Tag Archives: native orchids

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.

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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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.