Category Archives: Identification tips

The pretender

Lobelia gibbosa – False Orchid

“It’s summer, and not a lot of orchids are about, but wait, who is that pretty blue flower over there?  Is it an orchid?  I’ve never seen it/read about this flower before.”

Lobelia gibbosa

It might be a pretty flower that is fairly easy to stumble across in the bush, but sadly it is not an orchid, and many have confused it as an orchid, thus enabling it to gain the name “False Orchid.”  It is not even a lily, but is in the family of Campanulaceae.  Since I do not know a lot of information about this plant, I’ve been doing some research and it is really a fascinating plant!

There are several reasons why it can never be an orchid.  It is an annual and orchids are not annuals.  Although the flower may look like it has five segments, it does not have the distinctive column found in all orchids.

DSC03004a (2)It generally has two to four purple/blue and sometimes white flowers that grow from a maroon coloured stem.  The flowers may have a stripe down the center of the petals.  Flowering begins in early summer.  Interestingly, at flowering time, the plant’s leaves have begun to die down.  The plant no longer depends on its roots for survival and can be uprooted and continue to grow.  Consequently it is one of the few flowers that can be found following a 40C heat wave!

It is a fairly widespread plant and can be found in all the states of Australia and even as far as New Zealand and South Africa.  It prefers a slightly open area for growth and seems to be able to cope with a variety of weather conditions.

So while it is not an orchid, or even a lily, enjoy it as it is quite a nice flower!

DSC03010a (2)

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Sources:

Archer, W. 2011. Esperance Wildflowers: Lobelia gibbosa – Tall Lobelia. [online] Available at: http://esperancewildflowers.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/lobelia-gibbosa-tall-lobelia.html [Accessed: Jan 2014].

Friends of Black Hill and Morialta Incorporated. 2013. Lobelia sp. in Black Hill, Morialta and Horsnell Gully Conservation Parks. [online] Available at: http://www.fobhm.org/noframes/lobelia.htm [Accessed: Jan 2014].

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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.

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.

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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

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Lurking in the background

As of yet the weed orchid Disa bractreata has not featured on this site, even though it is the orchid I’ve seen the most this year. It is a terrestrial orchid from South Africa and colonizes very quickly.

83b Disa bracteata (17)

Many orchid enthusiasts try to dig them up. This is because their flower spikes produce thousands of very fine seeds that propagate very easily, and take over areas in a couple of years if not controlled. Understandably many try to remove them when on walks looking for native orchids.

So if you want to weed this plant, make sure you have the right plant. Remember that it is illegal to collect any part of any native orchid within Australia, so know what you are dealing with first. These plants are very tough, which is not surprising considering they are a desert plant. I’ve been told that a flower spikes will continue to produce seeds after being dug up. To give an example of how tough these plants are, some plants were up rooted one week ago, placed in a plastic bag and are still continuing to grow.

Disa bractreata

Orchids still growing after one week in a bag

If you do want to weed it, remember to remove the whole plant from the site including the tubers. From there it is best to place them is a plastic bag to cook in the sun.

Disa bractreata

I have not concerned myself about removing these plants as I suspect they may do some good, but it is only a personal theory at the moment that has not been tested yet.  There was a fairly weedy and disturbed site I know about. There were a couple of shrubs and mostly a lot of this weed. It was like this for some time, but over the last couple ofyears, there has been a rapid decrease in the number of weeds and all of a sudden there are lots of sun orchids, Thelymitra, growing there. Maybe the weedy orchids prepared the soil so that the native orchids could grow there. It would be interesting if research was conducted in this area. Have you ever had any experience with this orchid? I would love to hear about it.

Thelymitra sp

One of the Thelymitra that has appeared recently

New Website

http://saorchids.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/header.jpg?w=564&h=175

I’m quite excited to announce that I have a new website.  Please check it out:

Gallery of South Australian Orchids

It has a selection of photographs of South Australian orchids.  The site is mainly static, so if you want to hold a conversation, it is best to do that here on OrchidNotes.  Please let me know what you think of the new website.  Most the pictures you see here, you will probably see on the other site.

Very soon, there will be a new author for OrchidNotes.  Robert Lawrence, author of Start with the Leaves, will be providing some articles here, which is another exciting development.

Recently I’ve added some more information on this site under the “tabs” so you might like to check it out.

What makes an orchid an orchid

Recently, I have been surprise by the number of “likes” I have received for a post I published several months ago: Parts of an Orchid.  I’ll attempt to write some more posts along these lines, as this seems to be what you (my readers) enjoy!

The origin of the name “Orchids” comes from the Greek word orchis.  This is because the orchids tend to have two tubers shaped like a pair of testicles.  These distinctive tubers separate it from its sister plant group, the lily family.  However when identifying orchids I do not recommend looking at the tubers as it is illegal to dig up orchids in Australia.

Another distinctive feature of an orchid is that both the male and female parts for reproduction are combined on a column, while in other plant families these are separated with sometimes one plant being either the male or female plant.  The column is also an important feature for identification, in particular Thelymitra, sun orchids.

Orchid reproduction

Many orchids rely on fungi for survival.  This makes them challenging to cultivate, with some being impossible to grow, and thus difficult or impossible to re-establish after habitat loss.  Consequently, the number of orchids species present on a site tends to indicate the quality of the site.

Something you may have or may not have noticed is that the flower of an orchid is symmetrical and this is not always applicable to other flowers.

Calochilus cupreus
Bearded orchid

Arachnorchis stricta