Category Archives: Tracking

Four years

So it has now been four years since I have been observing this patch of helmet orchids (Corysanthes diemenica).  The first time I saw it in 2011 was probably the best year.  This year was not brilliant but it looked fairly good.  2013 was probably when I saw the least number of orchids flowering.

Corysanthes diemenica in 2011

In 2011 I saw the most flowers in this patch.

Corysanthes diemenica

In 2012, there were not many flowers out and is probably the least number of flowers I’ve seen at this patch.

Corysanthes diemenica

In 2013, there were not many flowers but a lot of leaves were up.

Corysanthes diemenica

So 2014 put in a fairly decent display.  A lot of the plants that were up were flowering.

And here is a picture of the little helmet orchids (taken on my phone) when the sun decided to come out!

Corysanthes diemenica

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Three years difference

In July 2011, I came across this amazing colony of Corysanthes dieminica (Helmet orchids.)  It was really exciting to find them, as I had not seen such a healthy colony before.  The picture below of the field of flowers is one of my favorite shots.

Corysanthes diemenica

In 2011

There were so many flowers.  It almost seemed that every plant that was up was flowering.  The total patch would be at least one metre wide, and nearly a metre and a half long.  It is sits between a path and a couple of Xanthorrhoea, under which there were a few flowers.

The whole patch

The whole patch in 2011

I find it interesting that all the flowers are facing one direction.  In this case it is towards the south.  Other smaller patches of Corysanthes diemenica have also faced mainly one direction, but not always to the south.

Another angle

Another angle again in 2011

So after finding something as good as this, I had to come back the next year.  In 2012, there weren’t nearly as many flowers or leaves up.  The picture below shows the most dense section in 2012, which is nothing compared to 2011.

Corysanthes diemenica

In 2012

This year there weren’t many flowers either.  Looking across the different pictures, it looks like there are more leaves up this year, with a couple of flowers.  However, I did notice that there were more flowers under the Xanthorrhoea, than I could remember previously.  I wonder what will happen next year.

Corysanthes diemenica

In 2013

The colouring of the helmet orchids are so beautiful.  The flowers are also partially transparent, and this makes them stunning to look at when the sunlight comes through the flower!

Corysanthese dieminica

There’s nothing like getting up nice and close

Click on any of the images to view them at a larger size.

Monitoring orchids

I am delighted to have been invited to be an author on OrchidNotes and this is my first post.

Native Orchids are fascinating and beautiful.  There is an amazing variety, as posts on this website show.  Many are quite small and easily overlooked, but they are often surprisingly easy to find.  They commonly like open areas and occur next to walking tracks in national parks.  Others are more elusive and only occur in special locations.

Glossodia major

Part of a large population of Glossodia major (Purple Cockatoo)

Many orchids are highly adapted and have very limited habitat requirements.  They will flourish when the conditions are right, but they will disappear when the conditions change. This means that conserving orchids is important.  They will be lost for ever if there is indiscriminate modification of areas of habitat and future generations will miss out.  If orchid habitats are kept intact, then habitat for a great variety of flora and fauna will also be protected.

We have met many people with a love for orchids in their natural environment, including those of you who follow this site.  Many people have been keeping lists of species that they find each year at their favourite orchid sites.  Some have huge collections of photographs that hardly anyone sees.

What these people have been doing is observing species diversity.  This is an important measure of the health of an ecosystem, but there is much more that could be observed in a systematic manner that uses native orchids to measure and understand processes happening in the local ecology.

Oligochaetochilus arenicola locations (4)

Monitoring sites could be established to observe changes in orchid populations from year to year.  These could document changes in the number of plants of each species.  The timing of emergence of leaves and flowers could change from year to year with different weather conditions.  Pollination rates could provide information about the insects that the orchids depend on.  Indeed, pollinating insects are yet to be observed for some species.  The proportion of plants flowering changes from year to year.  Orchid populations are not static, and a population may disappear from one site and a new one may appear elsewhere.  All of these observations can be made with the common orchids.

Oligochaetochilus arenicola locations (3)

Individual orchids have been found and flagged ready for counting.

It needs to be said that there are two main risks in drawing attention to orchids.  One is that some people dig up orchids that they like and they dig them up from the local habitat.  This is tragic and foolish because the orchids are highly specialised and usually are very difficult to grow in cultivation.  The other problem is trampling of the orchids and the surrounding plants by people seeking to observe them.  Both of these issues need to be considered carefully.

I am organising the design of orchid monitoring programs.  These could involve a combination of trained scientists and volunteers.  I am interested in finding out how much people would be interested in being involved in orchid monitoring using disciplined and systematic methods to collect important information about the orchids and their habitat.

Glossodia major 26