It was a difficult decision as to a choice of site between Flaxbourne Rd and Harvey St for our October nature ramble as a wealth of orchids were flowering in each area.
However the magnificent display of Hare Orchids, Leptoceras menziesii, swung the pendulum to Harvey St and those people who came along were just overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of these delightful little orchids standing looking at us as we looked at them – there would literally have been over a thousand flowers! The site was burnt in March this year and this orchid species that responds so well to fire was doing itself proud.
Another orchid species that usually relies on fire for it to flower is the Red Beak Orchid, Pyrorchis nigricans, and we admired a small group of flowers on the edge of the firebreak.
Unfortunately the weather was too cool to entice our sun orchids to open. Perhaps our October ramble should have a later starting time as there were just so many in the area with some of the braver ones struggling to open. A small group of Rabbit Ears, Thelymitra antennifera, were open but our second yellow species,Twisted Sun Orchid, T. flexuosa, which were in such large numbers, remained closed – most of them having self-pollinated in the cooler weather. A small clump that I had photographed just a few days ago was trying valiantly to open but it was just not warm enough. We shared a photograph that I had taken on my last visit.
It was also too cool for our other sun orchids but we were able to look at the buds closely and differentiate between species, so it was a good learning experience –
Great Sun Orchid, T. aristata, Salmon Sun Orchid, T. rubra, Pink Sun Orchid, T. carnea, Rush-leaf Sun Orchid, T. juncifolia, Slender Sun Orchid, T. pauciflora and the later flowering Blotched Sun Orchid, T. benthamiana, which was in good bud.
The spider orchids on the other hand appeared to be saying ‘Who needs the sun to show your beauty?’ and we saw many Large White Spider Orchids, Caladenia venusta, and a few Mantis Orchids, C. tentaculata, scattered through the area. There was a group of Heart-lipped/Thick-lipped Spider Orchids, C. cardiochila, that has been flowering for a few weeks now. I feel sure they will be sending out the scent of the female pollinator wasp but the males don’t seem to be getting the message as none of the flowers have been pollinated. The wasps have been busy in Aireys Inlet where most of the specimens have been pollinated, but it seems that Anglesea is out of bounds. If you see swollen ovaries on Heart-lipped Spider Orchids please let us know.
Our endemic Unicorn Bearded Greenhood, Pterostylis unicornis, was in its last stages of flowering but we found some specimens to observe. We were hoping to find the smaller Southern Bearded Greenhood, P. tasmanica, but we were not successful. Donkey orchids, Diuris orientis, in various shades of yellow and brown were scattered through the area and Onion orchids, Microtis sp., were just starting to appear with the cylindrical leaves splitting to allow the flower stems to protrude. The buds were tightly closed so we didn’t have to try and identify them.
I think we saw one Waxlip, Glossodia major, so that brought our total to 17 species – not a bad effort for a short time in a small area. As one of our members stated ‘The tremendous effort that was made back in the early 1990s to save this heathland from housing development was certainly worth the while.’
However we were not content to stop at that count as we were aware of some beautiful specimens of Tall Leek Orchids, Prasophyllum elatum, that were flowering in the Alcoa Conservation Reserve in Fraser Avenue, so we decided to finish our ramble there and we were not disappointed. Although some hungry kangaroos or wallabies had eaten some flowering stalks there were still plenty of the magnificent specimens for us to admire. These orchids have their flowers ‘upside down’ compared to most other orchids – they have their dorsal sepal at the base of the flower and the lateral sepals joined at the top.
Of course there were just so many other flowers for us to admire at both sites. We have such an abundance of beautiful flora in the Anglesea district and hopefully we can endeavour to conserve it for future generations.
Photos of Waxlips by John Lenagan