Pterostylis Pollinators

Rudie Kuiter et al have been observing orchid pollinators over many seasons spending hours watching and becoming familiar with pollinator interaction with the orchid, learning when to anticipate pollination activity.

Their observations of various Pterostylis species has been documented in Overview of Pterostylis Pollination (Orchidaceae) in Victoria. In all, they observed 53 Pterostylis species and 40 species of pollinators from several different genera. They noted that some pollinators species were active most of the day but others were only active in the late afternoon whilst others were “only seen on dusk and possibly are nocturnal as well”.

 

 

Banded Greenhoods Bundled Together

Here in South Australia we often have only one or two species of a complex or a genus but this is not necessarily the case in the rest of the country. One such instance is Urochilus sanguineus (syn Pterostylis sanguinea) or Maroon Banded Greenhood. It is possible that we may have a subspecies or possibly the Mallee form but nothing like the occurrence of  this species in Western Australia where it is but one of many in a complex of several – the Pterostylis vittata complex or Banded Greenhoods*.

Below, with permission, is Andrew Brown’s post on Facebook with notes and images about the complex as it is understood in Western Australia.

The Banded Greenhood complex in Western Australia

Members of this complex grow 150 to 450 mm high and have up to 20 green, brown or reddish-brown white banded flowers characterised by their, short, broad lateral sepals which are joined at the base and a small, insect-like labellum which flicks up when touched. In all species, flowering plants lack a basal rosette of leaves while non-flowering plants have a flattened, ground hugging, rosette of leaves.

Banded greenhoods are found over a wide geographic range between Binnu north of Geraldton and Eyre on the Great Australia Bight, growing in shrublands, woodlands, forests and shallow soil pockets on granite outcrops.

There are ten Western Australian species in this complex, seven of which are formally named. However, as two were named as species of Urochilus, a genus not recognised in Western Australia, only five of these names are currently recognised here. In Western Australia, all members of the complex are considered to be in the genus Pterostylis.

All are winter flowering.

Pterostylis concava

Pterostylis concava AB

Distinguished from other members of the complex by its prominently cupped lateral sepals and the upturned projection near the base of the labellum. Found between Bindoon and Mt Barker.

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Pterostylis crebriflora

Pterostylis crebriflora AB.jpg

Distinguished from the similar Pterostylis sanguinea by its often shorter stature and slightly larger flowers which are crowded in a dense spike near the top of the stem. Found on the Darling Scarp near Perth.

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Pterostylis sanguinea

Pterostylis sanguinea AB.jpg

A very common species that is also found in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. It was named from specimens collected in South Australia. The species is similar to Pterostylis crebriflora but is usually taller with smaller, more widely spaced flowers. Flower colour is variable and it is not uncommon to find brown and green flowered forms growing alongside one another. Found over a wide area between Mullewa and Eyre on the Great Australian Bight.

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Pterostylis sanguinea (Mallee form)

Pterostylis sanguinea mallee form AB.jpg

An unnamed member of the complex distinguished from Pterostylis sanguinea by its short stature and few flowered inflorescence. Found over a wide range from the Stirling Range to the north of Esperance.

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Pterostylis sp. Coastal

Pterostylis sp coastal AB.jpg

Some consider this to be a form of Pterostylis sp. small bands but it is usually taller with more widely spaced flowers. The sepals are also narrower and often slightly cupped. Found mostly in near coastal areas between Dongara and Bunbury. Similar looking plants have also been found further inland between Brookton and Mt Barker.

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Pterostylis sanguinea (green flowered form)

Pterostylis sanguinea green flowered form AB.jpg

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Pterostylis sargentii

Pterostylis sargentii AB

A common, widespread species, distinguished from other members of the complex by its smaller flowers and fleshy, tri-lobed, frog-like labellum. Found over a huge geographic range between Northampton and Mt Ney, north of Esperance.

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Pterostylis sp. Crowded

Pterostylis sp crowded AB

 

A widespread species named Urochilus atrosanguineus in June 2017. Distinguished from the similar Pterostylis sanguinea by its more robust habit and larger dark reddish-brown flowers. It is also similar to Pterostylis crebriflora but generally flowers earlier and has more widely spaced flowers in a longer spike. Found between Wongan Hills and Katanning with rare, scattered populations on the Swan Coastal Plain.

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Pterostylis sp. Eyre

Pterostylis sp Eyre AB

A distinctive member of the complex distinguished from others by its pale coloured flowers. Like Pterostylis sanguinea (mallee form) it has a short stature and few flowered inflorescence. Found along the coast between Toolinna Cove and Eyre on the on the Great Australian Bight.

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Pterostylis sp. small bands

Pterostylis sp small bands AB

A northern species named Urochilus orbiculatus in June 2017. It is regarded by some researchers to be a form of Pterostylis sp. coastal but is usually shorter with a more densely crowded spike of flowers. Its sepals are also broader, more rounded and flattened rather than slightly cupped. Found north of Perth between Cataby and Binnu.

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Pterostylis vittata

Pterostylis vittata AB.jpg

A widespread species distinguished from other members of the complex by its less fleshy, paler coloured, predominantly green flowers and narrower, elongated, slightly cupped sepals. The flowers also have a more translucent appearance. The typical form is found between Bindoon and Balladonia. There is a northern form with a shorter spike of often fawn coloured flowers found between Cataby and Binnu.

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It should be noted that in South Australia and Victoria U. sanguineus was originally called P. vittata but that species is now recognised as being endemic to Western Australia.

*As an aside, the common name Banded Greenhoods is used in South Australia for the subgenus Bunochilus (previously Pterostylis longifolia which is now considered endemic to New South Wales).

 

2017 July Cultural Notes

Steve Howard regularly writes orchid cultural notes for various orchid clubs in South Australia. His notes are tailored specifically conditions in Adelaide. The following are his notes for both epiphytes and terrestrials for the month of July.

Epiphytes

  • Water mounted native epiphytes daily; pots weekly and small pots twice weekly depending on the weather. Hot cold types require drier conditions. Generally none to once monthly for me.
  • Colder weather slows down their metabolism in winter. Foliar feeding is beneficial.
  • Keep water out of new growths to avoid rot. Clones prone to this need to be moved under hard roof cover to keep drier.
  • Check under leaves for scale.
Epiphytes in flower (1)

Annual NOSSA Spring Show

Terrestrials

  • Weed pots as the weeds appear and ensure that they don’t get too wet.
  • Remove rotted growths.
  • Start baiting for slugs and snails as spikes emerge from protective sheaths.
  • Provide hard cover during wet weather to stop botrytis spotting and rotting out spikes.

Thelymitra plants in pots

2017 May Winning Picture

Corunastylis morrisii @ Simpson 25/2/2017

May’s theme was miniscule, or less than 10mm. Of the eight entries five were Corunastylis, two Spider orchids from Western Australia and one an epiphyte. The flowers of the two spiders, Caladenia pachychila (photographer Rob & Jenny Pauley) and Caladenia bryceana subsp. bryceana (Pauline Myers) were the largest of the group being about 10mm across whilst the Bulbophylum globuliforme (Ros Miller) and C. despectans (Rosalie Lawrence) were the smallest being only 2mm across.

Of the remaining Corunastyllis entries the flower size ranged from 3mm for C. pumila (Rob & Jenny Pauley), 4mm for C. tepperi (Ricky Egel), 7mm for C. ciliata (Rosalie Lawrence) and 8mm for C. morrisii (Rob & Jenny Pauley).

The winning picture C. morrisii (Bearded or Hairy Midge Orchid) is one of the larger midge orchids. Other synonyms are Prasophyllum morrisii and Genoplesium morrisii. This common species is mainly found in Victoria but it does extend into southern New South Wales in the east and in the west just spills 50 km over the border into South Australia where it is rated endangered. It also occurs in the south east of Tasmania.

Flowering Times: Nov – May

 
 State N D J F M A M
Tas        
NSW      
Vic
SA          √

With such a wide distribution range, it is not surprising to see quite a variation in flowering time from late spring through to autumn depending upon location.

Reference

http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Genoplesium~morrisii

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caladenia_pachychila

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caladenia_bryceana_subsp._cracens

http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Genoplesium~pumilum

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

Wapstra, M., Roberts, N., Wapstra, H. & Wapstra, A. (2012). Flowering Times of Tasmanian Orchids: A Practical Guide for Field Botanists. Self-published by the authors (May 2012
version).

Backhouse, G., Kosky, B., Rouse, D. & Turner, J. (2016). Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria. Self-published by the authors

Orchids in Medicine?

Question: Are orchids used in medicine?

Answer: Worldwide, some orchids are used medicinally but compared with other families, despite their numerical dominance in the plant world, orchids only contribute a small number of species to medicine.

Orchidaceae is the second** largest Family in the world after Asteraceae which has about 32,280* species whilst the orchids consists of about 27,753 species. In the big picture, their numbers are similar but only 2.32% (619) of all orchids species can be considered medicinal as opposed to 7.17% (2,314) of Asteraceae.

It is worth noting, that only 28,187 (6.48%) of the possible 434,910 species worldwide are recorded as being used medicinally. But of all of the world’s families it is the small Family of Moraceae (Mulberry, Figs & Mallow) that contributes the most. Of its 1,229 species 22.54% are medicinally useful.

 

 Total number species

 

 Percent of species used medicinally

 

 Number of Species used medicinally

 
World wide

434,910

 

6.48%

 

28,187

 
             
Asteraceae

32,280

 

7.17%

 

2,314

 
Orchidaceae

27,753

 

2.23%

 

619

 
Moraceae

1,229

 

22.54%

 

277

Concerning Australian orchids only a handful are known to have been used medicinally such as Cymbidium for dysentery, Dendrobium teretifolium bruised leaves for pain relief and different parts of  Dendrobium discolor as a poultice and for ringworm.

Cym caniculatum drawing

Notes:

**Many sources will state that the Orchid Family is the largest Family worldwide but for the purpose of this article, the information used is from 2017 State of the World’s Plants. Species numbers tend to be a in state of flux as botanists are discovering new and reassessing data.

*All figures in this article are based upon figures found in the 2017 State of the World’s Plants report.

Reference:

https://stateoftheworldsplants.com/ accessed 9 June 2017

https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/98/9/625/1547881/The-uses-and-misuses-of-orchids-in-medicine accessed 9 June 2017

 

Gleanings from the Journals: Terrestrial Potting Mixes

The following article by Les Nesbitt was published in May 2017 Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal Volume 41 No 4. The article relates to Australian Native Orchids.

Suggested potting mixes for potted native terrestrial orchids have changed greatly over the years as some ingredients such as peat moss have become too expensive or difficult to obtain. Basic requirements are that the mix should be free draining yet retain moisture and should have an organic component that breaks down slowly and does not go mushy in winter. Most species are not too fussy and will grow in a variety of mixes.

Those tubers that desiccate in summer do better in a heavy mix that contains clay. Examples are Diurus behrii, D. punctata and Pterostylis nutans.

Tubers that rot easily in wet soil in Spring prefer an open coarse sandy mix. An example is Thelymitra antennifera.

A dry mix containing a higher proportion of sand is usually recommended for Caladenia and Glossodia species grown in pots. In contrast these orchids grow in clay soil on my property in the Adelaide Hills but there excess water can run off. In pots, excess water has to drain through the potting mix.

An organic component is vital to feed orchid fungi.

Some Basic Ingredients:

  • Washed sand with rounded particles. (Not sharp sand as this sets hard in summer.)
  • Soil (sandy loam, clay based loam, mountain soil)
  • Native seedling mix (Bark based – sieve to remove splinters)
  • Native potting mix (can be sieve* to remove larger particles)
  • Chopped and sieved* gum leaves
  • Perlite or isolite (but will make tubers harder to identify at repotting time)
  • Composted leaf mould & buzzer chips (but needs to be gathered now for use next summer)
  • Cauarina (She-oak) needles chopped for surface mulch

Some Suggested Potting Mixes

  1. ANOS-Vic dry mix – 2 parts coarse sand, 1 part coastal sandy loam, 1 part composted buzzer chips, 1 part leaf mould
  2. 100% native potting mix. (Works for drought resistant tubers, viz. Pterostylis curta & P. pedunculata)
  3. Native potting mix (sieved*) and isolite
  4. Native potting mix and sand
  5. Les Nesbitt’s current mix of 50% sand, 20% hills soil, 25% seedling potting mix (sieved), and 5% chopped & sieved* string bark gum leaves.
  6. Dry mix, 50% coarse sand, 25% perlite & 25% native potting mix
  7. Heavy mix, 50% clay soil, 30% sand and 20% organic matter

* Use a 5mm sieve

thelymitra-plants-1.jpg

Thelymitra in cultivation

2017 April Winning Picture

1704 LN Diuris behrii sm

April’s theme was yellow and orange. All of the entries proved to be spring flowering. There were several Diuris. Claire Chesson, Rob Pauley and John Fennel all entered D. orientis; Les Nesbitt and Rob Pauley D. behrii and Pauline Meyer D. corymbosa from Western Australia. Pauline also entered Caladenia caesaria subsp. maritima and John Thelymitra benthamiana.

The winning picture was Les Nesbitt’s D. behrii (Cowslip Orchid) which occurs in Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory whilst in South Australia it is rated as vulnerable.

Les Nesbitt has been working on a recovery project of these orchids for Hillgrove Resource’s flagship, the Kanmantoo Copper Mine, located almost 55 KM from Adelaide. As this orchid is often mentioned in NOSSA Journals, it might be worthwhile looking at the person after whom this species was named.

First collected by German born Dr Hans Herman Behr (1818 – 1904) who first visited* South Australia in 1844 when the colony was barely 8 years old. During his two years in South Australia he became the first person to systematically study our botany and entomology sending reports and samples back home. The results of his observations were published in various journals, and many of his collections were named and described by other botanists including his friend, Diedreich von Schlechtendal (1794 – 1866) who named Diuris behrii after Hans.

Hans Behr was an interesting man. A man of many aptitudes; medical doctor, entomologist, anthropologist, botanist, duellist, socialist, poet, novelist, linguist, member of the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and a man of wit. From the many reminiscences written about him, it would appear that he was a likeable gentleman and a generous teacher.

Unfortunately, not everyone liked him because “he was a sworn enemy of all scientific humbug, of quacks and false pretenders” and “he never refrained from expressing his opinion of them, quite regardless of person or station” but his humour shone forth in dealing with them. Once he named a “particularly obnoxious louse” after one of his enemies.

Behr revisited South Australia in 1848 during which time he became acquainted with German-Australian botanist, Ferdinand von Meuller. He maintained friendship with many of the scientific men of the time including Ferdinand Mueller and it was through this friendship that many Australian plants were introduced into California where Behr later settled after his travels.

Though the study of butterflies was his first and enduring love, he is remembered and honoured in Australia for his botanical interests. Of the twenty-two plants named after Behr, two are orchids: Diuris behrii and Arachnorchis behrii (synonym Caladenia behrii).

*The Journal incorrectly stated that he visited South Australia with his friend, Diedreich von Schlechtendal. This did not happen. As far as I am aware Schlechtendal did not visit South Australia.

Reference

https://archive.org/details/doctorhansherman00cali

https://archive.org/stream/jstor-1630874/1630874_djvu.txt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hermann_Behr

https://www.anbg.gov.au/biography/behr-hermann.html

Kraehenbuehl, D. N., Dr HH Behr’s Two Visits to South Australia in 1844-45 and 1848-49, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 3(1): 101 – 123 (1981)

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

It Finally Happened …

“The person who first records the whole pollination event will be very lucky indeed.” So wrote Bob Bates (South Australia’s Native Orchids, 2011). He was referring to the pollination event for Bearded Greenhoods in the genus Plumatichilos. As with many orchids there has always been a lot of conjecture about the pollination strategy involved so it is good to finally have photographic evidence of a previously unknown pollinator.

For several years now Rudie Kuiter, Mitchell Findlater-Smith and Rober Lindhe have been researching the relationship between orchids and insects, spending much time in the field observing and photographing the insects. Finally they have managed to obtain a photograph of a pollinator but it was not one of their photographs. Instead it was Neil Blair who took the photograph and observed a dagger fly pollinating a Plumatichilos. The male of these fascinating insects catches another insect and offers it for a nuptial gift to a female in order to be accepted as a mate. The photographs are amazing. It’s worth reading the paper Pollination of the Bearded Greenhoods (Orchidaceae) by Dagger Flies (Diptera: Empididae) just to see the pictures.

plumatochilos-sp-woodland-sm

Returning the Water

Each month the Native Orchid Society of South Australia has a special speaker. April’s speaker was Mark Bachmann from Glenelg Nature Trust. He spoke on the The Hydrological Restoration of Glenshera Swamp, Stipiturus Conservation Park.

At time of settlement swamps were common on the Fleurieu Peninsula but now they have almost all but disappeared. This has come about because of the clearing of land for farming beginning in the 1940s. There are now very few swamps left in the area. As a result in this region, the swamp orchids potentially face extinction.

BUT Mark’s talk was a good news story. In April, the Glenelg Nature Trust with the help of the Conservation Volunteers Australia (a Green Army program) began the work of reinstating the original creek by the judicious placing of regulating structures along the principal drain.

The good news is that the water returned as they were building the structures.

It was also a good news story because of the cooperation of different groups including a local land owner who was willing to have some of their land returned to swamp and no longer be available for their horses to graze.

We look forward to seeing the swamp refill and learning how the orchids respond.

Below are some of the orchids found at Stipiturus. Click on the images to go to the three articles documenting the work at Glenshera Swamp.

Thelymitra cyanea

Thelymitra cyanea

Cryptostylis subulata 008

Cryptostylis subulata (Moose Orchid)

Prasophyllum murfettii sm

Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel’s Leek Orchid)

2017 March Winning Picture

As part of 40th NOSSA anniversary, the theme for this month was Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid or Rabbit Ears). Entries were received from John Badger, Pauline Meyers, Robert and Rosalie Lawrence, with John Badger’s being declared the winner.

1703 sm JB Leptoceras menziesii

In February 1978, it was announced that the nascent NOSSA society required an emblem. Members were invited to send in drawings, to be judged by members and then ratified by the committee. Mrs Chris Butler (Ron Robjohns’ daughter) was the winner. The first Leptoceras menziesii flowers to be benched at a NOSSA meeting were in September 1978. It appears to be an easy plant to grow but a most difficult one to flower.

This seems to be because it is fire dependent. In spring, it will flower profusely if there has been a summer fire such as occurred after the 2015 Sampson Flat (SA) fires. It is possible that the gas ethylene produced during a fire event may initiate the flowering response.

Otherwise, apart from the occasional flowering plant, it will be mainly leaves that are found when out in the field. The single leaf of this plant lying prostrate along the ground is distinctive. It is firm, boat-shaped, glabrous (no hairs), with a fine ‘snake-skin’ pattern. Interestingly, sterile plants can be mistaken for a plant with a developing bud as there will be at the leaf base a ligule (a thin membranous growth, often found on grass stems).

 

Reference

Backhouse, G, et al (2016) Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria Electronic version

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

Lawrence, R. W., (2011) Start With The Leaves

NOSSA Journal Volume 2 No 6 July 1978

NOSSA Journal Volume 2 No 9 October 1978