Although we cannot say that it is a great year for our terrestrial orchids, we have managed to find most of our spring species flowering during the past few weeks.
The few sunny days, which we have experienced, have allowed the sun orchids to show their colours, and many people have been able to admire their beauty, including the fully opened Great Sun Orchids Thelymitra aristata, with flower spikes of 30–40 blue flowers, standing erect among other heathland vegetation. However, for many of the sun orchids, the warm days have been too late in coming, and they have just self-pollinated. There are still some hanging in there, and on sunny days you will see splashes of pink, blue and yellow as the sun orchids are tempted to open.
There are many orchids I could have featured this month, but I have chosen two species that have been flowering in recently burnt areas, and have delighted many visitors. They are the Hare Orchids Leptoceras menziesii and Red Beaks Pyrorchis nigricans. Both species flower dramatically following fire. They are colony-forming orchids, with many leaves being found each year, but, unless there is fire, they very rarely produce flowers. The leaves of the Hare Orchids are somewhat lax and oval shaped to 9 cm long, while those of Red Beaks are leathery and heart-shaped to 10 cm long.
The Hare Orchid produces one to three flowers on a fine stem to 25 cm tall. The two red petals are erect like a hare’s ears, and the white lateral sepals are curved, and project forwards. Red Beaks have distinctive white flowers with red stripes. Up to ten flowers can be seen on a thick stem, also to 25 cm tall. The flowers dry to a sombre black, giving them an alternative common name of Undertaker Orchid.
Many of the smaller Leek Orchids Prasophyllum odoratum sp. are starting to open. Mantis Orchids Caladenia tentaculata, Duck Orchids Caleana major, Tiny Caladenias Caladenia pusilla and Eastern Bronze Caladenias Caladenia transitoria are in flower. There are many other species waiting for you to discover – Onion Orchids, Bearded Orchids, Southern Bearded Greenhoods just to name a few. As we have said so often, the Anglesea District is of international significance for its terrestrial orchids.
Thanks to those people who are sending reports of orchid observations, and remember, photos and descriptions of all our orchids can be found in Orchids of the Anglesea District, available from ANGAIR.