On January 28 what a surprise it was to find tiny flowering Autumn Bird or Wasp Orchids and lots of teeny pairs of leaves pushing through the leaf litter on private land near Anglesea.
Reading Gary Backhouse’s book Bush Beauties; The Wild Orchids of Victoria, Australia, and checking with VicFlora, it seems that the name we have been using, Chiloglottis reflexa, is now given to a similar orchid growing in heavier clay, often stony soils in the north-east of the state. This orchid was previously known as Tall Wasp Orchid, C. trilabra. Our orchid is now known as C. curviclavia—a species that usually grows in heath and heathy-woodlands on sandy loam soils. The two species are ‘virtually identical’ (Gary Backhouse) but as they have different pollinators—different species of male thynnine wasps, they are regarded as separate orchid species. The week before this find there had been 38 mm rain, perhaps that helped. Or perhaps the smoky days we had in mid-January had an effect? It is very early for this orchid which usually comes into flower in March or April in our area. At the present time, while there are over 100 flowering plants on this private site, there are only a few buds and some paired leaves just emerging through the damp ground in our other known sites.
The Autumn Bird Orchid or Wasp Orchid has an insect-like greenish brown to purplish coloured flower with the labellum, somewhat rounded to diamond-shaped, covered in glossy black to dark reddish calli extending from the base to the apex. There is one erect, stalked, deeply notched callus towards the base. The lateral sepals turn downwards and inwards. The species can form large colonies.
Autumn Bird Orchid
There has not been much to see in the orchid world during these late summer months, but there have still been some beautiful Rosy Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium roseum, scattered throughout the district and we were thrilled to find two White Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium pardalinum, flowering at Aireys Inlet.
Rosy Hyacinth Orchid
White Hyacinth Orchid
Now, with all the great late summer rain we have been having, is the time to start looking for Midge Orchids, Corunastylis sp. that should appear in our area during March. The first to come into flower should be the Sharp Midge, Corunastylis despectans. This is rare in our district and very difficult to find as it blends in with grasses and other plants. Our other two species, Fringed Midge, C. ciliate, and Bearded Midge, C. morrisii, are a little easier to locate. Autumn Greenhoods, Brown-tipped Greenhoods and Tiny Greenhoods should also start to appear in early autumn, a good time to be out and about.
Please let us know of your finds. All species are documented and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District (obviously in need of revision) available from ANGAIR.
Alison Watson and Margaret MacDonald