In Australia we have a fire season during summer when controlled burns are not carried out due to the high risk should any fire activity escape.
In 2016 we were very fortunate to see a fuel reduction burn carried out near Harvey St, Anglesea just two days before the official start of summer. Most of the spring flowers had already set seed, and the birds generally had finished their nesting season.
Many terrestrial orchids respond well to fire if carried out at this time of the year, with the underground tubers being stimulated to growth by the fire activity. There are several species that thrive following a summer fire and these include Red Beaks, Pyrorchis nigricans, Hare Orchids, Leptoceras menziesii, and Tall Leek Orchids, Prasophyllum elatum.
These three species are present within this burnt area. By mid-September Red Beaks were flowering well.
Red Beaks (photo by Michael Prideaux)
Large colonies of Hare Orchids were in bud, tantalisingly close to opening, and Tall Leek Orchids were already splitting the side of the leaf stem and showing an emerging flower spike.
Many other species have responded to the burn and are either presenting themselves for us to admire, or are in bud saying ‘Just be patient and wait a while’.
Leopard Orchids and Bluebeards, both featured in our September newsletter, have been flowering in profusion. Bluebeards are usually found in very small numbers scattered throughout the district but we have all been enthralled by the clumps of flowers that have appeared following the burn activity.
Waxlip Orchids, common in the district, are also coming into flower.
If the days were warm enough to attract the native bees that pollinate both the Bluebeards and the Waxlips, we just might next year see the Hybrid Bluebeard between these two species x Glossadenia tutelata.
There is just so much more that is happening. Different species of Spider Orchids, Caladenia sp., and Sun Orchids, Thelymitra sp., are coming into flower. We look forward to sharing some more of our treasures in our next newsletter, but hope you may be able to experience them in the field for yourselves.
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St Bernard’s College, students’ working bee
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