Orchid Blogs

Winning Picture for November 2013 Paracaleana Minor Section

The winner for Part two of November’s competition, Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid) was David Manglesdorf.

In  South  Australia,  though  much  smaller  than  its  big brother  –  Caleana  major,  it  still  suffers  from  similar problems  ie  lack  of  pollinator,  vulnerable  status, extremely limited distribution within the Southern Lofty region.   The  Little  Duck  is widespread  in  the  east extending  from  Queensland  down  around  into  the South  East,  as  well  as  across  to  Tasmania,  plus  one other distant location.

One  of  the  differences  between  the  two  species  is that the minor  is  able  to  set  seeds  without  insect pollination occurring.  Could this possibly help provide an explanation for its other location?

There  is  one  colony  near  the  very  popular  tourist resort  of  Rotorua,  New  Zealand  where  it  is  called Sullivania minor,  (Paracaleana minor  is  recognised  as a synonym).  According to Graeme Jane it has been there ‘over a very long period’.  The speculation is that it  ‘could  have  arrived  during  one  of  those  periodic severe  bushfire  seasons  in  eastern  Australia  when
smoke, ash and apparently orchid seed and insects are carried high into the atmosphere and brought eastwards in  the  jet  stream  in  a  few  hours.   More  likely  though (since it has occurred nowhere else), it arrived in soil on the shoes of a visitor to the thermal wonderland.’

Just  some  food  for  thought  as  to  how  plants  may spread  around  the  world  –  but  it  still  doesn’t  take away  from  the  fact  that  it  is  also  another  one  that cannot  be  cultivated  and  needs  to  protected  where it naturally  grows  if  we  are  to  continue  to   enjoy  this species.

Department Of Environment And Heritage. 2008.
Paracaleana minor: Small Duck-orchid.  Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges South Australia: Threatened Species Profile, May 2008.

Jane, G. 2006. Caladenia alata at Rainbow Mountain -Dispelling a Myth. [online]  Available at: http://www.nativeorchids.co.nz/Journals/98/page17.htm  [Accessed: 7 Feb 2014].

An Orchid You Can’t Buy or Grow


I like the Flying Duck orchid.  It is truly a beautiful plant.  Where can I buy one?


The Flying Duck orchid or Caleana major is an unusual and unique flower.  Unfortunately, despite many attempts, no one has been able to cultivate it, so there is no supplier able to sell it.

It is a protected plant and it is illegal to remove it from the bush.  See the November Photo Competition 2013 for more details

November Photo Competition 2013 Part One

This month’s competition consisted of two sections – the Flying Duck and the Little Ducks.  The winner of the Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana major) picture was Patsy Love.  Bob Bates provided a commentary on the Duck Orchids in South Australia.

caleana majorCaleana major or Flying Duck orchid is unique and the unique shape of its flower was featured on an Australia Post stamp in 1986.  It is found only in Australia and it ranges as far north as the Tropic of Capricorn, around the eastern seaboard, across to the South Australian/Victorian border where there is a gap until the southern section of the Mt Lofty Ranges.  The latter distribution is know as disjunct because it is isolated from the main distribution group.  In the Mt Lofty region, the range has been severely restricted.  Records prior to 1983 show the distribution to be as far north as Cleland, Belair and Greenhill.  Post 1983 distribution consists of a few isolated locations in the south.  Though common in the eastern states, in South Australia it is listed as Vulnerable.
 The factors contributing to the South Australian vulnerable status is the restricted distribution as a result of loss of habitat due to clearing, grazing, weed infestation, inappropriate timing of slashing, etc.
Another factor is lack of pollinator.  Bob stated he has seen a male sawfly pollinating flowers (the labellum resembles a female sawfly) in New South Wales but no-one has ever seen it happening in South Australia.  He also added that non-one has ever seen a naturally occurring seed-pod.  It is suspected that the pollinators no longer live in South Australia.  Thus it is important that the plants and their habitats are not disturbed.
The survival of the duck orchids is made even more precarious by their popularity.  This seems to be the orchid that people most want to grow in cultivation.  Sadly some people attempt to remove them from their native habitat.  Tragically, when this does happen they inevitably die;  no one, not even experienced growers, have been able to grow them in cultivation.  It is important to concentrate on protecting its habitat if we are to continue to enjoy this unique species.
  • Calenana major, Adelaide Mount Lofty South Australia Threatened Species Profile, DEWNR, 2007
  • South Australia’s Native Orchids DVD 2011
  • Atlas of Living Australia http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Caleana+major Accessed 6th December 2013
11sm C major actual size
Enlarge or print this image to A4 size to see the actual size.
More information for this species and others are found in South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011.

Purchasing Orchids in Victor Harbor


I missed the NOSSA Spring Show and I was wondering if there was a way of purchasing native orchids – Cym canaliculatum, non-hybrid Sarcochilus, Den falcorostrumD. ligguiforme & Bulbophyllums mainly, but also any others which will grow in shadehouse conditions in Victor Harbor?


There are several places where these orchids can be purchased.  Sizes vary so suggested you contact the growers.  Stick to larger and more established plants if you are a beginner.  Most will grow well in Victor with the milder climate.  If you get hold of Cym. canaliculatum make sure they are kept dry and under cover from April to October.

Orchids on Newbold, prop. Stephen Stebbing, can be accessed thru the net or better still, Ebay.  Only found Bulb. shepherdii on the net last night but I have seen exiguum (I got a piece) but in the way of species Dendrobium he has cucumerinum, pugioniforme, tertagonum, linguiformis, schoeninum, striolatum ( various clones of the species).  Has plenty of Sarcochilus but mostly hybrids, would suggest though he would have some of the typical species such as hartmanii, fitzgeraldii.  He does have the Cymbidium species such as suave and maddidum but doubtful  about canaliculatum.

Fernacres Nursery in Victoria deals will bush salvaged species from logging areas.  Mostly sold bare root but has good sized plants for reasonable prices.  This will be a better bet for picking up Den. falcorostrum and those mentioned above.  They may have cannaliculatum.

The Rock Lily Man (Gerry Walsh) I know was selling sizeable clumps of established bush salvaged falcorostrum recently and should still have a few left.  He has fabulous Den. speciosum available but be prepared to pay good dollars for show bench stuff.

Australian Orchid Nursery (Wayne Turville) specialises in natives but has moved a bit more towards Cymbidiums.  His mounted plants are first class and I know from time to time he has some of the other Bulbophyllums.

You can always ask them for other species.  They don’t always list everything and may have a piece or two of the lesser species lying around that they don’t list.

Most of these growers usually have links to other nurseries so with a bit of homework you can usually always get what you want.

Scale on Dendrobiums


I have scale on my Dendrobrium kingianum.  How do I to treat it?


A dilute mixture of eco oil and water is safe to use on Dendrobriums. Use a mist spray bottle and follow up two weeks later with a second spray to kill the hatchlings.

Alternatively you can drench the plant with “confidor”, a systemic insecticide.


Cathy Houston

Conducted by the Conservation group of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Inc. for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Members of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia and two volunteers conducted a three day orchid survey of Messent Conservation Park, following a prescribed burn that took place in March/April 2011.

The survey in burnt areas was undertaken from Friday 9th – Sunday 11th September, inclusive. A maximum of eleven people took part, not all being present for the entire survey time. Participants worked in pairs (or threes if numbers dictated such) and conducted ramble surveys within very rough grid areas of about 500 meters square. Because of the size of the burn area and access difficulty, none of the internal area was surveyed. However, many habitats were covered and extrapolation could predict what would be likely to occur in these areas. Some other vegetated areas were visited as well. These included flats covered in rushes, or sedges and rushes, a 16 month old prescribed burn area, a Pink gum (Eucalyptus fasciculosa) rise, mallee woodland and a Banksia herb-land.

Observations were taken of species present, numbers and any other detail of note, together with GPS location. A numbering code was used for most species.

The results were somewhat variable, presumably dependent on habitat types and their orchid population prior to the burn, the temperature of the burn and to a lesser extent, the emergence or otherwise of orchids prior to the time of burning. For instance, only one small population of Corunastylis (Genoplesium) was noted, this being a species that would have been flowering at the time of the burn. Similarly, no Eriochilus were observed in the survey area. However, Leporella fimbriata which emerges at a very similar time was present in some very large colonies.

The most abundant orchid by far was Pyrorchis nigricans. It was encountered in nearly all habitats of the survey area, the only exception being limestone ridges where it rarely appeared. Flowering had been promoted by the burn with perhaps about half the population in flower/going to flower. Density of the population fluctuated but it seemed to be consistently present. However, its absence was noteworthy from an area of burn undertaken in May 2010. The habitat was ideal for the species and given the proliferation throughout the 2011 burn one would have to speculate about the timing of that burn on that (and perhaps other) species. Very few species were located in that area at all. It has to be said in fairness though that the only Thelymitra epipactoides found in any burn area was seen in this 16 month old burn.

Perhaps the most orchid-rich habitat with regard to number of species was the limestone ridges. Some of the open flats had the least diversity. It was not easy to ascertain what the dominant vegetation had been in these areas. Conversely some of the flats had a good scattering of orchid species, the numbers of each being relatively low.

Winter flowering species were conspicuous by their low representation.  No Bunochilus (Pterostylis) were seen, few Urochilus (P.) sanguineus, Diplodium (P.) dolichochilum, Acianthus pusillus, Corysanthes (Corybas) species and Cyrtostylis robusta were seen in the burn area.  The only exception was Linguella (Pterostylis) sp. Mallee. It was encountered in small to medium sized colonies throughout the area, usually with a reasonable number of capsules developing. In a vegetated location Diplodium species was seen in good numbers.

Threats to orchids were minimal. Rabbits were present in noticeable numbers along the northern boundary. Similarly, there was some weed incursion along the northern boundary, Capeweed and one other being the main ones seen. Some predation was observed within the burn area, but nothing we would consider notable. Rabbit activity was also very evident in a flat/Pink gum rise on the track leading south to the boundary. Deer prints were observed throughout the areas we covered. A small flock of sheep encountered in the north eastern sector is of concern. They had free access to the park via a “kangaroo door” under the boundary fence, something they negotiated with ease when disturbed by a vehicle.

Species of significance were Thelymitra matthewsii and T. epipactoides, these both being nationally threatened species. Historical records existed for T. matthewsii from this park, but it had not been observed for decades, despite intensive searches having occurred following the 2002 burn. Some of this surveys records bear a similarity to historical records but since the latter were recorded prior to accurate global positioning systems it is uncertain about the actual locations. This species was encountered as mainly individual plants in about six different locations, usually in very low numbers. Some plants were just leaf but others were seed capsules. All but one group were located in burn areas, the species being very difficult to observe without the removal of much vegetation. It was noted that some of the area where the species was seen had been slashed. It was felt this could be beneficial to them. Observations in the lower South East seem to reflect this type of disturbance is beneficial to T. matthewsii and Thelymitra in general.

More than 60 plants of T. epipactoides were located in one area of a few hundred meters squared, with the exception of the aforementioned one plant in the 16 month old burn. Despite searching of hectares of similar sedge/rush-land, no others were located. Here again, it was thought that some random slashing of this habitat may benefit orchids that like the open areas, viz. Thelymitra, Diuris sp. Short tailed, Glossodia major, and some Caladenia species.
Present in low numbers on the limestone ridges was Arachnorchis (Caladenia) tensa, another nationally threatened species. Despite its national rating this species is more prolific in South Australia.

Another orchid that appeared in considerable numbers and most habitats was Arachnorchis (Caladenia) sp. South East. It grew as single or few plants right up to sizeable collections of plants, sometimes with up to about 50 in a group. Diuris sp. Short tailed was widespread and moderately common. Glossodia major was encountered as mainly single plants widely scattered. Caladenia carnea was in very high numbers under fairly dense mallee on the northern boundary. Microtis species when it was encountered, was in colonies with high numbers of plants. As a generalisation, Thelymitra were absent or in very low numbers. Exceptions to this were T. antennifera and T. benthamiana which were usually seen in very low numbers but widespread throughout the burn area. It was interesting to note that few of the latter were likely to flower, which contrasts with the 2002 burn when flowering was prolific.

One species promoted to flower by the burn was Prasophyllum elatum. It was widespread in most habitats, but not often in the flats. Plants varied tremendously in size and stature with some quite small plants flowering/going to flower. Predation of the leaves was relatively high, with nearly all being chewed down to between 100 to 150 mm. Buds were emerging from the open top of the leaf, instead of emerging from the side of an intact leaf. There were other Prasophyllum species present, but the survey was just too early to identify what these are likely to be. Most of these were found on the limestone ridges.

The orchid list held by NOSSA for Messent Conservation Park prior to this survey must have been somewhat limited because the number of species on our list has now been doubled. With the rediscovery of T. matthewsii in several locations within the park, the other two nationally threatened species present and the expanded knowledge of orchids within the Park we must consider this was a very successful survey. We thank DENR South East for making this survey possible.

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


  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
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
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis nigricans
Karte Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp.
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp. Dark Midge
Ngarkat Conservation Park
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis tepperi aka C. Fuscoviride
Photo: June Niejalke
Corunastylis sp. Intermediate
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

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