This month, I would like to introduce you to an orchid that is seldom seen at Anglesea, or indeed, in other parts of Victoria, to which it is endemic – the Winter Sun Orchid Thelymitra hiemalis.
Six of this species have been recorded in the Anglesea and Aireys Inlet District since I commenced observing our terrestrial orchids in the early 90’s. The name seems a contradiction in terms, but this orchid opens readily on cold, wet winter days. This year, this strange orchid appeared in the burnt area on Forest Road, where a keen visitor to the area found it, just before the very cold windy days in early September. Unfortunately, it was damaged very early by the strong winds, and was eventually grazed.
It is a greatly variable species. In fact, one of the orchid experts is reported to have said that the only thing consistent about the orchids that have been observed is that every one is different. For this reason, speculation exists that it may not be a true species, but rather a freak form of another common species such as Thelymitra ixioides or T. juncifolia.
It grows to about 35 cm tall, and can bear a few flowers, usually with greenish sepals, and spotted, pale blue to lavender blue petals and labellum. The one flower, which appeared this year, was more in the lavender shades, and the sepals lacked the greenish tonings.
It is good to know that this rare orchid is found in the Anglesea District, and the more people that are aware of its existence, the more specimens we may find. It is thought that it usually appears after fire or disturbance, and then does not reappear for a very long time. Fire seems to have stimulated its growth this year, but this has not been the case with most of the other specimens located in earlier years.
There are so many other orchid species flowering at the present time that it is a delight to be out in the field. The Large Bearded Greenhood Pterostylis sp. aff. plumosa (Anglesea) is having a spectacular flowering season and can be seen in many places. The Red-lipped Spider Orchid Caladenia oenochila flowering in the O’Donohue heathlands has produced more flowers than I can ever remember. Hopefully some will last for the ANGAIR Show.
Some other Spider Orchids are in flower. Sun Orchids (and it is no wonder) have been late to appear. Some are in good bud, and should open as usual in October. Rabbit Ears Thelymitra antennifera, the earliest of our spring sun orchids to appear, were open in Fraser Avenue on a sunny day this week, displaying their beauty to children from the Anglesea Primary School. Waxlips Glossodia major are also flowering in profusion in this reserve.
All of our spring orchids are photographed and described in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.