On Monday December 16, 2013 a group of twelve set out in the sunshine on a journey to the gravel pits on Mt Ingoldsby Road, in a quest to find Flying Duck Orchids.
Gravel Pits is an inhospitable area that has also been a dumping ground for excess soil from Anglesea at different stages. However, in spite of this, it is an area which is rich in flora, and the group was able to put together a plant list of over sixty different species that grow in this environment.
We were quickly rewarded for our efforts as the Flying Ducks thrive in the gravelly and sandy soils of the area.
The beautiful glossy flower of Caleana major, Flying Duck Orchid, is easily recognised, the labellum, which resembles the duck’s head, is extremely sensitive and snaps down into the column at the slightest touch to trap insect pollinators. The lateral sepals resemble the duck’s wings.
We were fortunate enough to also see the beautiful Small Duck Orchid, Paracaleana minor, which has a slender stem to a height of 18cm and bears 3 to 4 flowers.
The group were fascinated to see the withered flowers of the Red Beaks, Pyrorchis nigricans, that looked like ‘charcoal’. The specific name is derived from the Latin, nigrescens (becoming black) and refers to the colour of the withered flowers. This leads to the alternative common name of Undertaker Orchid.
It was interesting to see the heart-shaped leathery leaf of the Red Beaks changing colour as they start to wither.
The Tiny Sundew Drosera pygmaea is made up of beautiful crimson rosettes with sticky hairs that trap insects, and bear a number of tiny white flowers.
Magnifiers come in handy to get a close-up look at the tiny flowers.
December is an excellent time to see Flying Duck Orchids at the gravel pits.
Photographer: Margaret MacDonald