It is just so exciting to walk in the heathlands, woodlands and open forest at the present time, and see the number of orchid leaves that are appearing after the warm weather which was followed by the recent rains.

 

Rosettes of Nodding Greenhoods Pterostylis nutans are appearing in great numbers throughout the district, and many Tall Greenhoods P. melagramma and Trim Greenhoods P. concinna are in strong bud. Unfortunately, the rains came too late for the Striped Greenhood P. striata, which only managed one very small flower in the tiny colony we have on the Anglesea Heathlands. There are a number of non-flowering rosettes, so we know that the colony is surviving. Banded Greenhoods P. sanguinea are in full flower in many places. This is a most attractive orchid, with its reddish-brown nodding flowers.

 

I know one is not supposed to have favourites in the orchid world, but the tiny Helmet Orchids, which flower in winter, must surely be admired greatly for the beauty they bring in this cold weather.  The first to flower is the Small Helmet Orchid Corybas unguiculatus. Tiny buds are just starting to form at the base of the leaves and the flowers should be open in July.

Small Helmet Orchid

The second species to appear, is usually the beautiful Veined Helmet Orchid C. diemenicus, and then the Slaty Helmet Orchid C. incurvus.

Veined Helmet Orchid

Slaty Helmet Orchid

We do have a fourth species, Swamp Helmet Orchid C. fordhamii, but it is very rare, and difficult to find, as it grows in dense swampy areas. All four species, as I have said,  are tiny orchids  that are rarely more than 25 mm tall, with a single, circular to heart-shaped leaf close to the ground.  They often form large colonies. The purplish flowers appear to sit on the leaf base, although, sometimes, there is a short flower stalk. The flowers are dominated by the enlarged dorsal sepal and the large labellum that sometimes has a white central dome. You need to get down close to the ground to talk to a Helmet Orchid and to admire its beauty.

We wonder just what reaction our spring orchids will have as a result of all these welcome rains.  Already, some Sun Orchids Thelymitra sp. and Spider Orchids Caladenia. sp are showing their leaves.  We should be able to look forward to a good flowering season, and hopefully share in your orchid finds.

Note that all these species are documented in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.

Margaret MacDonald

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