Tag Archives: Arachnorchis

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.

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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:

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Some Spider Orchids

The spider orchids, Arachnorchis sp. are a rather beautiful genus, with quite a lot of diversity.  Today, I will just be showing two of my favourites.

The first one is Arachnorchis rigida.  It has been several years since I’ve seen this beautiful flower, and I would like to see it again, but sadly it it not that common.  Looking through all the pictures we have taken, I couldn’t really find anything that does justice to this beautiful flower.  Even a Google search did not yield anything spectacular.  It would be great to take some nicer pictures, maybe this year…?

Arachnorchis rigida

I love the soft pink on white.  In the picture above it reminds me of icing.

Arachnorchis rigida

Another beautiful species is the Arachnorchis reticulata.  There is quite a broad diversity in the colouring of this orchid, as can be seen by one labellum being darker than the other.

Arachnorchis reticulata Arachnorchis reticulata

Special thanks again to Dad for this pictures.

Orchid season taking off

It is the beginning of autumn, and that means the orchids will start appearing again.  True there were a few flowering over summer, but about now we begin to see the leaves of the winter flowering species and some spring flowering orchids, and occasionally we might find a few autumn flowering species.

So today, I’m going to give you a sample of some of the orchids you could find, each month, during this coming year.

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November and December

January and February

and then it all starts over again.

For more pictures see here.

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.

Orchids of the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens

Australia is a rich resource for orchids, especially terrestrial orchids which make up 82 percent of all the Australian orchids.  Terrestrial Orchids are found, mainly below the tropics in grasslands, heath lands, and eucalyptus forests.  Many are deciduous coming up in autumn/winter, flowering in winter/spring and dying down in summer.  Most rely on fungi to survive, and for germinated to occur.

What makes an orchid?

Orchids are always made up of five main segments: a labellum, column, two sepals and a dorsal sepal and two petals.

How do orchids reproduce?

Most orchids need to be pollinated by native bees, wasps and sometimes ants.  The introduced European Bee, because of its size, does not pollinate the flower, but can instead damage or destroy it.  Some orchids do not require a pollinator and are thus called self pollinating.

Orchids in South Australia

There are many different orchids; in fact, South Australia is home to over three hundred different species, some of which are yet to be described.  The Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens yields a variety of orchids, which will be covered in this leaflet.

Arachnorchis tentaculata King Spider Orchid

This species is relatively common in the Mt. Lofty Ranges, with flowers reaching ten centimetres across.  It can easily be distinguished by clubs on the end of its petals and sepals.

Diuris pardina Spotted Donkey Orchid

This attractive flower is distinguished by the spots on its sepals and labellum.  It received its common name as its petals reminded the English settlers of donkey ears.

Diuris orientis Wallflower Donkey Orchid

This distinctive orchid can be distinguished by its bright colours and particularly its labellum, which can be a shade of deep purple.  This species is also referred to as the Bulldog Orchid.

Diuris orientis x pardina Pioneer Donkey Orchid

It is not unusual to find hybrids of the donkey orchid.  It is often between these two species and can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from Diuris pardina.

Glossodia major Cockatoo Orchid

This purple flower is often found in fields, and is very common in the Mount Lofty Ranges.  It does vary in colour from purple to a pure white, with the different varieties growing together.

Pterostylis pedunculata Greenhood

This winter flowering orchid is often found in dense colonies which can number over a hundred plants.  It can be found in early spring in the Mt. Lofty Botanic Gardens.

Microtis arenaria Onion Orchid

This green flower breaks out of its cylindrical leaf.  Many people find the Microtis family difficult to identify due to its minute size.

Thelymitra rubra Sun Orchid

This pink sun orchid is one of three pink sun orchids.  It can be distinguished by the tufts on the top of the column.  It opens freely on warm days, when the temperature is over 25 degrees centigrade.

Thelymitra brevifolia Pepper Top Sun Orchid

This sun orchid has a distinctive red top on its column.  It can also be distinguished by red edges on its short broad leaf.  Its flower is smaller than Thelymitra rubra.

Thelymitra parviflora Sun Orchid

This common sun orchid has a blue flower and can be confused with a number of other blue sun orchids.  Like all sun orchids, it only opens on warm days, as this is when the pollinators are present.

There are many other types of orchids not considered in this leaflet.  However some field guides on orchids will enable identification of orchids which can be found in other parks and reserves around Adelaide or beyond.

Protecting Orchids

It is always a pleasure to find orchids but they do need to be protected and conserved.  Orchids can easily be eliminated by weeds which choke them.  Consequently, if orchids are found, it is an indication that the surrounding bush is good quality.  It is also important not to pick orchids.  Not only is it illegal, but orchids need their flowers to reproduce.

This is from a leaflet about the common orchids in the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.  For the printable version, see here.

Returning… (Part 2)

It is quite exciting to see that now OrchidNotes has 50 subscribers, and it is just over five months such we started this site up!  I always look forward to comments and feedback on our site, so keep them coming. 🙂  And for those who are interested in being showed some orchids, there is a free walk on the 27th October, see here for details.

For this post I will be continuing with some of the discoveries found at this roadside site, and see here for Part 1 and Previous visit.

The Arachnorchis tentaculata or King Spider Orchids were just beginning to open, but most were still in bud.  In June there were just leaves:

But in September, I saw two flowers open:


Waiting to open


Hiding in the wattle leaves

The video shows how the wind can play havoc with photography, but it seemed to work with the video.  The spider orchids now are flowering plenteously and a field of them can be quite spectacular to come across, but difficult to see in a photograph!

Part 3 will be coming soon!

Free Orchid walks


Thelymitra rubra ~Common Pink Sun Orchid

There will be two free guided walks to see orchids at the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens in Adelaide.  These walks are led by the Native Orchid Society of South Australia and are a chance for the public to see some common orchids and get to know some other orchid lovers.  The walks are on:

  • Monday ~ 1 October 2012
  • Saturday ~ 27 October 2012

Walks start at 11am and are just over an hour in length and start at the Lower Carpark.  Please contact me if you are interested.


Click on pictures to enlarge.

All pictures were taken at the Mount Lofty Botanic Gardens.