The warm dry October has brought the spring orchid flowering to a rapid early close, unlike the previous few years.
The sun orchids that gave promise to a good flowering season were very disappointing, and hopefully you may have managed a visit to the heathlands on those occasional days when they displayed their beauty for you to admire. We were pleased to see a number of Spotted Sun Orchids, Thelymitra ixioides, in full flower. This species has been very rare in our district over the last few years with, as we have said previously, the majority of blue spotted orchids being the Rush-leaf Sun Orchid, T.juncifolia.
A few of the later flowering species, T.pallidiflora have been observed but certainly in far less numbers than we had hoped for and very quick to disappear.
The attractive Blotched Sun Orchid, T. benthamiana, although observed in bud has not been reported in flower. The recent cooler, dry conditions have caused these orchids to self-pollinate but it is still worth keeping an eye out for the greenish-yellow flowers blotched with brown.
However we have one exciting piece of news in the sun orchid department with a new record for our area of the Flat-leaf Sun Orchid, Thelymitra latifolia. Our keen orchid photographer, Keith McLean, who felt the blue orchid looked a bit different, posted a photo on Facebook where orchid experts identified it as this species. Originally described in South Australia, it was confirmed in Victoria in 2017 and now more records are being recorded in the west of the state. We welcome this particular orchid to our district and congratulate Keith on his discovery.
Large White Spider Orchids were sparse on the ground. The Eastern Mantis Orchid, Caladenia tentaculata, produced some attractive flowers in quite large numbers and some attractive hybrids with the Large White Spider Orchid, C. venusta were observed.
Little Bronze Caps, C. transitoria, is presently flowering in good numbers although often overlooked because of its tiny size and dull colouring.
In contrast you will easily find another tiny orchid, the bright pink Tiny Fingers, C. pusilla, if you happen to stroll into its territory. We have observed a few flowers scattered in the district.
We have no records for Scented Caps, C. moschata, or Bronze Caps, C. iridescens. These do flower into November so please let us know if you should come across them.
Beard Orchids should be flowering at this time. We have had a few records of Purple Beard orchids, C. robertsonii, that was featured in the November Angair news. Although they can often flower for quite a long period, the dry conditions have caused the flowers to wither early.
A few Red Beard Orchids, C. paludosus, have been sighted but we have no records for the rarer Copper Beard Orchid, C. campestris, or the extremely rare, Naked Beard Orchid, C. imberbis.
The last of our Diuris species to flower each year, the Tiger Orchid, D. sulphurea , flowered well in October but the yellow and brown flowers were quick to wither and disappear in the dry conditions.
We may feel disappointment with our orchid discoveries but all of a sudden the duck season opens and we are able to observe the fascinating flowers of both the Large Duck Orchid, Caleana major, and the Small Duck Orchid, C. minor. The glossy flowers of the Large Duck Orchid make it easily recognisable and to see a large colony in flower is a sheer delight. The labellum, which resembles the duck’s head, is extremely sensitive and snaps down into the column (the body of the duck) at the slightest touch to trap the insect pollinator – a male sawfly. Be careful when trying to take a photo that you do not touch the flower! The dorsal sepal is at the base of the flower curving forward over the column and the petals hang down alongside the column. The yellow pollinia at the tip of the column often look like little yellow feet. The lateral sepals project behind the flower and complete the image of a duck in flight.
The Small Duck Orchid cannot compete with the image of the larger species but it is still fascinating., It has the same features as the Large Duck Orchid but on a smaller scale and is less colourful. However it can boast of the glossy black calli on its head (the labellum).
Colonies of Common Bird Orchids, Chiloglottis valida, are flowering well with their flowers looking like the open beak of a nestling bird, sometimes vibrating with the breeze.
Just a few Leek Orchids have been seen at this stage. They usually flower well after fire. The Tall Leek Orchid, Prasophyllum elatum, with up to 60 flowers can grow to 150 cm tall. The ones seen so far, again because of the hot dry conditions, have been much shorter than these.
Just when our new orchid book gives us confidence in identifying the smaller leek orchids that grow in our district they are appearing in very small numbers. There is still time for them to appear if we should get some late spring rainfall which seems unlikely.
Onion Orchids, Microtis sp., are appearing in many locations though not in large numbers and they are much shorter than we have seen in previous years. Horned Orchids, Orthoceras strictum, should be found in late spring and early summer.
It is worth keeping on the alert for late flowering greenhoods. The Sickle Greenhood, Pterostylis falcata, with its long, curved hood is found in swampy areas. It can hybridize with Nodding Greenhood, P. nutans, to form the Large Pointed Greenhood, P. x ingens. However this hybrid usually flowers earlier. Another late flowering greenhood is the Dark-tipped Greenhood, P. atrans. As its common name describes it has a dark brown tip to the hood. We did find it flowering last year after a long absence so we will hunt its territory later in the year.
After a disappointing spring, we can perhaps end on an optimistic scale with Rosy Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium roseum, starting to put up good numbers of their asparagus-like shoots in many of our heathland and woodland areas. We look forward to their attractive flowers brightening up our bushland environment if the hungry kangaroos and wallabies allow them to survive.
Just where is the rainfall that would help the orchid world? Please let us know of any of your interesting orchid experiences. All of our orchids are documented and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District. The new edition costing $30.00 is available from the Angair Natural History Centre on Monday and Thursday mornings, online through the Angair website and from Anglesea News & Lotto and Great Escape Books in Aireys Inlet.
Margaret MacDonald email@example.com Alison Watson firstname.lastname@example.org