As the late Everett Foster wrote in 1999, “to see a large colony of Flying Duck Orchids Caleana major in flower is a sheer delight.”
Unfortunately, we have not seen large colonies of this species this year, but there are some of these fascinating orchids flowering in a number of sites around Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. The flower stem, 40–45cm high, is thin, and brownish in colour, usually bearing 1 to 4 flowers. The red-brown, glossy flowers, resembling ducks in flight, make them easily recognisable. The labellum is shaped like a duck’s head and bill, and is attached to the column (the duck’s body) by a curved strap (the duck’s neck). The labellum snaps down into the column at the slightest touch, pinning the pollinating male sawfly against the column. The orchid, which usually grows in gravelly and sandy soils in heathlands, open forests and gravel pits, has a narrow, reddish leaf, which reveals the presence of the orchid, long before the flowers appear.
Flowering a little later than the Flying Duck Orchids, and not quite as spectacular, the Small Duck Orchid, Paracaleana minor also resembles a wild duck in flight. Growing to about 18 cm high, the flower stem bears 3 to 4 yellowish-green or reddish-brown flowers. The labellum, which resembles the duck’s head, is covered with dark, shiny calli. As with the Flying Duck Orchid, the labellum of the Small Duck Orchid is extremely sensitive, and snaps down into the column to trap the insect pollinators. The species is usually found in well-drained gravelly soils in the gravel pits, and also on sandy soils on roadsides. The leaves are reddish and narrow.
Beard Orchids, Calochilus sp., flowered much earlier this year than usual, and the flowers were short-lived. We managed to find the four species that grow in the area, although, the only Naked Beard Orchid Calochilus imberbis that we found had a broken flowering stem. It was great to find the Copper Beard Orchid Calochilus campestris, which we had not located for a number of years. Red Beard Orchids Calochilus paludosus, and the widespread and common Purple Beard Orchid Calochilus robertsonii, appeared in a number of areas.
With summer approaching, Horned Orchids Orthoceras strictum are in good bud, and Rosy Hyacinth Orchids Dipodium roseum are appearing throughout the district. Large Tongue Orchids Cryptostylis subulata, which are very rare in our area, should also be in bud, as should Cinnamon Bells Gastrodia sp.
Once again thanks to those people who are reporting orchid finds – they all add to the bigger picture. Remember photos and descriptions of all our orchids can be found in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.