Tag Archives: leaves

Greenhoods

I haven’t written for a while due to a very busy schedule and unfortunately have not been able  to see many orchids.  It’s very nice to see that I’ve reached 400 followers – which is a lot of people – thank you!  Yesterday, if you were following me on Twitter (@OrchidNotes) it would have been pretty easy to see that I was out orchid hunting.  The major find was the Diplodium robustum.

Diplodium robustum

There was this lovely patch of orchids with over a couple hundre of orchids in flower and many more plants in leaf.  It was a very spectacular display.

Two flowers with the rest in the background

Two flowers with the rest in the background

A cluster of flowers

A cluster of flowers

A bud on the left and a flower on the right

A bud on the left and a flower on the right

Looking into the flower and being able to see the labellum and column

Looking into the flower and being able to see the labellum and column

All these pictures were taken on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4).  When I arrived home all the pictures I had taken are automatically uploaded to Google Images.  What was a surprise was that Google went through my pictures and picked the following as my best pictures from the day and then edited them for me!

It was fun to get out and see these wonderful orchids.  Have you been seeing any orchids recently?

Winter at Mt Crawford Forest

To those who have visited the Mt Crawford area from Adelaide are usually left with an impression of an area that is noticeably colder and wetter.  I have had the pleasure of working in the area in the last couple of months and this impression has been reinforced, especially after getting drenched in heavy rain at my last visit.

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I took a picture with my mobile telephone showing the mist around us as we worked.  We were above the cloud base on the edge of a sandstone ridge.  It is easy to keep warm climbing up and down a slope like this.  We were removing feral pines that originated from the adjacent commercial pine plantations and you may be able to see one lying on the left of this image.

Diplodium robustum (12)

On a sunnier day earlier in the month I found a pair of flowers of Diplodium robustum, the Large or Common Shell Orchid.  These were on the ridge next to the Heysen Trail.  These, I am told, are taller than usual for the species and resemble a form that occurs in areas of mallee.

Diplodium robustum (7)

From the back the flowers are strongly striped with green and white.  These flowers were facing south.  Elsewhere there was a colony of about 300 plants with over 30 in flower or bud; the majority of these faced up the slope.  This appears to be a strategy to make it more likely for the flowers to be visited by the insect pollinators.  The pollinators are small insects called fungus gnats, which look like small mosquitoes and don’t eat at all in their adult stage.  Only the males are pollinators and they need to be large enough to trigger the labellum inside the hood of the orchid.

Diplodium robustum (4)

At the base of the two flowers I found these little rosette.  This, surprisingly, is the same species.  This plant will not flower this year; it is preparing to flower in a future year.  There is a smaller flower in the lower left of this picture that I did not notice until I started writing this post.  It looks like a bud almost finished forming.

Wurmbea latifolia (1)

Orchids are not the only interesting flowers.  This is one of my favourite lilies – Wurmbea latifolia ssp. vanessae (Broad-leaf Nancy).  This is a female plant with the dark ovaries seen in the middle of the flower.  The flowers are white with rich, hot pink colours near the centre.  This was the first one I found on the 7th of June.  By the 20th they were easy to find.  I am told that the peak of flowering is mid-July and that earlier flowering this year is a result of climate change.

I am looking forward to visiting the area next weekend and taking more photographs, if the wintery weather lets us.

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

Orchids and Fire

Many fires in Australia have caused harm and resulted in huge costs. There have be several major cases of fires causes sever damage and fatalities, including Ash Wednesday in 1980s in South Australia and Black Saturday in Victoria, 2009.

Image Source

However there are several orchids that thrive following a summer fire.  These include the black fire orchid (Pyrorchis nigricans), the rabbit ears orchid (Leptoceras menziesii), and the leek orchid (Prasophyllum elatum).  Let me make it clear, they need a summer burn.  In Australia we have a fire season during summer, when no controlled burns are allowed.  Sadly this is when the orchids need the fire, so it is generally the accidental fires or arson which provide the right conditions.  During the autumn and winter months, controlled burns are conducted to prevent the bushland becoming a fire hazard in summer.  Yet these burns often occur just as the orchids are emerging, and can kill the plants.

Pyrorchis nigricans

The black fire orchid, Pyrorchis nigricans, as its name suggests, appears to benefit from a summer burn.  Its leaves are very common, and can grow up to a 5cm across (which is enormous for an Australian terrestrial orchid!).  They usually need fire to flower.

Pyrorchis nigricans

A typical flower after fire

After flowering, the whole plant turns black, hence its name, the black fire orchid.  This picture was taken in summer.

The Rabbit Ears Orchid, Leptoceras menziesii, seems to flower better after a fire.  Below is a lovely patch that my father found following an a fire.  Unfortunately I did not get to see the patch, and have only seen a couple of flowers at a time.

Leptoceras menziesii

One of my favourite orchids after flower would have to be the leek orchid, Prasophyllum elatum.  For this genus, generally the flowers and stems are green, but after fire, the flowers and stems turn black.  They look like black twigs sticking up out of the ground, so blend in quite well with their surroundings.

Without fire

Without fire

A lovely tall specimen

A lovely tall specimen in a burnt area

Striking colours after fire

Striking colours after fire

… and Dad, thanks for the pictures! 😉

Amazing but scary

Some time back, on the 22 April, I wrote about the weedy orchid which grows in the Adelaide hills.  I included a picture of this weed which had been kept in a bag for over a week and the little shoots looked fairly healthy. I thought that was quite impressive that it had managed to live without water or sunlight, and now…

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It is nearly a month and a half since that weedy orchid was placed in a bag, and it is still alive! Wow! No water, no sunlight, just living on the energy that was stored in its tiny bulbs. That is amazing.

When I was first told that if one of these orchids was uprooted while in flower will continue to produce seeds, I was a bit sceptical. Surely no plant would be able to continue to grow when placed in a bag, but now I’ve changed my mind.

My understanding is that Disa bractreata is a desert plant from South Africa, and this would explain why it is so tough and hardy. It does not require much before it takes off and is all through a site. Interestingly I can’t recall seeing this weed in moist areas, but I could be wrong. I’ll be looking out for it to see if that is so.

In the meantime, this Disa bractreata can continue growing in its little plastic bag. I wonder how much energy is in those bulbs, and when will it start looking thirsty. This orchid is making me curious: I want to find out how tough it is, and what does it take to kill it, though this would be the only orchid I’d want to destroy. It is a pity that many of our native orchids are not very that tough, or maybe they are tougher than we think!

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Camera dies…

Finally, I was able to go and hunt for some orchids.  But my camera died!

So my camera for taking macro photography thinks that everything is white.  Fortunately, Dad very kindly lent me his camera, thank you Dad!  So I was able to take some orchid pictures to share with you all.  I saw lots and lots of leaves.  There were so many.  It could be that this is going to be a good year for finding orchids.  We will have to wait to see how the year unfolds.  Some of the different leaves that I saw included Arachnorchis, Glossodia major, Bunochilus viriosous and Thelymitra.  Below is a very nice field of Nemacianthus caudatus.  This orchid will be flowering in the coming month.

Nemacianthus caudatus

I also checked out my favourite little spot of Corysanthes diemenica.  The leaves were emerging, and there were some tiny little buds beginning to appear.

Corysanthes diemenica

I was also able to find some orchids in flower.  There were quite a few plants of Urochilus sanguineus.  This species will continue flowering for several more months.  It has a relatively long flowering time.  I have written about this species previously for the Know Them series.  The flowers were lovely and fresh, and I believe this is when they have the best colouring.

Urochilus sanguineus

And the other orchid I saw in flower was the tiny Mosquito orchid, Acianthus pusillus.  This species also has a long flowering time, and will be finishing in August.

Acianthus pusillus

Some of these trees where covered in the fungi pictured below.  I thought it looked quite pretty.  Enjoy your long weekend!

Fungi

I want/need a new camera now!  I would prefer a digital SLR, any suggestions?

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.