They are small, difficult to find and perhaps could be called insignificant, but the Midge Orchids, Corunastylis sp., that are now appearing in the Anglesea District are an indicator that all is going well in our orchid world.
If If you take the time to look at the tiny insect-like flowers with the aid of a hand lens you will find they have a beauty of their own. They have a single green cylindrical leaf that emerges after late summer or early autumn rains. The spike of flowers grows up fused to the leaf and emerges through a slit near the top, leaving a short free section of leaf just below or among the flowers. The dorsal sepal in this genus is found at the base of the flower.
There are over 50 species of Corunastylis, mostly endemic to Australia, with two occurring in New Zealand and one in New Caledonia. Three species grow in the Anglesea District: Fringed Midge Orchid, Corunastylis ciliata, Sharp Midge Orchid, C. despectans, and Bearded Midge Orchid, C. morrissii. The three species are clearly distinctive and easy to identify.
The Fringed Midge, C. ciliata, (ciliate meaning hairy) grows to just 15cm tall and bears greenish-yellow flowers with red tonings and a reddish labellum that is fringed with tiny hairs. It is rare in the area, and at the time of writing these notes I have only observed one specimen in flower this year. Hopefully some more specimens will appear in the next few weeks as this species usually flowers in March each year.
Fringed Midge Orchid
The Sharp Midge, C. despectans, is often the first species to be seen each year with flowers appearing in February. The word despectans means looking down and refers to that aspect of these flowers. Although the species is common in Victoria it is however rare in our district, with really only one known colony at the back of Anglesea where over 17 specimens were observed, some already finished flowering, in early March. The flowering stem can be to 30cm tall with the flowers being dark purplish-brown with green tones – the sepals and petals are all sharply pointed and lack hairs. The apex of the labellum is also sharply pointed and it too lacks hairs.
Sharp Midge Orchid
The Bearded Midge Orchid, C. morrissii, (named after Victorian botanist P.F.Morris) is widespread and locally common. Over 17 specimens with their tiny, nodding reddish-purple flowers were observed on Forest Road in early March. This species is easily distinguished by its prominently hairy dorsal sepal, petals and labellum. The lateral sepals at the top of the flower lack hairs.
Bearded Midge Orchid
We need to be on the lookout for our other autumn orchids – I have already seen one Parson’s Bands, Eriochilus cucullatus, in flower. More Autumn Bird Orchids, Chiloglottis reflexa, (featured in our last Newsletter) should be appearing. Autumn Greenhoods, Pterostylis sp.aff revoluta, Brown Tipped Greenhoods, P. clivosa, Tiny Greenhoods, P. parviflora, Fringed Hare Orchids, Leporella fimbriata, and Mosquito Orchids, Acianthus pusillus, could all be starting to flower in April. These orchids are all described and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.
Please let us know of your orchid discoveries. They do help to draw up a larger picture of the wealth of terrestrial orchids in the Anglesea District.