Tag Archives: leaves

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.

Know Them

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

Know Them

Where are they?

So the last two weekends, I’ve been able to go orchid hunting, but… where are all the orchids?  It has been partly because I’m a bit early for some, and I’ve not been at the right places.  Anyway, it was still nice to get out.

Scenery

Sadly the sun also seemed to be hiding.

I did manage to find some orchid leaves of a green-hood.  They were very, very tiny, but still there.

Pterostylis

And I know you all would have been very disappointed if I did not show you that I saw a koala, even if they are an introduced species in the Adelaide Hills.  It is not easy photographing objects high up in trees.

Koala

Hopefully next orchid search is more successful, and I can post some pictures of Eriochilus cucullatus, Parson’s band.  ‘Til then …….

Growing terrestrial orchids

Some of my readers have asked whether it is possible to grow native orchids, or where they can get some to grow.  The unfortunate fact is that many of the orchids have not been propagated, and those that can be grown tend to difficult to keep alive.

Being an orchid enthusiast, and loving to see these flowers, I have tried to grow some of them.

Home 20080901 027

An orchid in the pot does have the advantage that you can choose the background…

Acianthus pussillus

...and sometimes allow you to take shots that are not possibly in the wild, as these orchids don’t grow in open areas, and are very small and difficult to get underneath them!

The unfortunate fact is that most of the time, it has not been entirely successful.  All the orchid growers say that it is easy to grown orchids, but… have you seen their greenhouses?  Virtually they are running a laboratory for growing orchids, with the right sunlight, and the right amount of water, and these aren’t usually cheap to set up.  Here is an article about setting up the right conditions for growing Epiphytes.

There are several species of orchids that I have never seen in propagation.  These include: the Hyacinth orchid (Dipodium sp.) or any other species that does not have leaves including the Cinnamon Bells (Gastrodia sp.), everyone’s favourite the duck orchid (Caleana major or Paraceleana sp.), any of the swamp orchids (Spiranthes and Cryptostylis) or even the bearded orchid (Caladenia).

Caleana major

Sorry, you can’t grow these! 😦

The difficulty behind growing orchids makes it even harder to re-introduce orchids into the wild, and stresses the point that it is important to protect the remaining bushland.  Unfortunately, because Adelaide is relatively flat most of the land has been cleared for agriculture, but there are still a few pockets of native vegetation left, and quite often these are threatened by weeds

But it is important to remember:

No part of an orchid can be collected from the wild!

So if you are really desperate to try growing orchids, start with one of the easier species like one of the green-hoods (Pterostylis nutans or P. curta) or a Microtis sp, except its flowers aren’t very obvious.

Terrestrial orchids won’t normally be found for sale in nurseries.  There are a few specialised growers in South Australia, and around Australia, so if you are interested, it probably would be best to contact your local Australian Orchid Club!  Often they will also provide information on the conditions you need, and will be able to help with any difficulties that are faced along the way.

Orchid shows can be a chance to see some of the orchids that the growers have succeeded with, but usually they show their best specimens.  Here are a few pictures I took at the Native Orchid Society of South Australian’s meeting in spring, so you can see what the “professionals grow”.  (This is the only time you will see me using a flash – indoor photography 🙂 )

My observation is that the orchids that are propagated tend to have larger flowers than those in the wild, but that is probably due to the growers providing favourable conditions for them.

It is now the beginning of March, and I was very delighted to find that my Microtis are up already. (They are a desperate attempt to hopefully keep some orchids alive for a few years.  I’m told they grow like weeds!)

Microtis leaves

Already up!
Hopefully they survive the season, don’t get over/under watered, eaten…

Orchid Hunter Australia Videos

Last year when I browsed through YouTube for orchid videos, I did not find many that were interesting.  However the other day, I had another look on-line  and it appears that a few Australians have been uploading their videos of orchids, and I would like to share with you some of them.

The two that leaped out at me are called Orchid Hunter Australia 1 & 2, filmed and produced by Julian Pitcher.  They are of Victorian orchids, but apply to orchid hunting right across Australia.  Let me congratulate Julian on doing such a great job, and I really look forward to seeing more of these videos.

Orchid Hunter Australia 1

In this first videos, Julian introduces us to some of the basic things to look for when orchid hunting, and I felt he really captured what it is like to look for orchids, and how they can blend into the bush.

Orchid Hunter Australia 2

This is probably my favourite of the two, as looking for orchids turns into a military expedition.  It really feels like that sometimes!  It was also good to find information about other plants and animals in the video, as they all influence the whole ecosystem.

Corysanthes diemenica

This is a short film  by Richard Davion which captures some of the joy of finding orchids.

What I enjoy about seeing films of orchids is that it captures the three diemnsional feel of the flowers, which is lacking in orchid photography.  Later on I would like to spent time producing my own videos with narration, and helping in identifying orchids.  But in the meantime I will enjoy what others are producing.  It is about making other aware that these tiny terrestrial orchids are there, and need to be protected.

For other orchid videos please visit the video page, or my YouTube channel.  Please help me share these videos.

Our orchid photographs

I took my first photographs of native orchids in February 2005 at a monthly general meeting of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA).  Orchid growers bring their flowering plants to the monthly meetings to show them and to compete for the best orchids.

2005 Feb 017

This is one of my first photographs of an orchid taken with
a digital camera without a flash in February 2005.  This is a Sarcochilus hybrid.

My aim at the start was quite simple.  I just wanted to get to know the names of the orchids, because I did not know any of them at all.  Three of my photographs from the February meeting turned up in the electronic version of the March NOSSA Journal, including the one above.

In the March 2006 issue of the Journal, because there were few plants at the meeting to photograph, the Editor compiled a page of photographs of orchid leaves which I had taken on a field trip to Scott Conservation Park the previous winter.  Some of these same photographs appear in my book, Start with the Leaves, including the two of the photographs on the front cover.  One couple told me that they took this page with them into the field to identify orchids before they flowered.

Leporella fimbriata 005

This beautiful, newly emerged leaf of Leporella fimbriata is one of my first orchid
photographs taken in the field.  It features prominently on the cover of my book.

My reasons, then, for photographing orchids were so that I could get to know them, and to share them with others.

Incidentally, some of the flowers are strikingly beautiful.  When my children were helping me prepare the book, they were not happy with pictures that just showed the features relevant for identification; they wanted each photograph to be attractive and balanced.

We went on NOSSA field trips to learn about orchids and photographed them to help with this.  We went with our compact cameras while the photographic enthusiasts took their SLR cameras and their tripods.  We found the digital cameras to be adequate for our purposes and all of the pictures on this blog have been taken with either a compact digital camera or a smart phone.

In May 2011 NOSSA began having a photographic competition to give members the opportunity to share their best photographs.  I entered my favourite photograph of Diuris orientis, which I regard as the most photogenic of our orchids because of its size and depth of rich colours.  This photograph was included in the header in an earlier version of the banner for the Trees For Life website.  This was the first photograph to win this competition.

Diuris orientis 026

Diuris orientis photographed in full sunlight on 4 October 2005.
Notice the splendid rich colours.

We have seen a wonderful selection of photographs from members of NOSSA at the general meetings since this first competition.  The only prize is to have the photograph displayed for a month on the NOSSA website.  Unlike most of the followers here who share their photographs on the net, most of the participants have not shown their pictures before.  This event has been about sharing photographs rather than winning prizes.

The people who judged the orchids at the general meeting had set an example of having two of them speak about the orchids that had been “benched.”  So, the practice with the picture competition has been to use this as an opportunity to have somebody speak about the orchids photographed.  There was also an informative Journal article about the monthly winning photograph and a similar post on the NOSSA website.  This educational aspect makes the competition worthwhile.

The pictures displayed at the meetings are only seen by the 30-40 people attending the monthly meetings, but I hope a larger audience will be able to see them.

What bothers me is the thought of hundreds of photographs stored on home computers that have hardly been seen by anyone and are just waiting for a hard drive to crash when they will be lost for ever.  Some may be historical showing orchids where they no longer occur.  I would like to explore this idea on a later post.

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