There are over 50 species of Midge Orchid Coranustylis sp., mostly endemic to Australia, with 2 occurring in New Zealand, and 1 in New Caledonia. Three species grow in the Anglesea district:

The Fringed Midge Orchid Corunastylis ciliate, is an uncommon orchid in the area, and usually the first species to flower. Up to 10 flowers are crowded together, having yellow and green hairless sepals and petals.

Fringed Midge Orchid
Fringed Midge Orchid

 The Sharp Midge Orchid C. despectans, grows to about 20 cm tall and bears about 10 dark, purplish brown flowers with green markings.

Sharp Midge Orchid
Sharp Midge Orchid

 The Bearded Midge Orchid C. morrisii (named after Victorian botanist P.F. Morris) also grows to about 20 cm tall, bearing up to 15 reddish purple flowers. The dorsal sepal, petals and labellum are fringed with long hairs.

Bearded Midge Orchid
Bearded Midge Orchid

This is the time of the year when Midge Orchids might just be starting to appear in a wide range of habitats throughout the district. They are often found in open areas but more commonly grow in amongst grasses, sedges and low shrubs. I have visited most of our popular midge orchid sites recently, but as yet have not seen any signs of the orchids appearing. We obviously need more rain to encourage their growth. At this early stage we are just looking for a small single erect, cylindrical leaf that is green in colour, often reddish at the base. They are not easy to find until the flowers appear. 

The flower stem grows up inside the leaf and then emerges through a slit near the top displaying a spike of dark-coloured insect-like flowers. The flower segments are small, and, in contrast to most orchid species, the dorsal sepal is at the base of the flower and the labellum at the top. The labellum often trembles in the breeze.

Margaret MacDonald

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