The orchid world is an exciting one with many unexpected discoveries occurring from time to time.
Over the last few weeks I have had three such experiences that I would like to share with you.
Saturday October 28
A walk in Merrans Reserve Fairhaven, with my niece Margie, resulted in us observing two flowering blue sun orchids. We were excited to identify them as Merrans Sun Orchid, Thelymitra x merraniae, an orchid that my sister Kath and I had rediscovered in the Moggs Creek and Fairhaven area in 1992 after it had been missing for a very long period of time. The orchid was discovered by Merran Sutherland, a local Moggs Creek resident, in 1929, and named in her honour by W.H.Nicholls who described the plant as a new species, Thelymitra merranae.
Since that time orchid experts tend to regard it as a hybrid orchid with Jeff Jeanes and Gary Backhouse stating they believe it is a hybrid between Thelymitra ixioides and T. peniculata. It is now classified in orchid texts as Thelymitra x merraniae. However without detailed genetic studies or breeding experiments this remains a suggestion.
The orchid flowers in a few places in our area but very occasionally. We have seen it at Moggs Creek, Fairhaven, Forest Rd Anglesea and at Urquhart Bluff where we also found four flowering stems on October 29.
It is a very beautiful sun orchid—usually blue with spotted petals and sepals. The column is the distinguishing feature–bluish with tinges of pink, a ‘golden crown’ on top and cream hair tufts.
Merrans Sun Orchid is the logo for the Australasian Native Orchid Society Geelong Group.
Sunday October 29.
I was alerted by friends to a very pale sun orchid that was flowering on Teds Track at Aireys Inlet where a number of flowers had been observed on the previous day. It was a hot windy day but worth the walk as we discovered a colony (at least 30) of the Pale-flowered Sun Orchid, Thelymitra pallidiflora, in full bloom.
This orchid is almost endemic to the Anglesea area with the only other documented record being from Crib Point on the Mornington Peninsular. In the Anglesea district we have records from the O’Donohue heathlands, Ironbark Basin and Tanners Road. The discovery at Teds Track was therefore an exciting one.
As its name suggests it is a very pale-flowered orchid—the flowers are white or very pale blue. The top of the column is hood-like, black or very dark brown with a deeply notched yellow apex. The column arms have hairs along most of their length.
Sunday November 5
A walk on the coastal heathlands at Moggs Creek resulted in observations of some very fine specimens of the Blotched Sun Orchid, Thelymitra benthamiana, but unfortunately it was not warm or humid enough to tempt the flowers to open.
However while walking about I discovered a number of the smaller Southern Bearded Greenhoods, Pterostylis tasmanica, flowering in the grasses. The flowers had nearly all self-pollinated but I was again to have a new exciting experience as three of these specimens were double-headed, a vey rare feature.
I had noticed on Facebook a record from Craig Broadfield in Tasmania who had found two flowers on the one scape on the Tarkine Coast in NW Tasmania. Not to let Victoria be outdone by Tasmania I posted a photo showing two of our records at Moggs Creek! The entry resulted in many interested comments from orchid enthusiasts.
This orchid is distinguishable from our endemic species at Anglesea, Pterostylis sp. aff. Plumose, by its smaller beak at the end of its hood, its feather-like labellum with dense golden hairs and dark brown knob at the tip, and the fact that the lateral sepals are fused at the base.
Remember that photos and descriptions of all our orchids are found in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from Angair.