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When I look back over March orchid reports I notice I am always struggling to find anything to write about terrestrial orchids in Anglesea, and this year is no exception.

The lack of rainfall has certainly not encouraged any of our autumn flowering species to show their presence.

At this time of the year it is often only leaves that indicate where our terrestrial orchids are growing, and the appearance of orchid leaves is dependent upon the amount of rainfall that has occurred during summer and early autumn. A recent walk in some of our autumn flowering orchid sites yielded a nil return with the dry vegetation crunching under my feet.

I was therefore very excited to find a Sharp Midge Orchid, Corunastylis despectans, in full bloom on February 16 on our No2 Rd site.

Sharp Midge Orchid
Sharp Midge Orchid

This species had been missing in our district for many years until it was rediscovered on an orchid field day with one flowering spike in the Ironbark Basin in 2008. The following year Tom Fletcher, one of our members, stumbled upon a good colony as well.

Almost impossible to see before the flowers open, the orchid has a single long green cylindrical leaf that emerges after late summer or autumn rains. The spike of dark-coloured insect-like flowers grows up with the leaf and emerges through a slit in the top. The word despectans means looking down and the flowers certainly do this. As with Leek Orchids the dorsal sepal is at the base of the flower, and the labellum is on the upper side of the flower. The labellum, sepals and petals all lack hairs.

Hopefully there will be some more Sharp Midges appearing in the next few weeks, along with our other two species Fringed Midge Orchid, Corunastylis ciliata, and Bearded Midge Orchid, C. morrisii.

Photos and descriptions of all our terrestrial orchid species can be found in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from Angair.

Margaret MacDonald