Tag Archives: about

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.

OrchidNotes is One Year Old!

Last year, Helen and I started OrchidNotes, more as an experiment to see what we could do with a website.  She knows more about orchids than I do, and she has more opportunities to go out in the field and see them.

This past week, we made several changes.  We have a new icon.  We have a new theme.  (Did you notice? )  And we now have a Facebook page.  We also have a Google+ page, OrchidNotesAustralia.

Our first post went public on 26 April 2012.  That being said, it was simply an ordinary welcome.  But we have a few curiosities from those early days.

We also have a couple of posts featuring Australian animals, which is always popular

Helen has a few posts on photography that are wothwhile reading

Also check out the other pages on OrchidNotes.  Here are a few I recommend:

Also have look at External Links for other websites on orchids.

This year, we welcomed new blogger, Robert Lawrence, author of Start With The Leaves, an orchid field guide.  We are hoping to have more writers soon.

Orchids in the Technological Age

In the last few years, we have seen some incredible developments in technology, particularly with electronics and multi-media devices.  For instant, walk down a street, and how many people will you see either listening to music from on ipod, or looking down at their smart phone.  How many of you are reading this on a phone?  So there have been some massive changes, and these can be used to help us appreciate orchids, either through photography or identification.

There are plenty of advantages coming from this technological development.  I’ve seen people ask the identification of some orchid they found, and instead of printing the photograph, they just leave it on their tablet or phone.  It certainly saves on paper.  Another outcome is that field guides, or apps for identification can be on you phone or tablet, so instead of carrying around a library of books, you only need to take a phone.  At present, I have four orchid books on my phone, and can check the identification and know straight away what I have found!  I think it is great.

Glossodia major ~ Purple Cockatoo Orchid

I have been amazed at the quality of the pictures that my phone takes.  For those wondering, my phone is the Samsung Galaxy S2, and it has an eight megapixel camera.  I still have to coax it to get the macro shots in focus, but I tend to use my hand to focus, and  then remove my hand away when I take the picture.  However I still have to do that with my compact digital.  Since I bought my phone, I’ve found myself using it as my primary camera, partly because it is so much easier to see the phone screen in the sunlight than my camera screen.

Arachnorchis tentaculata ~ King Spider Orchid

Now, the smart phones also come with GPS.  I have not experimented much with this, but I suspect it may not be as good as some of the GPSs that are on the market.  This is probably an area that still needs to be worked on, but there’s potential.

Petochilus carnea ~ Pink Fingers

You might be interested that all the pictures on this post were taken with my phone.  None of the pictures have been edited.  I still take out the compact digital camera if I am planning to video orchids (phone tends to focus on background rather than flower when filming) or if I need to use optical zoom.

Helmets

Corysanthes diemenica – Veined Helmet Orchid

Upon first inspection, it looks like some moss where some gum-nuts have fallen.  However, it turns out that the gum-nuts are these little helmet orchids.  These orchids tend to grow in moist areas, and will often be found near the base of large trees.

It is interesting to note the name of this species, “diemenica” was derived from Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania’s old name from its early colonial days.  This was where this species was first discovered.  Australia has over 20 species from the Corysanthes family, with the rest being found in surrounding countries including New Zealand, New Guinea and up into South East Asia.

Note the small point on the apex of the leaf

This species flowers between July and August.  Its flowers are small, about the size of you  thumb fingernail.  They tend to colonize, and not just one species will be found in one patch.

An interesting feature on these orchids is a small point on the apex of the leaf.  This feature has not been recorded in the plants descriptions, but it was present in all our photographs.

Know Them

Know Them

Know Them introduces you to a South Australia orchid every couple of weeks.  So far two posts have been published which are listed below.

Published

Acianthus pusillus – Mosquito Orchid

The little hardy one
This is the orchid that is so common, that many orchid enthusiast will overlook it when on an orchid excursion.  It is small, difficult to photograph, and as it is very close to the ground, many…

Leporella fimbriata – Fringed Hare Orchid

Sand lover
This common orchid is found in sandy soils flowering mainly from March to May.  However it can grow in gravelly soils, but requires fire to encourage flowering, where as colonies will flower readily…

Coming

Yet to come are the orchids pictured below, and more.  Please subscribe to receive updates when an new orchid is posted.

                                                                                         

Parts of an Orchid

It is good to know the different parts of an orchid.  The flowers have six main parts.

  • Three sepals
  • Two petals
  • One labellum (meaning tongue)

Another important feature of the orchid is the column.  This is where the pollen is found.  The ovary behind the flower will swell after pollination, and the seed develops in it.

Orchid have a feature called a bract.  This is like a leaf, but in botany is not considered one.  In identification of some orchids, particularly Thelymirtra or Sun Orchid, the number of bracts can assist in orchid identification.

Images from: Start with the Leaves: A simple guide to common orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills by Robert Lawrence © 2011
Used with kind permission from the author.

What makes Australian Orchids Different

Most Australian orchids are terrestrial orchids, which means they grow in the ground.  This is different to the epiphytic orchids which grow in trees.  Structurally these two types of orchids are vastly different.

Epiphytice orchids are pseudo-bulbous  with leaves that last all the year around.  The new plant will grow off these pseudo-bulbs, complete with roots which are exposed to the air.

In contrast, terrestrial orchids can be likened to lilies.  They grow in the ground but unlike lilies many rely on fungi to survive.  They have a bulb or tuber under the ground.  Their leaves vary quite a lot.  However most of the leaves begin to appear around autumn or this time of year.  The flowering time is also variable, with orchids flowering in every month.  However, most of the orchids flower from early winter to the end of spring.

Cyrtostylis reniformis

Linguella nana

Terrestrial orchids reproduce in a variety of ways.  Most require a pollinator which can be a Australian bee (Not a European bee, as these actually destroy the flowers), wasps and sometimes ants.  A lot is still needs to be discovered about orchid pollinators.  Some orchids reproduce by producing a new tuber from their old one.  In these cases, they may not flower very often, but their leaves will be present.

Pterostylis nutans
Nodding Green-hood

What makes our Australian terrestrial orchids so special is their variety.  The common names of many or our orchids indicate the variety.  There are Donkey orchids, Flying Duck orchids, Moose orchids, Helmet orchids, Green hoods, Sun orchids, Onion orchids, Mosquito orchids, Cockatoo orchids, Hyacinth orchids, Spider orchids, Bearded orchids and more.

Our orchids are a barometer of the quality of the surrounding bushland (vegetation).  Though some can be cultivated it is difficult to re-establish, and in some cases impossible to replace orchids once lost.  Within in South Australia, most of the land around Adelaide has been cleared for housing, and within the surrounding Adelaide Hills many areas they are left have had weeds take over.  In the Adelaide region only 5% of original vegetation is left.  This figure is larger in the Eastern states as terrain is steeper and therefore harder to clear.

Diuris beiri
Cowslip Donkey Orchid

Orchids in Australia are protected under law.  This means that no part of the flower can be taken.  This includes the flower, seed pod, leaves and tubers.  The key example of an orchid being collected too much is the Cowslip Donkey Orchid.  This orchid used to be very common, and people would collect baskets of them.  Now they are endangered, and I’ve never seen more than a dozen plants at once.

However orchids can be enjoyed by photographing them.  After the flowers have finished, I return to pictures and remember the enjoyment of a day looking for and photographing these unique flowers.