I feel that the 2018 sun orchid season at Anglesea was the shortest one I can remember since I began looking at orchids in the early 1990s.
It just seemed that an electric light switch was turned on for the odd few days when the heathlands became ablaze with colour, and then just as quickly the switch was turned off, with many of our sun orchids just self-pollinating and suggesting we wait until 2019 before we admire them once again. The weather was just too cold and dry.
There has been some success recently with one of our later flowering species, the Blotched Sun Orchid, Thelymitra benthamiana, but you certainly had to be patient to see it in flower. Thanks to Lorraine and Keith Dyer who shared their photo with us after waiting many hours for it to open.
Blotched Sun Orchid
Frustrated with the weather, I turned my attention to the beard orchids, Calochilus sp. We have four species that grow in the area, Red Beard Orchid, Calochilus paludosus, Purple Beard Orchid, C. robertsonii, Copper Beard Orchid, C. campestris, and Naked Beard Orchid, C. imberbis. However, as they also respond to heat it can once again be a challenging game to find them in flower. And yes, I was fortunate enough to find the four species in flower this year!
The Purple Beard Orchid flowered well and many people were sharing photos they had taken of this species with its labellum covered with dense glistening purple hairs. If you look closely you will see two bead-like glands at the base of the column. Sometimes just one flower, but often up to seven flowers will grow on the stem. It is a widespread and common species.
Purple Beard Orchid
The Naked Beard Orchid as its name implies has no hair on the labellum. There is some speculation that it is just a form of Calochilus robertsonii, and occurs occasionally where this orchid grows. From my observations I do support this theory. I did see five of this species—but none open. They had all self-pollinated before I tracked them down. It has the similar bead-like glands at the base of the column. (Thanks to Colin and Mischa Rowan who shared this photo with us).
Naked Beard Orchid
The Red Beard Orchid, of which I found only two in flower, does not have the pair of eye-like black glands on the column wings at the base of the labellum. It is not common in the area and is found growing in moist soils in heathland and woodland. The labellum is covered with wiry red hairs and has a long strap-like naked tail.
Red Beard Orchid
The Copper Beard Orchid which I have not been able to locate for a number of years turned up on two of our sites and I was very excited waiting for it to open. I did see one flower open when the wind was blowing a gale. The labellum is covered with bristly purple and yellow hairs with two smooth metallic-blue plates at the base. Again, it has the two eye-like glands on the column wings. The next time I visited the two sites a few days later the flowers had all been nibbled—I assume by insects. The flowers do emit a scent to attract the male pollinating wasp but perhaps some other insect picked up the scent. Who knows? (Thanks to Ian Taylor for his photo!)
Copper Beard Orchid
We do however have more cooperative orchids that do not rely too much on weather conditions for them to open. Flying Ducks, Caleana major, are one of those species and I’m sure you will enjoy the great photo taken by Michael Prideaux , photographer and orchid enthusiast who shared his photo with us.
Flying Duck Orchid
Other orchids to look out for include Small Duck Orchids, Paracaleana minor, Common Bird Orchids, Chiloglottis valida, Leek Orchids, Prasophyllum sp. Eastern Bronze Caladenias, Caladenia transitoria, Cinnamon Bells, Gastrodia sp., Elbow Orchids, Thynninorchis huntianus, Horned Orchids, Orthoceras strictum, Large Tongue Orchids, Cryptostylis subulata and of course our Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium sp.
All of these orchids are photographed and described in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR. I hope you are finding time to get out into the field and observe some of these beautiful flowers. Please let us know of your discoveries.