With the dry conditions in the Anglesea district, it is not unexpected that there aren’t any signs of our autumn orchids at the present time.
It would have to be a very brave specimen to poke its way through the hard, dry inhospitable ground.
We have over 110 orchid species in the Anglesea district, and these are all terrestrial or ground orchids – they have their roots in the soil. Occasionally some species, such as Corybas sp. Helmet Orchids or Pterostylis pedunculata Maroonhoods, may be seen growing on tree ferns, but it is only where soil has been lodged on the plant, and the seed or tubers have then lodged in the soil.
Just a little further to the west, we have a very special orchid growing in the Otways, the Butterfly Orchid Sarcochilus australis. This orchid is not a terrestrial species, but is known as an epiphytic orchid, as it grows on surfaces such as tree trunks and branches, with its roots exposed. It is reasonably widespread and common in eastern Victoria, but colonies are few and far between in the Otways. There are records from Erskine Falls, Henderson Falls and Maits Rest.
I had the privilege of seeing this orchid for the first time last December, growing in the fern gullies and rainforest not far from the track at Maits Rest. It was mainly growing on one of our native plant species, Hazel Pomaderris Pomaderris aspera. It was not easy to photograph, because of the lack of light permeating through the trees.
The roots sometimes extend for over a metre along the bark of the host tree, and it is often easier to find the plant by following the roots back to their source. The flat, thin, sickle-shaped leaves (three to ten) are up to 8 cm long, and grow in a tuft or clump. The flower stem hangs down to about 15 cm and bears up to twelve, yellowish green or brown flowers. The labellum is white with red or purple stripes. The flowers emit a delightful sweet fragrance on warm days.
Hopefully the autumn rains are not far away!