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Lemon scented

Thelymitra antennifera – Rabbit Ears

The genus of sun orchids can be quite daunting to identify, but thankfully in South Australia Thelymitra antennifera is the most commonly encountered yellow sun orchid with its distinctive column.  It has two common names.  Rabbit ears describe the dark red “ears” that sit on top of the column.  The second name is Lemon Scented Sun orchid, which describes the soft scent emitted by these flowers.

Thelymitra antennifera

This sun orchid has thin grass like leaf with a dark purple base.  The plants quite commonly have several flowers on them.  The flowers are relatively large compared to the small, short stem that holds them.

The Rabbit Ears sun orchid can be found right across Australia from Western Australia into Victoria and Tasmania.  It tends to enjoy a slightly opened woodland, and can be often found on the top of ridges and further down in the valleys.  It is common, and has a long flowering range.  Depending on the region, it can be seen in flower from August to November on any warm day.

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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

The little fellow

Pterostylis pedunculata – Maroon-hoods

Pterostylis pedunculata

This is an attractive little greenhood.  It has a distinct maroon top on the flower and its sepal.  I’ve only seen this orchid with a single flower per stem.  It is a reasonably common orchid, growing in most regions of South Australia, as well as in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Pterostylis pedunculata

It can often be found in open areas of woodlands, and colonizes easily.  It has a relatively long flowering time, first appearing in late July, and sometimes still flowering up until November.  There is a small rosette of leaves at the base of the plant.  The leaves are crinkled on the top, and spaced wider apart than on other Pterostylis species, such as P. nutans or P. curta.

This is one of the easier orchids to grow.  It is quite a hardy little fellow.  Often this orchid can be introduced to sites through mulch.  The picture on the left shows a maroon hood which was found last year (2012) in the heart of the Adelaide city CBD.

Below is a pretty amazing colony growing in someones front lawn.  So for those who really want to grow orchids, this is one of the easier ones to grow.  (But don’t remove them from the wild, as that is illegal.)

An unusual colony growing in a suburban front lawn. Special thanks to Gordon Ninnes for permission to use his picture.

An unusual colony growing in a suburban front lawn.
Special thanks to Gordon Ninnes for permission to use his picture.

Pterostylis pedunculata

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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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A Spotted Summer Orchid

Dipodium pardalium is distinguished from D. roseum by the small pink spots, not stripes, found on the labellum.  These two species are very similar having the same flower shape and size and growing in the same habitat.  However D. pardalium is considered rare in South Australia.  Recently I observed that on the Fleurieu Peninsula that this species was more readily found than the common hyacinth.  Yet in the Adelaide Hills D. pardalium was hard to find.

Pardalinum

The spotted hyacinth orchid is probably my favorite of the two species.  Generally it has white flowers covered in dark pink spots.  It does not have as much variation as the roseum but sometimes the flowers can have a soft pink colouring and the stems of this species can be dark red right through to green.

Bee Pollinater D. pardalinum

These orchids do flower right through our summer and thus experience the hot weather.  The orchids struggle on 40 C (104 F) and the flowers can abort. On a good year about a quarter of the flowers will be pollinated.  It is suspected that the two Dipodium species in the Adelaide Hills have different pollinators, but more research is required here. However it is pollinated by a small native bee.

Dipodium pardalium

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A Common Summer Orchid

Dipodium roseum – Common Hyacinth Orchid

In summer there are not many orchids which are found flowering.  However the Dipodium family has a couple of species that show themselves during our hot season.  The most common of these is the Dipodium roseum which is also the most frequently photographed orchids in the Adelaide Hills.

Dipodium roseum (23)

It can be quite varried, from deep pink through to white flowers, with both colours found on both dark brown stems and green stems.  These variations have caused some to suspect that there might be several species, but they all the one species.

Dipodium roseum

This plant distinguishes is by its spike of pink flowers that can be up to a metre high.  This species is noted for having stripes on its labellum.  The other Dipodium which can be found in the Adelaide Hills has spots on the labellum.

DSC05773

The Hyacinth Orchid is very different from other orchids as it has no leaves, and relies on fungi from stringy barks.  Due to this fact, this orchid cannot be propagated.

Dipodium roseum

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