Orchid Blogs

Murray Mallee Midges Autumn 2011

R.J. Bates May 2011

The title of this article refers of course to mallee midge orchids of the genus Corunastylis which have been poorly understood.

Summer and autumn 2011 saw good rains across the Murray Mallee from Pinnaroo to Renmark and thus NOSSA members took the opportunity to study mallee midge orchids in flower in March and April.  The results are summarised here.

Corunastylis sp. Box Flat
Ngarkat Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke

Aims:

  1. To match species to habitat.
  2. To assess the distribution and population of each species.
  3. To take images of all species.

Midges were found all the way up to Chowilla sand hills, which are just north of the River Murray.  Almost every patch of mallee eucalypts seemed to have some Corunastylis species but an understanding of their ecology was needed to find the flowers.  Degraded or weedy mallee did not have any midge orchids, nor was hard clay, loose white sand, bare trampled soil or dense ground cover worth searching as midges are very small plants and easily crushed, covered up or sand blasted.

Flowering plants were found mostly in the leaf litter under mature mallee, often with associated patches of native pine or circles of Triodia sp. (porcupine grass).  Areas with extra water run off and disturbed soil along road corridors seemed to have produced localised population explosions.  A 4WD vehicle proved handy for reaching remote corners of larger parks like Billiat Conservation Park near Alawoona.

The most common species was the red and green flowered mallee midge Corunastylis tepperi while the similar but purplish Corunastylis sp. Intermediate came in second.  Next came the black midge orchid C. nigricans which seemed to have finished in early March and were found mostly in capsule.

Species of the Corunastylis rufa complex were mostly found in the southern fringes of the mallee.  Their classification is ambiguous seeing Australian orchid expert D.L. Jones says Corunastylis rufa is confined to NSW.  The un-named species of the complex seen included Corunastylis sp. Dark midge and Corunastylis sp. Narrow segments.

Corunastylis tepperi
Alawoona
Photo: Rob Bates

In any case, no fringed labellum species of any kind were observed, so all mallee midges belong to the C. nigricans and C. rufa complexes.

Tiny fruit flies of several species were seen working the flowers but we could not tell if each midge orchid attracted a different fly as the flies are too small to compare!  I suspected that specificity of pollinators is low as apparent hybrid midge orchids were noted.
Recognising the different mallee midge orchids:

  1. If the flowers are bright green and the labellum is rounded, deep purple or maroon then it will be C. tepperi, also known as C. fuscoviride.  The latter is a better name as it means bright dark and green.  C. tepperi has a narrow spike of many tiny flowers.  The finished flowers and capsules will take on a yellowish look.
  2. If the labellum is rounded and the flowers are mottled brown to wholly purple-brown, except for white or white striped petals, the species is C. sp. Intermediate.

DNA studies may be required to check the species limits of the many taxa found.
It is doubtful that such a good display will be found next autumn!

Many thanks to NOSSA members who sent me images of mallee midges recently, especially June Niejalke.

Unknown member of the Corunastylis rufa complex
Carcuma Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp. Intermediate
Billiat Conservation Park
Photo: Rob Bates
Corunastylis sp. Narrow segments
Keith
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis nigricans
Karte Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp.
Monarto
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp. Dark Midge
Ngarkat Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis tepperi aka C. Fuscoviride
Pinnaroo
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp. Intermediate
Lameroo
Photo: June Niejalke

eBay for the Orchid Seller

By Kris Kopicki

There’s a very good chance, that somewhere in the last fifteen years you’ve heard the name eBay. That’s right, eBay has been around for fifteen years! If you are not familiar with eBay, it’s an internet auction website. It’s the digital equivalent to the TradingPost, only a lot more sophisticated.

eBay has become a very useful tool for selling orchids by offering you a national, or potentially international market. While eBay has made it’s name as an auction site, other formats are available, such as fixed price. eBay provides all the infrastructure necessary to conduct online business, such as communicating with buyers, notification of purchases and most importantly the running of auctions or item listings. Through PayPal, a company purchased by eBay in 2002, you can even accept credit card payments. But most importantly, eBay tends to achieve higher than average prices for sellers.

As a seller, generally your goal is to get the highest possible price for your orchid. In an auction, the best way to achieve this is get as many bidders as possible. This article will give you a good overview of various strategies you can use when creating auctions.

Be Visible: Titles

To reach as many buyers as possible, you have to get your orchids noticed. People won’t bid on your orchids if they can’t find them. First you need to understand the way buyers search for items. Typically, buyers will use the quick search field, always visible at the top of the eBay site. It’s very fast and convenient, but has some caveats for the seller. This type of search only searches within an item’s title, and not the item’s description. The search only matches whole words, so for example a search for ‘Tuber’ would not find items containing ‘Tubers’. Titles are currently limited to 55 characters, this makes every word vitally important. You should put a lot of thought into it.

Knowing what people are likely to search for can be a bit of an art form, but there are some very obvious cases. Someone that is interested in Thelymitra is almost certainly going to try a search for ‘Thelymitra’. So if you are selling Thelymitra’s, it would be wise to include the full species name in the title. For example, ‘Thelymitra rubra’ would be much more appropriate than ‘T. rubra’, or ‘Thel. rubra’. It is unlikely people will search for abbreviations, as they are not specific enough. Remember people don’t just sell orchids on eBay, a search for ‘T‘ is likely to bring up thousands of items. While it’s true there are advanced searches that will help people find obscure names, if your items can’t be found easily in a quick search, you are likely to lose bidders. Sometimes less specific words can be good, such as ‘Orchid’. It’s reasonable to assume there will be many searches for that word. Be careful not to include words that are not related to you orchid though, as you may be in breach of eBay’s terms and conditions for inaccurately describing an item.

Using the previous example of Thelymitra rubra, a good title to use might be ‘Thelymitra rubra native terrestrial orchid tubers’. These are all good search terms that people may use to find your item, with the exception of ‘rubra’. Species names aren’t usually useful search terms, as there are simply too many of them. That said, they can be useful for highly desirable species that people may search for by species name. So why include details in the title that are not useful for searching?

Be Visible: Listings

When your orchid comes up in a search, it’s very unlikely it will be the only one listed. By default, items are listed with a small picture and title. So the title now has another purpose, it needs to distinguish your orchid from other people’s orchids. Continuing the Thelymitra example, lets assume for a moment that Thelymitra are very popular on eBay. If you omitted the species name, your item would be listed as ‘Thelymitra native terrestrial orchid tubers’. Its not very specific, and so it’s quite possible some people may not click on your item to read more about it, hence losing a potential bidder. You need to find the right balance between terms that people will search for, and words that will encourage people to click on your item for more information.

A golden rule when selling anything is to make your orchid stand out from the crowd. A photo is an excellent way to do this. The nicer the photo, the more people are going to view your orchid, it really is that simple. A professional looking photo is not the only consideration though. When your orchid appears in search listings, only a very small preview of the photo is shown. 80 pixels by 80 pixels to be precise. You want to make sure that your photo has an impact at this very small size. Perhaps try tighter cropping of your photos to get that little bit of extra detail. Needless to say though, image editing is well outside of the scope of this article, so if you didn’t understand a word, find someone that can show you what to do.

Be Visible: Timing

Unlike traditional auctions that finish when bidding stops, eBay auctions end at a specific time. The time of day is determined by when you created the item listing. It’s a good idea for your auctions to end when most people are likely to be on the internet. This is typically between 6pm and 9pm. Keep in mind that not all buyers will be in your time zone, so you may want to target the time zone that most of your buyers will come from.

The length of the auction is another important aspect. You can choose from 1 to 10 days. Typically the longer the auction, the more likely additional buyers are to discover your orchid. The downside to a long auction is that the entire process from listing to receiving payment can take up to two weeks. There is also a danger that someone selling the same orchid may create a shorter auction in that time frame, taking the highest bidder out of the market. You will find that once you become known to regular buyers, your items will be discovered quite quickly, so even quite short auction times of 2-3 days will still receive a lot of interest.

When dealing with live plants, you need to be mindful of postage. Typically Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to send parcels, so it may be helpful to have your auctions end either just before or on a weekend. This way, orchids can be posted safely within a few days of payment being received. Ensuring your orchids arrive healthy is definitely a good thing if you want repeat business. It is a good idea to plan your auctions around holidays, as people may be away during those periods, and they can be a nuisance for parcel deliveries.

Probably the most important and overlooked aspect of timing is when to list your orchid in relation to other auctions. If you’re wanting to sell Sarcochilus falcatus, but there are currently 3 other sellers offering this species, then the bidders will likely be spread out across the auctions, and so the overall price each receives will be less. Therefore the best strategy is to be the only one offering a particular orchid. There are a lot of advantages in being aware of what others are selling. It will give you a good indication of what price you can expect for your item. You can use the ‘buzz’ created around another sellers orchid to your advantage by selling your orchid just after their auction ends, since the buyers that missed out will likely be searching for the same orchid a short time after the auction.

Listing Options: Categories

When you list your orchid, you will be asked to choose a category to display it in. In my view, categories are not all that useful, since they are not specific enough for orchids. The majority of buyers use searches rather than browsing categories. The ‘Home > Gardening > Plants, Seeds, Bulbs > Flowers > Plants’ category will be fine for the majority of your items.

Listing Options: Descriptions

Since the entire transaction is conducted online, your item description is the only information buyers have to base their purchasing decision on. For this reason, your description must be clear and concise. Try to preempt the things that you think buyers would want to ask you, and include that information in your description. For example if provenance information is known, include it. Try not to make assumptions about the knowledge of your buyers. If you are selling a plant that has won an award, don’t just use cryptic abbreviations with the assumption that the buyer knows what they are. Knowledgeable enthusiasts will understand, but remember the goal is to get as many bidders as possible, so you need to appeal to a wider audience. A short explanation of the award would take no time at all and be meaningful to someone that is unfamiliar with them. The majority of listings I come across do not provide enough information, and tend to alienate less experienced growers. Some details that people might want to know are; provenance (i.e where the plants originally came from in the wild) or clonal name; details of parentage if it’s a hybrid; brief description of cultivation requirements to help buyers determine if it is suitable for their climate; if the plant/s are flowering size or not, and if not, how far off; will the plant be sent bare root or in pot; an accurate description of the orchid and its characteristics; are cultivation instructions included with the plant; what is your policy on damaged or lost goods; do you have permits to send plants to WA, Tas, or Internationally.

Finally, you need to differentiate your orchids from others. Don’t just list Sarcochilus falcatus with a standard description. Almost all forms of orchids have some unique characteristics that set them apart from other forms. Tell people what they are. You’ll be surprised how many people collect different forms of the same species, as long as they are unique and interesting. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.

Listing Options: Pictures

We’ve covered a number of the important aspects of pictures already, but here are a few useful tips. When you list an item on eBay, the first picture you add is free, but subsequent pictures cost a small fee. One photo is usually not enough to give the buyer an idea of what they are buying. You need at the very least a close-up photo of the flower and a photo of the whole plant. If you are selling terrestrial tubers, a photo of the tuber/s is also advisable. When taking photos of the whole plant or tuber, be sure to include a ruler in your photos so that people can get an idea of the size.

Using simple image editing software, you can easily combine 2 photos into one picture, which will only count for one picture, hence saving you a little bit of money. Do not be tempted to do this for close-ups of flowers. The reason for this is the ‘Gallery picture’ option. This determines if a picture is displayed in search results or not. You most definitely want to do this, as omitting a picture makes your item very easy to overlook. When you enable this option, you can choose which picture you want to use. Whichever photo you choose, make sure it looks good at 80 x 80 pixels. In most cases, the best photo to choose is of the orchid flower.

Listing Options: The Reserve

Choosing an appropriate reserve price is very important, and will depend upon a few factors. A low reserve price will attract less fees and can sometimes peak more interesting in your orchid. However if there are few bidders, you run the risk of getting a low price. My advice is to set the reserve at the minimum you are prepared to accept for your orchid, even if you are sure that the orchid will sell well. Just as an auctioneer selling a house will try to start the bidding off high, so should you. It generally does result in a better price. Don’t forget to factor in eBay and PayPal fees into your reserve price.

Armed with this knowledge, it should be possible to get some good results on eBay. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, since there is no substitute for experience. So get out there and give it a go.

Growing Epiphytes in a Dry Climate

By Kris Kopicki

Adelaide has the reputation of being Australia’s driest city, and with good reason. Despite our record setting weather, it’s not uncommon to see subtropical plants surviving our vicious summers if watering can be maintained. This got me thinking about how much extreme weather our subtropical orchids could survive, provided they were kept reasonably hydrated. That was back in 2008, and at that point, I had no experience growing epiphytes, with my collection comprising solely terrestrial species. Having just moved into a new house, I also had no orchid housing, so my epiphytic experiment was going to need to take place under our easterly facing veranda and surrounding trees. The veranda has a few clear sheets that provide some light throughout the day.

To explore lighting, I used a large piece of weld mesh curved to form a cylinder. A makeshift tree if you will. The idea being that plants favouring higher light can be placed on the north east, and plants favouring shade on the south west. Being quite portable, I could move it around as the seasons change. Species were placed according to my research on their favoured lighting conditions. This seemed like a reasonable starting point.

I chose to grow the majority of my plants on mounts, even though many local growers use pots culture for better water retention. The plan was to eventually construct a shade house for my terrestrial collection, and so any epiphytes were going to need to occupy the only remaining space, the roof and walls. Terrestrial orchids are the top dogs in my collection, so rather than adapting my conditions to suit epiphytes, I was investigating if they could fit in with my plans.

Water was always going to be the big problem with this setup, particularly in summer when the temperatures can be relentless. One of the things that kept coming up in literature was to avoid frequent watering in winter, and particularly to keep plants away from winter rain. I was most puzzled by the last statement, as research on the climate of central and northern NSW revealed that winter rains far exceed an Adelaide winter. Also notable were the temperature averages, which showed that while coastal areas were slightly warmer than Adelaide, temperatures in the hills were often much less. This was great news, as it meant many plants would easily withstand Adelaide winter minimums. I decided the best strategy was to water as frequently as possible, so long as the media was dry between watering. The drying was very important to avoid fungal problems and to avoid saturation of the roots. My watering strategy was going to need to make up for the total absence of humidity during summer, so watering 2-3 times a day would likely be a minimum.

Realising that summer would be the breaking point for my plants, fertilising became a key strategy. The idea being that plants with large healthy root systems could make better use of any available water to get them through our hot days. My search for the best way to fertilise lead me to the decision of feeding a little and often. The reasons cited seemed logical enough. Plants are only able to absorb a small amount of nutrients at a time, so infrequent applications of large amounts of fertiliser would lead to waste, so plants would essentially be starved. I chose to alternate between fertilisers which avoids any nutrient deficiencies that one brand may have over another. Applications were made daily, except one day a week where plain water was used. I used 10% of the recommended dose. The first mix was Manutec Orchid Food, replaced with Manutec Orchid Bloom Booster during spike development. The second mix was a combination of Seasol and Powerfeed. Rainwater was always used to avoid build up of salts, which could potentially be a problem with such a high watering frequency.

The majority of species selected were from central and northern NSW, though species from as far north as Cape York were also trialled. It seemed logical to trial plants that eastern states growers considered easy and progressively move to more difficult species. Some of the species purchased in 2008 include: Sarcochilus x Fitzhart, Sarcochilus falcatus, Sarcochilus olivaceous, Sarcochilus aequalis, Sarcochilus spathulatus and Sarcochilus hirticalcar. These species are quite diverse, some thick and fleshy, others very thin and delicate.

Plants were purchased through winter and spring. Initial results were promising, with good root growth and rapid leaf development once the weather warmed up. A few Sarcochilus falcatus and hirticalcar received sun burn during early spring. While they do like bright conditions, it seems even a mild spring sun can damage them. The plants were then moved to a more sheltered location where only very early morning sun was received. Most of the plants flowered well, with the exception of x fitzhart and hirticalcar, which were too small.

As expected, summer proved to be a challenge. Given that the plants had almost no protection from the record heat of the 2008/2009 summer, they seemed remarkably resilient. Growth came to a standstill, and some root tips burned. During an extended period of temperatures over 40°c, a couple plants of Sarcochilus olivaceous and spathulatus were found desiccated, and some leaf tips burned on Sarcochilus falcatus. I decided that this was probably the limit of what they would handle and brought the plants inside the house during severely hot days.

All things considered, the majority of plants made it through one of our hottest summers with little or no damage. With the onset of cooler weather, leaf growth resumed, albeit a bit slower than during spring. Roots recovered very quickly from the heat damage. With all four seasons now under my belt, my collection of epiphytes rapidly expanded, including species of Bulbophyllum, Dendrobium, Dockrillia, Sarcochilus, Plectorrhiza and Schistotylus.

In August 2009, I purchased a weldmesh shade house from Queensland. It offered a lot of bench space for my terrestrial species, while providing hanging space virtually everywhere. I covered the walls in 50% shade cloth, and 70% shade cloth for the roof. I chose to use white marble chip for the floor. Now at this point you’re probably thinking this sounds quite different to the typical structures used for subtropical orchids in a temperate climate. Typically they are designed with a solid roof or walls, keeping humidity high. The downside to that design is air movement is severely restricted, possibly leading to the well documented fungal problems. In my design, humidity is still quite low during summer, but the shade cloth does restrict airflow, offering some protection from hot drying winds.

The shade house offers better light than the veranda, while providing protection from sunburn. It also has the potential to function as a giant evaporative air conditioner by wetting the walls and floor. Summer soon arrived to test out my new growing conditions. Very minimal damage was incurred. Some placement changes were needed to provide more light for some species, and less for others. Most species incurred some root damage, but they quickly recovered after summer. I used a layer of 50% black shade cloth over the top for protection during summer. Terrestrial pots were no warmer than the ambient air, a good indication that the cover was doing its job.

It turns out there may be good reason why such delicate plants with no obvious water storage mechanism can survive such harsh conditions. It has the unfortunate name of Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). Plants produce sugars through photosynthesis. To do this, they need energy in the form of light and carbon dioxide from the air. The leaves are covered in tiny pores called stomata that open during the day to acquire carbon dioxide. While the stomata are open, the plant is vulnerable to water loss through the leaves in hot and dry conditions. CAM plants have solved this problem by effectively delaying photosynthesis until night time, when temperatures are more manageable. A number of studies have been done on Australian orchids to show that many species employ CAM photosynthesis. Despite their resilience to day time conditions, CAM plants are still vulnerable to our extreme summer nights, like January 2009’s record minimum of 33.9°c. I’ve found that hosing down the plants and shade house at night helps to prevent or minimise damage.

The vast majority of species I’ve trialled are still alive and well today. Some are species that experienced growers have told me they find difficult to maintain year after year. Here are some of my observations on a range of species I grow.

Sarcochilus spathulatus

Climate Tolerance: Can be vulnerable to extreme heat, but once a good strong root system is established they seem to be quite hardy. They will show heat stress by dropping older leaves. Some root tip damage can occur in extreme heat, but is harmless.

Lighting: A northerly aspect suits them well. Keep them a good metre or more from the shade cloth to avoid sun damage to the leaves.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme, producing roots twice the width of existing roots prior to purchase.

Growing Medium: Cork produces good results. I have also used Melaleuca species for their slightly better water holding properties and rough bark. Some sparse moss around the roots is helpful to protect them while they establish on the mount.

Growth Habit: Slow root and leaf growth over the coldest part of winter. Leaf growth is quite vigorous once temperatures start moving into the 20’s. Growth slows during very hot weather, usually sometime in January. Growth resumes again in autumn, with a burst of new root growth. Spikes appear around April and flowering occurs during September.

Comments: A fantastic miniature species with small sprays of beautifully fragrant flowers. Once established they are easy to care for if watering is kept up over summer.

Sarcochilus hirticalcar

Climate Tolerance: This species does not seem to adapt to our dry climate. I have achieved good results using a cheap mini hot house inside my shade house. I kept the door closed, but not zipped up to allow minimal ventilation. The temperatures get very hot during summer, but they seem fine with it as long as the humidity is maintained. They will show heat stress by dropping older leaves, and will die very quickly. Root damage can occur if the humidity is too low, even in cool weather.

Lighting: A northerly aspect suits them well. Keep them a good metre or more from the shade cloth to avoid sun damage to the leaves.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme, producing good strong roots.

Growing Medium: Cork produces good results. I have also used Melaleuca species for their slightly better water holding properties and rough bark.

Growth Habit: Growth occurs over the whole year due to the warm conditions of the mini hot house. It is slower over winter, but still quite active compared to other species. My plants were too small to flower last year.

Comments: A challenging species to maintain in Adelaide. Once conditions are favourable, growth is vigorous.

Sarcochilus falcatus

Climate Tolerance: One of the most heat tolerant of the small Sarcs. They will show heat stress by dropping older leaves. Some root tip damage can occur in extreme heat, but is harmless.Lighting: I have grown them successfully in a range of lighting conditions, even with a southerly aspect. Even lighting over the course of the day will keep them from moving towards the strongest light. Keep them a good metre or more from the shade cloth to avoid sun damage to the leaves.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme, producing roots twice the width of existing roots prior to purchase.

Growing Medium: Cork and Callistemon produce good results, but Melaleuca species seem to encourage an extensive root system. Some sparse moss around the roots is helpful to protect them while they establish on the mount.

Growth Habit: Slow root and leaf growth over the coldest part of winter. Leaf growth is quite vigorous once temperatures start moving into the 20’s. Growth slows during very hot weather, usually sometime in January. Growth resumes again in autumn, with a burst of new root growth. Spikes appear around February-March and flowering occurs during September.

Comments: My favourite Sarc. species, I can’t seem to stop collecting different forms. One of the hardiest species, they can be grown outdoors if watering is regular over summer. Regular feeding produces a vigorous root system and masses of sweet smelling flowers.

Sarcochilus olivaceous

Climate Tolerance: Can be vulnerable to extreme heat, but once a good strong root system is established and provided with a shady location, they are surprisingly resilient for a rainforest species. They will show heat stress by dropping older leaves. They can be nursed back to health from quite extensive heat damage, even from loss of the growth tip. Some root tip damage usually occurs in hot weather, but is harmless.

Lighting: A southerly aspect suits them well during summer, however brighter conditions may be needed in winter. Keep them a good metre or more from the shade cloth to avoid sun damage to the leaves.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme.

Growing Medium: Cork produces good results. Moss around the roots is helpful to protect them.Growth Habit: Slow root and leaf growth over the coldest part of winter. Leaf growth is quite vigorous once temperatures start moving into the 20’s. Growth slows during very hot weather, usually sometime in January. Growth resumes again in autumn, with a burst of new root growth. Spikes appear around April and flowering occurs during September.

Comments: An interesting little rainforest species that adapts well to our climate with minimal protection. Plants are commonly sold and cheap, definitely worth a go.

Sarcochilus aequalis

Climate Tolerance: Very tolerant of extreme heat, showing almost no damage.

Lighting: A northerly aspect suits them well. Keep them a good metre or more from the shade cloth to avoid sun damage to the leaves.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme, producing healthy roots.

Growing Medium: Cyathea (Tree Fern) mounts give good results. Some moss around the roots is helpful to protect them while they establish on the mount.

Growth Habit: Quite a slow growing species with virtually no leaf growth over the coldest part of winter, and minimal root growth. Leaf growth resumes once temperatures start moving into the 20’s. Growth slows during very hot weather, usually sometime in January. Growth resumes again in autumn, with new root growth. Spikes appear around May and flowering occurs during September- October.

Comments: A slow but hardy species. Not the most spectacular of flowers, but the foliage looks great against a black Cyathea mount.

Rhinerrhiza divitiflora

Climate Tolerance: Very tolerant of extreme heat. Some root tip damage can occur in extreme heat, but is harmless.

Lighting: I have grown them successfully in a range of lighting conditions, even with a southerly aspect.

Watering & Feeding: They relish my feeding and watering scheme, producing healthy roots.Growing Medium: Cyathea (Tree Fern) mounts give good results. Some moss around the roots is helpful to protect them while they establish on the mount.

Growth Habit: Quite a slow growing species with virtually no leaf growth over the coldest part of winter, however the roots remain active. Leaf growth resumes once temperatures start moving into the 20’s. Growth slows during very hot weather, usually sometime in January. Growth resumes again in autumn, with new root growth. Spikes appear around June and flowering occurs during October.

Comments: Not commonly sold or seen in collections, but quite a tough species. It’s a reliable flowerer, producing masses of spidery flowers. The only downside is the flowers only last for a few days. They have very unique raspy roots and tough leathery foliage.

An Eriochilus study in the Southern Flinders Ranges: 2010

R. Bates

Until  2009 when NOSSA did an orchid study of Wirrabara Forest Reserve the parsons bands or Eriochilus were thought to be rare in the Flinders Ranges, but that year Eriochilus were found all the way north to Mount Remarkable and were often seen as locally common.

In 2010 I did two visits, one in April and one in May to see how well they flowered after a wet spring the previous year.

Results: all colonies at Wirrabara flowered spectacularly in April 2010 but at Mt Remarkable flowering was poor.  No leaves were visible at the time.  The flowers were white with some strong colour and stems were quite bristly, see image. At Wirrabara plants were sturdy with up to four flowers per scape yet at Mt Remarkable plants were spindly and flowers mostly single.

It was thought that the reason for this difference lay in the wet spring of 2009 at Wirrabara with much less rain at Mt Remarkable.

The second visit in May showed a different picture. Very little rain had fallen at Wirrabara in autumn and the stems of all plants had hardly elongated.  Yet seed capsules were plentiful.  In contrast, Melrose near Mt Remarkable had received good autumn rain and stems there had doubled in length.

So it seems that the number of flowers and strength of plants depends on rain the previous season whilst height of stems depend on rain during the current flowering season.

Curiously, in both areas a second flush of flowering occurred in May with the second flush at Wirrabara producing tiny flowers on short spindly stems (see image) while those at Mt Remarkable had larger flowers on tall stems.

Flowers seen in both areas were similar in appearance and both had leaves which were large, apiculate, dark green, ribbed and hairy above, purple below.  Both the April flowered and May flowered plants belonged to the same taxon and clearly flower size and number, and scape length, are not useful in separating species as they are so variable.

On the other hand leaf shape, texture, ribbing and colour below are important in identifying the species as these are constant features.

Conclusions: only one species of Eriochilus occurs in the Flinders Ranges and this is the same as the common woodland species in the Mt Lofty Ranges.  This species has never been named officially but is generally known as Eriochilus sp Hills woodland and is best identified by it’s leaf … see image.

This is the most common of three or four Eriochilus species in SA.

Leaf of April flowering Eriochilus at Wirrabara dwarfing later May flowered
plants behind it.

Eriochilus species Hills near Mt Remarkable in May 2010

Surveying in the South East

Cathy Houston

In recent years a number of N.O.S.S.A. members interested in field work have been involved in surveys for orchids. These include surveys for individuals as well as government or semi-government organisations.

Late in March this year we undertook an Autumn survey of a forest in the South-East known as The Marshes.  As the name suggests the area is well served with swamps as well as forest of Stringybark with sandy soil.  Several members met the day before to check some areas in the upper SE.  Here in sandy-heath there were two species of Corunastylis in flower, often not very distant from each other, but each favouring different habitats.  In the heath were C. aff. rufa in flower and capsule.  In mallee open forest C. tepperi had recently commenced flowering.

In areas dominated by granite outcrops were found Eriochilus cucullatus flowering and perhaps another un-described Eriochilus species.  Leaves were not present, so no distinction could be made from flowers alone.  However, in mallee the flowers were larger and supported on much taller stems.  Those on the granite were small flowered on short stem, there being no apparent difference in the flowers themselves.  Here also the C. aff. rufa was seen in flower and capsule.

In the lower SE a sojourn into Honans Native Forest Reserve produced yet different species, some in flower.  C. ciliata was already in capsule, the distinctive greenish-yellow lateral sepals still evident and under magnification hairs could be detected on the labellum.  C. despectans had the very last flowers on the top of the scape as well as capsules on earlier flowering specimens.  Speculantha obesa had just commenced flowering.  In most cases the inward facing, smallish flowers had only the bottom one open with buds on the stem above.  Rosettes were not yet present. We were amazed to find Pterostylis nutans rosettes already emerging.  A little less surprising was Leporella fimbriata, but the number of flowers seen at this early stage was few.

The Marshes is not renowned for being prolific in Autumn flowering orchids but our visit was scheduled to try to locate as many as we could.  By the second day we were rewarded with the discovery of plenty of Spiranthes alticola, which were represented in most of the swamps in the western sector.  It is interesting to note that years ago they were found prolifically in the eastern sector but this appears to have dried out too much for them these days.  S. obesa was found in very low numbers and this time one of the plants already had a capsule.

Perhaps the greatest excitement was afforded when two members thought they found Cryptostylis subulata leaves.  All the surveyors collected for lunch and soon were down at the site considering if the leaves lived up to the name.  Much discussion ensued.  If only there was a flower to confirm the diagnosis.  After what seemed like an age a “tired” flower was located!  C. despectans had previously been recorded for the forest and a considerable amount of time was spent in searching known locations but to no avail.  Not Autumn flowering but the other orchid found was Dipodium roseum which was heavy with capsule.  Some of the stems had up to eight large pods hanging on them.

At Mt. Lyon Native Forest Reserve we were able to view many Cryptostylis subulata in flower and capsule.  Another trip was made to Honans to locate C. subulata from provided GPS readings.  After a bit of interesting navigation both swamps were located.  However we were unable to find the target species, one swamp appearing to now be too dry to sustain this species.

A quick trip was made to Telford Scrub Conservation Park following one of the survey days.  Here we saw Eriochilus sp. in flower.  This time they were large flowers with tall, almost robust stems.  Leaves were yet to emerge.  Another surprise was to await us here.  Bunochilus spikes were well up and it was evident there were two species represented.  Some of the spikes were quite pinkish with leaves still tightly furled on the spike.  Flowering will clarify more for us; some of the spikes will have a long growing time.

Upon completion of the surveys some members headed for Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park in yet another attempt to locate Eriochilus in flower.  This time we were successful.  It is a long way to travel when not knowing the exact flowering time for the area, and those times can change with each season!  On short thin stems, small flowers with still the same general appearance were what greeted us.  There were buds and capsules present as well, but most interesting to us was the presence of obviously earlier capsules.  One had already dehisced and all were far more robust and distinctly different from the smaller red-striped hairy capsules of the currently flowering species.

On next to more Native Forest Reserves.  Once again the target species was Eriochilus but we were hoping to find among the flowers some colourful pink specimens.  It seemed this time we were a little too early because few flowers were seen.  However, a strong coloured pink flower was located and so became much photographed.  The next area was low open forest with bracken and heath understorey.  Showers caught up with us and lowered the visibility very considerably.  This made it hard to look for small greenhood type flowers but possible to find, once again Eriochilus sp.  Some lovely double headed flowers were seen but no leaves were evident.

At this early stage of the year it was amazing how many orchids were seen, albeit over quite a wide ranging area.  Perhaps some worthwhile early rains in the lower SE had been useful, but most of the species are not heavily dependent upon this for their Autumn appearance.

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 14 of 20

Richard Sanders Rogers (1862 – 1942)

An Adelaide physician, doctor-soldier and forensic pathologist who described 82 new orchid species (66 from Australia).

Orchids

Diplodium rogersii (= Pterostylis rogersii) or Curled Tongue Shell Orchid

Prasophyllum rogersii or Marsh Leek Orchid