Do Any Orchids Grow Near The Sea?

Orchids are found in a wide range of habitats.  One such habitat is the littoral zone or more simply the seaside.  The following information is taken from the NOSSA’s CD/DVD South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011.

The Littoral Zone

Many orchid species have a linear distribution following the coastline. Here on the leeward side of sandhills the air is usually moist and mild, few frosts occur so close to the sea and sea-fogs in winter will cause water to drip into the sand which easily soaks up both the moisture and the extra nutrients provided by sea-spray. Some of the best known coastal orchids include the gnats Cyrtostylis robusta, pink fairies Caladenia latifolia, coast onion-orchids, Microtis arenaria and coastal helmet orchids Corysanthes expansa as well as C. despectans. All of these are colony forming species, mostly because the windblown sand would soon cover ‘single plant’ species which start to appear after the second line of dunes.

Coastal species can be a few kilometres from the sea but there are several that grow either at the high tide mark, within sight or sound of the sea or in coastal dunes. Apart from the ones already mentioned above, the following are some others that can potentially be found within sight and sound of the sea.

  • Acianthus pusillus (Mosquito Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis cardiochila (Thick Lipped Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis fragrantissima (Scented Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis fuliginosa (Coastal Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis sp Brown Bayonets (Port Lincoln Spider Orchid)
  • Bunochilus flavovirens (Coastal Banded Greenhood)
  • Bunochilus littoralis (Lake Saint Clair Banded Greenhood)
  • Caladenia sp Selfing Coastal Dunes (Little Dune Fingers)
  • Corunastylis nigricans (Port Lincoln Midge Orchid)
  • Diuris orientis (Wallflower Orchid or Bulldogs)

    Diuris orientis

    Diuris orientis (Wallflower Orchid)

  • Diplodium erythroconchum (Red shell Orchid)
  • Glossodia major (Waxlip or Purple Cockatoo Orchid)
  • Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid, Rabbit Ears)

    Leptoceras menziesii (Rabbit Ears Orchid)

    Leptoceras menziesii (Rabbit Ears Orchid) after a fire

  • Prasophyllum elatum (Tall Leek Orchid)
  • Prasophyllum litorale (Vivid Leek Orchid)
  • Prasophyllum sp Late Coastal Dunes
  • Pterostylis cucullata (Leafy Greenhood)
  • Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood)Pterostylis curta Labellum and column 92RL
  • Thelymitra antennifera (Rabbit Ears; Lemon Sun Orchid)07 JB T antennifera sm

Unfortunately, where there has been settlement, it is now unusual to find these species so close to the sea.

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