I am sure that no one will dispute that the Donkey Orchid Diuris orientis deserves the orchid accolade for this month.

I don’t think I have visited an orchid site in the area this season and failed to find these attractive orchids growing in large numbers amongst the grasses and other heathland plants. They often grow in clumps, as Diuris orientis can produce new plants from buds that form along the tubers. The flowers vary in colour, from the uncommon, almost pure yellow, to yellow with reddish or purplish-brown shadings.

Donkey Orchid yellow

Donkey Orchid purple to brown

The common name of Donkey Orchid refers to the large petals protruding above the rest of the flower like donkeys’ ears. The orchid is also sometimes known commonly as Wallflower Orchid, because the colour of the flowers resembles the exotic garden wallflowers, Erysimum.

Two other species worth highlighting this month are Angahook Fingers Caladenia maritima, and White Fingers Caladenia catenata.

Before you go reaching for your Orchids of the Anglesea District, I must inform you that Caladenia catenata does not feature in this publication, as it has only been found in the district after the printing of the book. The two orchids are similar, and it is no wonder that I am receiving a number of calls from people who believe they have discovered new colonies of Caladenia maritima. At this stage we know only of the one colony on the Anglesea heathlands – for the last two years we have had over 1200 plants in the colony.

Both orchids are white, with finger like petals. Caladenia catenata usually has a pure white labellum, but it is sometimes stained with a tinge of pink. Just to make it more confusing, it sometimes hybridises with Caladenia carnea Pink Fingers. Who says the orchid world is not complex?

White Fingers

On the other hand, Caladenia maritima always has a labellum barred with purple. Both orchids have an orange tip on the end of the labellum.

Angahook Fingers

The orchids look different when you see them growing – Caladenia catenata usually has a strongly reflexed dorsal sepal, the petals and lateral sepals are somewhat deflexed, and the flower has a distinct backward lean.

Caladenia maritima has an erect dorsal sepal, and the petals and lateral sepals are more spreading, and held out more to the front. It stands up nice and straight! There are other differences that can be checked in reference books.

We certainly have had a feast of orchids this spring, but unfortunately the windy weather has caused quite an amount of damage to the flowers. However, there is still plenty to see, with different species now opening – I saw my first Mantis Orchid Caladenia tentaculata and Eastern Bronze Caladenia Caladenia transitoria for this season as I ventured out today. Large White Spider Orchids Caladenia venusta are in full flower.

Visitors to the ANGAIR Wildflower Show in late September were treated to a wealth of orchids, and it was great to see their excitement when they were introduced to the various species. We are just so fortunate to have so many species in the district.

It is now time for the Sun Orchids to show their beauty, but many have already self-pollinated, and many others are weaker than usual. The dry weather in early August appears to have affected their growth, but nevertheless it is worth getting out into the field when the sun shines. There are other orchids to look for, including the Duck Orchids, Bearded Orchids, Leek Orchids and Onion Orchids.

Thanks to all those orchid enthusiasts who have shared your finds – it is great to be kept abreast of where the various species are growing. I am always willing to share locations if you want to make contact.

All of our terrestrial orchids (apart from Caladenia catenata) are described with photographs in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.

Margaret MacDonald

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