Caledonia and New Zealand.

A remaining captual

A remaining capsules

Often the finished capsules of the orchids can be found quite some time after flowering, right into spring.  The above picture shows that this plant was pollinated and has produced some swollen capsules.

Corunastylis sp copy

Reference:
Bates, R. (2011) South Australia’s Native Orchids. Native Orchid Society of South Australia Inc, p.455.

Know Them

Nice and Early

Eriochilus cucullatus – Parson’s Bands

The Parson’s Bands is a small white flower that appears from late March to May and is reasonably common.  The flowers always appear before the leaves, which can then last some time after flowering has finished.  The whole plant can stand up to fifteen cm high, and usually has one flower per stem, and on rarer occasion can have up to three flowers on one stem.  This orchid appears to like growing in small open places, including rocky places and old tracks.

Eriochilus cuculata (1)

Within the Eriochilus cucullatus species in South Australia there are several subspecies with Eriochilus sp Hills woodland being the most commonly found.  In Victoria only E. cucullatus exists, but there are several other species found in Western Australia.

Eriochilus cuculata (19)

This orchid is believed to be pollinated by a small native bee, which the orchid attracts through its flower’s colouring and scent.  The picture above shows some pollinia on the flower’s labellum.

After it flowers, or towards the end of flowering, the leaves of this orchid begin to appear.  They are a dark green-grey colouring, with a textured top.  If leaves are found at a site, it is probably a good idea to check these areas next autumn for any flowers.

Eriochilus cucullatus

Know Them

The Fire Danger season is over

Or is it?

Fire Danger

April 30 marks the official end of the Fire Danger season.  That means that after May 1, farmers and landowners can do burn-offs, before the rains come.  Principally, control burns are for fuel reduction.

Controlled burns don’t always stay within prescribed limits.  Sometimes, they get out of hand.  Even this week, I have heard of a couple of fires getting out of control.  Of course, they are nothing like the bushfires we have in summer, but they are still a threat.  The fire danger season is not over.

Some Australian native plants need fire to reproduce but the fire needs to be at the right time of the year which happens to be our fire danger season.

Fires in autumn, winter and spring can be dangerous for our native plants, including the orchids.  The Fire Orchid (Pyrorchis nigricans) is one orchid that needs fire in order to flower.  It is quite common with its leaves appearing every year but with only the occasional flower.  It will not flower unless there has been a fire the previous year.  However, the fire has to be in summer while the plants are dormant.  In winter, a controlled burn can destroy the leaves and the whole plant.

Pyrorchis nigricans

Another flower that improves with summer fires are the Prasophyllums.  By improve, I mean they have a striking black stem instead of the standard green stem.

Prasophyllum elatum

Prasophyllum elatum

Leptoceras menziesii produces more flowers after a summer fire.  This seems to be a general trend among the orchids and other Australian flowers.

Leptoceras menziesii

However that being said, there is a lot we don’t understand and don’t know about fire regimes and the Australian bush.