Monthly Archives: October 2013

Lemon scented

Thelymitra antennifera – Rabbit Ears

The genus of sun orchids can be quite daunting to identify, but thankfully in South Australia Thelymitra antennifera is the most commonly encountered yellow sun orchid with its distinctive column.  It has two common names.  Rabbit ears describe the dark red “ears” that sit on top of the column.  The second name is Lemon Scented Sun orchid, which describes the soft scent emitted by these flowers.

Thelymitra antennifera

This sun orchid has thin grass like leaf with a dark purple base.  The plants quite commonly have several flowers on them.  The flowers are relatively large compared to the small, short stem that holds them.

The Rabbit Ears sun orchid can be found right across Australia from Western Australia into Victoria and Tasmania.  It tends to enjoy a slightly opened woodland, and can be often found on the top of ridges and further down in the valleys.  It is common, and has a long flowering range.  Depending on the region, it can be seen in flower from August to November on any warm day.

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The King

Arachnorchis tentaculata – King Spider Orchid

A hairy leaf of the spider orchid

A hairy leaf of the spider orchid

The king spider orchid is one of the largest orchids, and the most common spider orchid that grows in the Adelaide Hills.  It can stand nearly a foot high, with the flowers nearly ten cm across.  Generally, they have one flower per plant, but sometimes there can be up to three flowers on one stalk.  This species is distinguished by having clubs on the end of its three sepals, as there are other orchids such as Arachnorchis stricta, which are very similar, but don’t have any clubs.

The orchid has a hairy bluish-green coloured leaf, with a slightly purple base.  The leaf is generally fairly rigid and can be four to five cm long.  On one occasion, I saw a leaf that was nearly 10cm high.  The plant had put a lot of energy into the leaf, and would not flower that year.

These spider orchids are pollinated by a native wasp.  The flower tricks the male wasp into believing it is a wasp, by giving of the scent of the female wasp, and through its deceptive (but beautiful) labellum or lip.  Once the male wasp lands on the labellum, or the lip of the flower, it dislocates the pollen on to its head.  After realizing that it has been tricked, it flies away from that flower with the pollen.  After picking up the scent of another spider orchid, the same story happens again, and the second spider orchid is successfully pollinated.  Sometimes the wasps can damage the labellum of the orchid, and this can be seen by it hanging lower than normal.

This is an albino form of Arachnorchis tentaculata.  I have only seen this once, several years ago, even though I've returned to that site more recently.  This is a rare form.

This is an albino form of Arachnorchis tentaculata. I have only seen this once, several years ago, even though I’ve returned to that site more recently. This is a rare form.

Several growers in Adelaide have been able to successfully grow these orchids.  One grower told me that the young seedlings tend to require an adult plant to be present, for survival.  This helps ensure that there is fungi there.  From seed, the spider orchids take about five years to mature and be able to flower.  The plant can live for up to nine years, and should put up a leaf each year, but it may not flower each year.

Personally, this is one of the more delightful orchids, as it has pretty colouring, and is one of the larger orchids.

Arachnorchis tentaculataKnow Them

Nice and Close

Its nice that I am discovering more features on the new camera, or rather my very kind brother is showing me them as he finds them.  Anyway, three weeks ago when I photographed the Arachnorchis rigida, I felt that the pictures had way to much blue in them.  Since then, I learnt how to adjust the white balance, and so now the pictures are closer to the true colours.

Arachnorchis tentaculata

I love this picture of these two spider orchids, Arachnorchis tentaculata, which are hugging each other.  I did not realize that they had two different stem colours, until I looked at the photograph.  Interestingly, the digital camera did not show this as vividly.  Below is another view of the same two orchids.

Arachnorchis tentaculata Another orchid that I saw recently was of the Purple Cockatoo Orchid, Glossodia major.  There was a lovely patch of well over a hundred plants.  I had first found this patch while all the orchids were in bud, but when I went back two weeks later, more than half had finished flowering.  This species has a lot of diversification in colour from a deep purple right through to pure white.

Glossodia major

Glossodia major

Enjoy your weekend!