Tag Archives: spider orchid

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

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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.

What makes an orchid an orchid

Recently, I have been surprise by the number of “likes” I have received for a post I published several months ago: Parts of an Orchid.  I’ll attempt to write some more posts along these lines, as this seems to be what you (my readers) enjoy!

The origin of the name “Orchids” comes from the Greek word orchis.  This is because the orchids tend to have two tubers shaped like a pair of testicles.  These distinctive tubers separate it from its sister plant group, the lily family.  However when identifying orchids I do not recommend looking at the tubers as it is illegal to dig up orchids in Australia.

Another distinctive feature of an orchid is that both the male and female parts for reproduction are combined on a column, while in other plant families these are separated with sometimes one plant being either the male or female plant.  The column is also an important feature for identification, in particular Thelymitra, sun orchids.

Orchid reproduction

Many orchids rely on fungi for survival.  This makes them challenging to cultivate, with some being impossible to grow, and thus difficult or impossible to re-establish after habitat loss.  Consequently, the number of orchids species present on a site tends to indicate the quality of the site.

Something you may have or may not have noticed is that the flower of an orchid is symmetrical and this is not always applicable to other flowers.

Calochilus cupreus
Bearded orchid

Arachnorchis stricta

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.