Category Archives: Arachnorchis

Spiders

One aspect which makes orchid really appealing is their variety and beauty.  They are stunning pieces of artwork.  Here are some photographs of some of the spider orchids (Arachnorchis) that grow in South Australia.

The most common spider orchid is the King Spider Orchid, Arachnorchis tentaculata.  It is a stunning orchid, and one of the larger ones, being up to 10 cm across.

Arachnorchis tentaculata

Arachnorchis tentaculata

The Queen Spider orchid, Arachnorchis leptochila, is not as common in South Australia.  It is smaller than its sister, and has a more rigid flower.

Arachnorchis leptochila

Arachnorchis leptochila

There are many other spider orchids, but one of my favourite ones would have to be  Arachnorchis rigida.  It’s white petals are so crisp.  This is also quite a small flower.

Arachnorchis rigida

 

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From the past – to the future

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a tour of the State Herbarium of South Australia as part of the Open House Adelaide 2014.  Several years ago I had done volunteer work filing specimens away, so I was somewhat aware of how it runs.  However I did learn a few things from this experience.

Herbarium

The Herbarium lives in the first tram barn in Adelaide.

The herbarium houses over 1.2 million specimens, from species that have been collected within Australia as well as some specimens that are currently on loan from other herbariums in Australia and overseas.  There are also duplicate specimens from overseas in case they are lost in their country of origin.  These specimens are mounted on paper and stored in boxes within the vaults.

The important function of a herbarium is that they control the naming of new species.  In the collection there are type specimens.  These are the original specimen that was used for naming a species and thus will have all the distinctive features of that species.

Another aspect of the herbarium is that they contain specimens that are have been collected from over 200 years ago.  In a display cabinet, they had some specimens that were collected by Robert Brown who accompanied Matthew Flinders in 1802.  These specimens were then transported back to England before they finally make their way back home .  It is incredible that they are still around, because back in the 1800s herbariums did not exist as we know them now.  The amazing part of this is that the really old specimens don’t look that much older than the specimens that were collected within the last few years.

20140503_140820

Some original specimens collected in February and March of 1802

One of the problems that the herbariums face is a little beetle which seems to thrive on the dead plant specimens.  To prevent the spread of the beetle , the herbarium has in place some strict quarantine processes.  Before a specimen can enter the vault, it must be placed in the freezer for at least a week.  Also staff are encouraged not to take in any unnecessary items into the vaults.  This can make it quite a hassle when transporting plants between the herbariums.  To reduce this, they have recently established a database called Australia’s Virtual Herbarium with high resolution images of the type specimens that anyone can view.

When I was on the tour I asked if I could see the orchids which are kept in alcohol.  I was taken to a small room full of tiny little bottles with orchids.  They had lost their colouring but it was possible to see the 3d structure of the flowers – something that is lost in a pressed specimen.

Some of the orchids preserved in small bottles of alcohol

Some of the orchids preserved in small bottles of alcohol

Here is a comparison of the specimen in the herbarium and a species in the wild.  Most of these specimens were collected in the 1960s.

If you would like to know some more about the South Australian State Herbarium or some of their resources, check out the following links:

Some of my favourites

So I’m back!  I’ve enjoyed having a break from blogging while my non-orchid life has been busy and full of pleasant surprises.  Anyway it has been lovely to see that people are still looking at this blog, but I do feel a bit guilty for having not posted recently.  I’ve heard from others that they know someone who reads this, and I find that really nice to know that I make others happy by sharing orchids.  Please say “hi” and let me know where you are.  I would love to hear from you all.

So for today’s post, I’m just going to re-share a few of my favourite pictures from this year.  I did not get out as often as I would have liked, but I always looked forward to hunting for orchids.

Eriochilus cuculata (1)

First off we have Eriochilus cucullatus.  A friend told me about a lovely patch of Eriochilus cucullatus and gave me the coordinates to find the colony.  There were well over a hundred plants scattered across quite a distance.  I really like this pictures with the pollen sitting on the labellum.  I still don’t know how the pollen arrived there.

Fungi

In June, my digital camera tricked me into believing that it had stopped working which worked out very conveniently because I was able to upgrade to a digital SLR camera with multiple lenses.  It’s been great fun to learn to use it properly.

Pterostylis curta

The picture above was lots of fun to take.  The orchids are in a pot, and I set up the camera on the tripod, and zoomed in from a long way away.  The picture was actually taken indoors with the window to the front garden as the backdrop.  There was just enough afternoon sun to capture the golden colours.  This image has not been edited.

Arachnorchis rigida

I was really excited to see the Arachnorchis rigida this year, after not having seen it for awhile.  I love the crispness of the flowers.  At this point I had not learnt how to colour correct the camera so there is too much blue, but I think it kind of worked for this picture.

Arachnorchis tentaculata

Eventually I learnt how to colour correct.  The bush does have a beautiful golden colour which I feel has been captured in the above picture.  I did not realized that these two spider orchids had different coloured stems until I was looking through my pictures later.  I took this picture when I was planning to photograph a field of cockatoo orchids.  That day we were expecting a storm, and thankfully I was able to take my pictures before the wind had picked up and while the sun was still out!  Below are the cockatoo orchids.

Glossodia major

While the field was still spectacular, many of the flowers had already finished.  Maybe next year, I can catch them earlier.

Caleana major

Everyone’s favourite, the large duck orchid.

duck orchidThis year finished by seeing both the duck orchids.  These are always a favourite and every year I seem to forget that they are smaller than I think!  The whole flower of the small duck orchid would be less than 1.5cm high.  I particularly like how these two small duck orchids turned out.

Below is a gallery of other pictures that I enjoyed taking.

Orchids in the forest

Forestry SA land has some of South Australia’s most beautiful and exquisite orchids growing on its lands.  While it is predominately focused on pine tree plantations, it does recognize the importance of conserving our rare and beautiful orchids.  Here is a short film by Julian Pitcher, from Victoria, sharing his finds on Forestry land from a few months ago.

The small ducks came out a week or so after filming.

Enjoy.

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!

A beauty

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I wanted to see some Arachnorchis rigidaI was able to do this last week, and they looked as beautiful as ever.

Arachnorchis rigida

Arachnorchis rigida

These orchids are quite small as can be seen in this picture.  There were fourteen plants in flower with two in bud.

Arachnorchis rigida

There were quite a lot of other orchid species that I saw both in bud and in flower.  It was a very good site, and I am looking forward to heading back soon to get some more photographs.  Have a good weekend.