Although we often see dense colonies of the distinctive leaves of Fringed Hare Orchids, Leporella fimbriata, scattered throughout the district, the flowers are often few and far between.

Fringed Hare Orchids leaves
Fringed Hare Orchids leaves

However with the autumn rains and possibly as a result of a fire close by, we have this year had a wonderful display of this species in the Anglesea heathlands. The orchid is the only member of its genus and is endemic to southern Australia. We feel privileged to have it growing in our district. The leaves are leathery with distinctive red stripes, and the erect petals, tipped with dark glands along with the prominent fringed labellum make for easy identification of this orchid.

Fringed Hare Orchids
Fringed Hare Orchids

The flowers are pollinated by male flying ants attracted by the scent from the petal glands. Deceived into believing the flower is a female partner, the ant lies across the fringed labellum attempting to mate with the flower, allowing him to leave already collected pollen on the stigma while also collecting new pollinia from the anther as he leaves.

Mosquito Orchids

Another orchid that has certainly benefited from the autumn rainfalls is the common Mosquito Orchid, Acianthus pusillus. Carpets of leaves, with the great majority bearing the tiny flowers resembling insects, are appearing in many areas.

Mosquito Orchids
Mosquito Orchids

The column is arched over the labellum bringing the pollinia in contact with the visiting gnat feeding on nectar secreted on the labellum. Some orchids are in full flower in mid May while others are still at the bud stage. Acianthus produce a replacement tuber each season after flowering, and most produce additional tubers which together with seed from the flowers, form vast colonies often camouflaged in leaf litter. The leaves are heart-shaped, dark green above and purple below, and are held several centimetres above the ground.

Mosquito Orchid flower
Mosquito Orchid flower

Many of our other autumn flowering orchids can still be found throughout the district. These include the Brown Tipped Greenhood, Pterostylis clivosa, Tiny Greenhood, P. parviflora, a few Autumn Greenhoods, P. sp. aff revoluta and Bearded Midge Orchids, Corunastylis morrisii. Banded Greenhoods, Pterostylis sanguinea, are coming into flower. Tall Greenhoods, P. melagramma, are in bud and carpets of Nodding Greenhoods, P. nutans, are appearing in many areas.

As we said last month it is a great time to explore the orchid world. Please let us know of your successes. Photos and descriptions of all of our orchids are found in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.

Margaret MacDonald

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