In Part One, Leo Davis’ first article centred on the Large Flying Duck, this second part is about the lesser known Little Duck.


There are at least three speceis of flying duck orchids in SA, one in genus Caleana and two others having been moved from there to genus Paracaleana.

My favourite, of the two duck orchids that most of us see, is the small duck orchid (Paracaleana minor).  It is actually rarer than the more popular species, can bear six or more flowers on a spike, and has a more delicate and quirky charm, to my eye. 

As with the large flying duck the usual angle of photographing the smaller species is to emphasise the ‘flying’ nature.  But again there is other detail to see and to be illustrated from other view-points.

The accompanying image of the little duck flower, viewed from the front, shows variations on the same structures shown previously in the large duck orchid.  Down at the bottom of the flower is the sticky stigma (♀ part), not white this time, and immediately below is the triangular yellow pollinium packet (♂ part).  Again both structures sit in the bowl shaped column.

Paracalean minor arrows copy
Paracalean minor (Little Flying Duck Orchid)

Note the three part symmetry of the pollinium, with a distinctive Mercedes Benz logo (or Mitsubishi if your budget only stretches that far) to tease us.

The location of the female (♀) and male (♂) organs, adjacent to each other, fused to form a column, is one of the main distinguishing characteristic features of the orchid family.

As an afterword let me remind you that the little duck (like the larger, collected in Sydney in 1803) started out as Caleana minor but was moved to a new genus, leaving the large duck as the only member of its genus.  Rules of nomenclature mean that the small duck had to keep its specific name (minor), hence we now have Paracaleana minor but there is no, and never will be, Paracaleana major.  But Caleana minor still appears in publications and some folks may still use that name.

Some of you choose to use different scientific names to some that others use. Recently some of us bought a propagation pack that Les Nesbitt produced, to grow the maroon banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea.) In the unlikely event that my pack produces seedlings I will label them Urochilus sanguineus.  And we can both justify our choice.  And then, of course, some taxonomist could move the little duck back to its original genus one day. 

Then, of course, there is the added complication that David Jones (Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. 2006, p148) calls the species Sullivania minor!

Leo Davis

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