This is a lovely time to be out looking for orchids. Now and for the next few months it should be exciting with a number of recently burnt areas to explore to see what is coming up after the fires.
As April fades away we have been delighted to see the fragile Fringed Hare Orchids, Leporella fimbriata, appear in a few of its well-known sites, despite the lack of rain since early March. Some of the plants have been very weak due to the dry conditions, but some that grow in more sheltered sites have produced strong flowers. Although it is widespread in the area it is nevertheless uncommon as very few flowers appear except after fire. The flower stem bears up to three yellow-green flowers with reddish-brown markings. The dorsal sepal curves over the column and the narrow lateral sepals grow downwards. The erect petals end in reddish-brown, club-shaped tips, the glands exuding a scent that attracts male flying Baby Bull-ants, Myrmecia urens, which pollinate the flower. We have not managed to see this taking place, but we always keep looking. The broad, horizontal labellum is deep purple with a central green patch. The margins are fringed. Colonies of ground-hugging, red-veined ovate leaves, either single or in pairs, appear late at the flowering stage.
Large colonies of Large Autumn Greenhoods, Pterostylis ampliata, are looking impressive with their large flowers ending in a long pointed, dorsal sepal. Unfortunately they are growing on private land in Aireys Inlet but fortunately are well conserved by the land owners. At the Gum Flat site on public land there are only three flowers at this stage. If you know of other sites please let us know.
The Tiny Greenhood, P. parviflora, and Brown-tipped Greenhood, P. clivosa, are also starting to flower. Both these orchids are easy to identify with their flowers facing inwards towards the stem. The Brown-tipped have obvious brown-reddish coloured tips even when in bud. They seem to be more numerous than the Tiny Greenhoods.
There are more Greenhood rosettes starting to appear, the light-coloured ones will be the Trim Greenhood, P. concinna, and the wavy-leaved rosettes, the Nodding Greenhood, P. nutans. Rosettes of the stronger Blunt Greenhoods, P. curta, are also starting to emerge.
An early Mosquito Orchid, Acianthus pusillus, has been seen in flower. Look for the heart shaped leaves and a tiny insect-like flower. Each plant produces a replacement tuber, with most producing additional tubers, which together with seed, form large colonies.
The Autumn Bird Orchid, Chiloglotis curviclavia, continues to flower well in restricted areas but we are hoping to find more flowers amongst the large colonies of paired leaves. Very few have been observed to this stage.
The flowers of the Bearded Midge Orchid, Corunastylis morrisii, are still about in woodland areas and Parsons Bands, Eriochilus cucullatus, are also growing in many woodland areas but are quite tiny and hard to see.
The leaf of the Winter Sun Orchid, Thelimitra hiemalis, is fleshy and strongly ribbed and could be appearing soon. This exceptionally rare orchid is the first sun orchid to be seen, flowering in July and worth looking out for. Please make sure you let us know of any unusual sightings you have.
All our orchids are documented and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District unfortunately now out of print. A new edition is well on its way to publication.