Tag Archives: terrestrial orchids

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.

IMG_20140620_093746

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.

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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.

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.

Orchid artwork

For something a bit different, I have a picture of a nodding greenhood and have superimposed some donkey orchids, so they look like they are in the flower.

Orchid artwork

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.

What makes Australian Orchids Different

Most Australian orchids are terrestrial orchids, which means they grow in the ground.  This is different to the epiphytic orchids which grow in trees.  Structurally these two types of orchids are vastly different.

Epiphytice orchids are pseudo-bulbous  with leaves that last all the year around.  The new plant will grow off these pseudo-bulbs, complete with roots which are exposed to the air.

In contrast, terrestrial orchids can be likened to lilies.  They grow in the ground but unlike lilies many rely on fungi to survive.  They have a bulb or tuber under the ground.  Their leaves vary quite a lot.  However most of the leaves begin to appear around autumn or this time of year.  The flowering time is also variable, with orchids flowering in every month.  However, most of the orchids flower from early winter to the end of spring.

Cyrtostylis reniformis

Linguella nana

Terrestrial orchids reproduce in a variety of ways.  Most require a pollinator which can be a Australian bee (Not a European bee, as these actually destroy the flowers), wasps and sometimes ants.  A lot is still needs to be discovered about orchid pollinators.  Some orchids reproduce by producing a new tuber from their old one.  In these cases, they may not flower very often, but their leaves will be present.

Pterostylis nutans
Nodding Green-hood

What makes our Australian terrestrial orchids so special is their variety.  The common names of many or our orchids indicate the variety.  There are Donkey orchids, Flying Duck orchids, Moose orchids, Helmet orchids, Green hoods, Sun orchids, Onion orchids, Mosquito orchids, Cockatoo orchids, Hyacinth orchids, Spider orchids, Bearded orchids and more.

Our orchids are a barometer of the quality of the surrounding bushland (vegetation).  Though some can be cultivated it is difficult to re-establish, and in some cases impossible to replace orchids once lost.  Within in South Australia, most of the land around Adelaide has been cleared for housing, and within the surrounding Adelaide Hills many areas they are left have had weeds take over.  In the Adelaide region only 5% of original vegetation is left.  This figure is larger in the Eastern states as terrain is steeper and therefore harder to clear.

Diuris beiri
Cowslip Donkey Orchid

Orchids in Australia are protected under law.  This means that no part of the flower can be taken.  This includes the flower, seed pod, leaves and tubers.  The key example of an orchid being collected too much is the Cowslip Donkey Orchid.  This orchid used to be very common, and people would collect baskets of them.  Now they are endangered, and I’ve never seen more than a dozen plants at once.

However orchids can be enjoyed by photographing them.  After the flowers have finished, I return to pictures and remember the enjoyment of a day looking for and photographing these unique flowers.