For the June Native Orchid Society of South Australia’s meeting we were privelaged to have June Niejalke speak to our members about how to use photostacking when photographing our beautiful orchids.
Photographing our exquisite orchids is a challenge due to their size and the need to use macro. Sharp focus seems to elude many of us and for many years, we have admired her sharp images that has enabled us to see the hidden details of these tiny bush gems.
It was a pleasure to listen to her share her photographic methods. I hope you too find this video as helpful as those who were at the meeting found it.
The process may have taken awhile, (for some longer than than the two years collaboration with the University of Adelaide,) but finally the Wild Orchid Watch app is now available for all Australians to use.
So why orchids…
Orchids are iconic and somewhat mysterious plants that are highly valued by sections of our society.
They are sensitive to environmental change most of which puts the survival of populations at risk of being lost permanently.
Orchids tend to be indicators of ecosystem health.
They are dependent on other parts of the ecosystem such as fungi within the soil and particular insect pollinators .
These insects are also dependent on a functioning ecosystem for their survival.
Thus, when orchids are conserved other parts of the ecosystem are also conserved resulting in broader benefits to the ecosystem as a whole.
So, why an app …
traditional methods of data collection for orchids are inadequate because of their
differences in emergence with seasons
short flowering, sometimes non-flowering, seasons
allows the collection of a wealth of knowledge known to orchid enthusiasts
this method of collecting data enables researchers to gain a better understanding of
the conservation status and trend of orchids
the value of orchids as indicators of environmental change
the phenology (life cycle), distribution and abundance of orchids
The WOW app allows citizens scientists to provide important data for researchers.
Bonus Benefit of the App – Identification
Probably one of the most frustrating things for the novice is not knowing what is the species of orchid that they have found. With this app it is not necessary to be familiar with all the orchid species.
The WOW app uses the iNaturalist platform where there is a whole community ready to assist with identification.
One can be an orchid citizen scientist without a detailed knowledge of orchids.
So, hop over to the WOW website to find more information, instructions and download the app.
As the pandemic continues with its various strains, we encourage all members to keep informed via the SA Health website.
NOSSA will continue to adhere to the government advice and will notify members when and if specific events are impacted. This is most likely to occur through our email monthly Updates.
In the meantime, continue to maintain safe hygiene practices.
Update November 2020
With the current outbreak, NOSSA has cancelled the public meeting scheduled for 24 November. The NOSSA committee will assess the other activites closer to the time and will notify members should any events be cancelled.
Continue to maintain safe hygiene practices
September 2020 With recommencement of various NOSSA activities we have put into place the Government required Covid19 plans with Covid Marshalls.
If you have any concerns, please feel free to contact NOSSA on 0439214106, or email the secretary or go to the South Australian government website for more details.
March 21 2020 NOSSA will put best practice to prevent the spread of COVID19 into action to protect our members. Ramifications of this decision include the following –
Postponement of NOSSA AGM and general meeting until further notice. Our planned speaker, Dr Rick Davies, was relieved to hear that we had postponed our meeting next week because he was concerned for our members.
NOSSA Committee Meetings The plan is to manage these meetings electronically so that the affairs of NOSSA are properly canvassed and effective decisions are made.
Propagation Days These will be placed on hold for the time being.
Field Trips These are not necessary meetings and will not be formally arranged by NOSSA however going for a walk looking at orchids is something that family groups are able to do outside. NOSSA and the Update may offer a suggested place to visit to encourage this.
WAYS TO STAY IN TOUCH Journal Our wonderful editor, Marg, will continue to ensure the Journal meets the monthly deadline, and her team of trusty helpers will ensure it gets tot he members. The Journal is the official source of Orchid news and information so look out fot it each month. Feel free to send your thoughts to the editor – they may even get published!
Facebook Some members are already familiar with our Facebook pages. Others may be interested in exploring this avenue of member interaction. If you have any questions etc, email email@example.com
Photographic Competition Please continue to send your wonderful photos into firstname.lastname@example.org. The photos will be displayed for voting. 😉 Still working on the how of that thought!
Update Update will continue to keep you in the loop of NOSSA news at mid-month.
CANCELLED EVENTS There have been many events that have been delayed, postponed or cancelled. Some of the follow – Mt Pleasant Show APS Autumn Sale SAROC AGM and meeting
***GOOD NEWS*** Library Display We couldn’t take part in the Mt Pleasant Show, however Faye McGoldrick of the Mt Pleasant Natural Resource Centre invited us to put up a display in their library. Rosalie and Robert Lawrence have already put the display in place, so if you are passing pop in and have a look.
We encourage everyone to stay safe and follow the basics of social distancing and washing hands to minimize inviting COVID19 into your world.
Over the years, we have published several blogs concerning orchids and fire. At the beginning of the year, Renate Faast spoke at the NOSSA February meeting. John Eaton wrote an extensive summary of her talk which is reprodued here as it appeared in the 2019 March edition of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal, Volume 43 Number 2.
Renate’s take home message was that we cannot make sweeping statement about orchids and fire, each species responds differently and we need to take this into account when planning proscribed. This was something that Dr Michael Duncan also brought out in his 2009 report following the Victorian Black Saturday fires – see Orchids and Fire.
An interesting aside to Renate’s research was her observations of white-winged choughs – see the paragraph Not All Relationships are Friendly.
Guest Speaker Notes John Eaton
At our February 26th meeting, thirty NOSSA members were treated to a stimulating talk by Dr Renate Faast from the University of Adelaide – our first guest speaker for 2019.
Renate acknowledged the support her project received from an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant under the Linkage Program which promotes national and international research partnerships between researchers and publicly funded research agencies – in Renate’s case – support from the University of Adelaide, SA Museum, SA Water, Forestry SA, The Australian Orchid Foundation, the Nature Foundation of SA, The Environment Institute and the SA Government.
Renate had been getting mixed messages from the field observations people had made following prescribed burning or bushfires. This ARC grant enabled her to study the impacts of prescribed burning on native terrestrial orchids.
Renate found that the response of orchids to controlled burns suggests that there are winners and losers amongst orchids: Naked sun orchids responded really well to a controlled burn with 6 plants growing to 83 plants. REALLY good news for that species of orchid but the reality is more complicated than that and this study suggests that there are no generalisations that can be drawn with any confidence about regeneration following prescribed burns or bushfires! In view of the complex interactions between orchids and other plants, and between orchids and bird-and-animal grazers, orchids rely on so many things to go right in order to set seed and recruit new plants into a population. With the exception of a few self-pollinating species, most orchids rely on pollinators for seed production. For non-clonal species, releasing seed is the only way to ensure the species’ long-term survival!
Not all relationships are friendly
Over 80% of orchid flowers had been grazed at some sites. No flowers means no seeds. Renate’s film clips embedded in her PowerPoint dramatically showed the extent of orchid predation by birds such as white-winged choughs and currawongs. They picked off the flowers quite deliberately, leaving behind an intact stalk. Five flowers were grazed every 10 sec (that’s at a rate of 30 flowers/min!) And there are all the other orchid grazers such as roos, deer and rabbits as they move through a patch, often only grazing part of the stem, in a far less targeted and thorough way, compared to these birds. All of these interactions play a key role in whether seeds are released to keep the population viable.
The Mount Bold Fire prompt
While engaged in her PhD research into reproductive ecology of spider orchids, Renate heard that a fire at Mt Bold had led to a “profusion” of Caladenia rigida flowers! The Victorian bushfires had also prompted changes to prescribed burning practises in South Australia. The combination of these two events led Renate to explore the effect of fire on the interactions orchids have with other plants and animals – leading her to ask such questions as:
Does fire promote the flowering of spider orchids (e.g. Caladenia rigida, C. behrii, C. tentaculata) and Glossodia major?
If there are more flowers following fire, will they be pollinated and will they set seed?
How does burn timing influence this response?
Do all species respond in the same way?
These are all critical issues to consider if we are to ensure a self-sustaining orchid population in the future.
There are seasonal influences on the effects of a burn. The response to a summer bushfire could be quite different from cooler season burns in autumn and spring. And even if some orchids are stimulated to flower, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will end up producing and releasing more seed – which is what really matters for the long-term survival of the orchid population.
Orchid monitoring was carried out in several sites and included 1 autumn, 3 spring burns and 4 adjacent unburnt control sites across the Mt Lofty Ranges (NE of Adelaide). Renate followed the fate of 4 species by tagging up to 150 plants for each species. Renate’s presentation focused on the Millbrook sites where she studied C. rigida and G. major before and after a prescribed burn conducted in Autumn 2013. Unfortunately and fortuitously, her control site also became a bushfire site following the Sampson Flat Fire in January 2015. Fortunately, the Autumn burn site was not affected by the Sampson Flat Fire, so became something of a control site! Renate found that 97% of C. rigida did not emerge after the Autumn prescribed burn compared with 8% at the unburnt control affected site. Flowering was not promoted and no tagged plants flowered. A similar but less severe effect was recorded for Glossodia major.
Will these orchids recover in subsequent years?
Annual monitoring up until 2017, revealed that over one third of C. rigida plants did not re-emerge for 5 consecutive years after the autumn burn. Unfortunately, these plants are likely to have been killed by this burn, probably because the fire was conducted as the orchids were about to emerge. Interestingly, spring burns did not have a detrimental impact on the orchids studied, however, a proportion (18 – 28%) of C. rigida plants may also have been killed by the summer bushfires.
One of the more striking findings out of this research was the large increase in pollination for C. rigida following the bushfires – up to 65% of flowers (protected from grazing) produced a seed pod – an unprecedented rate for Renate’s research. It seems that in the sparse blackened landscape with very few other plants in flower, C. rigida had most of the attention for pollinators. However, the removal of understorey cover also meant that grazing rates were higher after the fires, and most of the flowers that were not protected inside cages were eaten. This meant that there was no actual benefit to the orchids, as there was no increase in seed release. All of these responses were short-lived, and by spring 2016, pollination, grazing and seed release rates were much the same as before the fires.
All species are not equal – fires may benefit some species others don’t fare so well; All fires are not equal; Autumn burning may be detrimental to SOME species; Bushfire may benefit seed release, only if grazing pressure is low – and Flowering was not promoted by any fire. More research is needed on other species, and in different habitats.
Therefore, Renate pointed out that no generalisations can be made about her observations!
Some good news that has come out of this research:
Burn practices are changing, with land managers taking into account the timing of prescribed burns, and bestattempts are made to avoid late autumn burns in areas containing threatened (early-emerging) orchids;
Impacts of fire on reproductive success appear to be short-term
Renate’s hope is that one day, the message will get out there that while some orchids can respond well to burning, this isn’t the case for all species – and that we still have a long way to go before we will really understand the complexities that underlie these different responses with any degree of predictability. Renate also warned that over a third of SA’s orchids are threatened with habitat loss, weed invasion, pollinator loss, grazing and fire regimes.
Renate’s address was followed by a flurry of burning questions and observations. It is hoped that we NOSSA members will use Renate’s conclusions to guide and inform our own anecdotal field observations and test our underlying assumptions and prejudices about the effects of burning on orchid viability – especially as we enter an unprecedented and potentially species-destroying period of human – induced global warming.
With the lack of rains, it doesn’t look good for the start of the 2019 South Australian orchid season but there is a good news story.
In the February 13, 2019 edition of the Hills Valley Weekly there was an encouraging article of the work of Bush For Life. Part of Trees For Life, this program with the aid of trained volunteers spend numerous hours weeding specific bush sites with the hope that they give our native plants a chance to survive. Yes it requires commitment and dedication but what joy there is when volunteers start seeing plants returning.
Orchids are often the first to disappear from a site when weeds enter and in many instances do not return. For them to return the conditions have to be just right with both the mycorrhizal fungi and the pollinators present. The more orchid species the better the site.
So well done to Jenny McInernay and Trees For Life for their work and commitment.
The blue orchid featured in the article is a spring flowering sun orchid; it appears to be Thelymitra inflata, common names Blue Star Sun Orchid or Adelaide Hills Plum Orchid. The other flower is not an orchid. It is a Wurmbea, common name Early Nancy.
Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper 2 Taxonomic Status of the Mauve Leek-orchid Prasophyllum suttonii Rogers & Rees, 1912 (Orchidaceae) published in May 2017 documents how he used original source material to determine the identification of a species that was considered extinct. Prasophyllum suttonii belongs to the Prasophyllum odoratum/diversiflorum complex and is very similar to the later named Prasophyllum alpestre. It was considered to be extinct but Rudie’s view was not that it was extinct but that it had been “lost in taxonomy, and its status need to be restored”. His article documents how he used original material to help determine identification of the species he had photographed.
In his summary Rudie has some good advice about how to effectively use the material available –
Use original descriptions and illustrations
Original descriptions are preferred over type specimens
later descriptions may be based upon second hand information which may or may not be accurate.
Drawings have some value but depend
upon the skill of the artist to show the crucial details
upon whether they were drawings from fresh or preserved specimens
A good photograph will be better than a drawing
Type material is useful but may deteriorate over time
This week’s post written by Leo Davis is an article (slightly edited) from The South Australian Naturalist91 (1): 34 – 37 January – June 2017. In this article, Leo highlights the importance of the role of roadside vegetation in preserving the native orchids and flora.
All photographs are by Leo Davis.
Fig 1: Thelymitra antennifera hybrid
One of my rules of thumb is ‘If I am in a Conservation Park, I’m on ground that nobody could make a living from.’ One, usually more, of nutrient poor soils, excess salinity, extreme rockiness, steepness, poor moisture retention, low rainfall or even being waterlogged, will be a feature of the location. There are a few odd spots that have survived partly intact, that have good soil, sufficient rainfall, etc. These include cemeteries (The Nationally Critically Endangered ghost spider orchid (Caladenia (syn. Arachnorchis) intuta) holds on in a cemetery on Yorke Peninsula) or exclusion zones around water storages (including a reservoir reserve in Lobethal that the public can now access) or abandoned railway yards (including Sherlock, where so far I have found 21 species of orchids and part of a reserve in Halbury.)
Fig 2: Little Yellow Club Mallee Spider Orchid Caladenia (syn Arachnorchis) verrucosa
When I go in search of plants with the Botany Group of the FNSSA (Field Naturalist Society of South Australia), or for orchids with NOSSA (Native Orchid Society of South Australia), or when I do surveys of threatened orchid species with DEWNR (Department Environment, Water and Natural Resources), or orchid seed collection with the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, or go on weeding parties to protect endangered species, the destination is always one of these deprived, rejected sites. The orchids I see are those adapted to or just hanging on in such sites. We never see orchids that lived on better soils, say on the Adelaide Plains. How many have become extinct?
Fig 3: Common Mallee Shell Orchid Pterostylis dolichochila
Wherever the land was suitable for agriculture it was clear felled. Almost nothing of the original flora and little of its associated fauna, were left. But there is a tiny flimsy exception. Crossing these highly productive agricultural zones are roads and sometimes these have remnant vegetation. For a person interested in orchids, these narrow strips are normally areas of slim pickings but occasionally finds are made. Near Halbury, the Nationally Endangered Halbury rufoushood (Pterostylissp. Halbury or Oligochaetochilus lepidus) can be found in some roadside spots.
The most remarkable piece of roadside vegetation that I have come upon was discovered by and shown to me by Glenn Dean, the Environment Officer with the City of Murray Bridge. He found a section of predominantly broombush (Melaleuca uncinata) vegetation, only about 200 m. long, on the verges of a single car sandy track, east of Murray Bridge. It is so close to the vegetation that cars can be scratched. I have found 24 species of orchid (Glenn has found more) blooming there sometime between March and October each year. All images shown here (Figs 1–11) were made at this site. If the little used road was not there the land would have been under crop, being equal in quality to regularly cropped fields to either side, and is of much higher quality than any normally allocated to Conservation Park status. Most of the orchids found can indeed be found in some of the poor sites dedicated as Conservation Parks, including species similar to those found at Ferries McDonald and Monarto Conservation Parks with their poor sandy soils. But this spot, which for some reason supports species that do not grow just 100 metres east or west along the road, has such species as the Nationally Critically Endangered Mallee Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum constrictum) (Fig. 8), that requires soils as good as those demanded by wheat, so it is essentially doomed.
Its single plant sighting here is regarded as a ‘rediscovery’ of a species not seen for years. In the longer term I guess this tiny site of orchid species richness is in a transitory state and most species will disappear. The surrounding cropping land is neither a source of seed nor a suitable landing site for it and it provides damaging wind blown nutrients and other chemicals. So I will cherish it while it lasts and hope others appear, if only briefly. Here is a reminder, that most of you do not need, of the value of roadside vegetation (with the understanding that it can contribute to native animal mortality) and that we should manage, extend and guard its presence.
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
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.
**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.
Leo Davis always has some interesting insights from his orchid observations. In this article he examines the position of the tepals (petals and sepals) in particular the Moose Orchid which he saw for the first time this year.
Have a close look, next season (winter to early summer) at some of our native lilies. Start with the jolly bulbine lily (Bulbine bulbosa), no longer a true lily incidentally, because it now resides in family Aspodelaceae, along with the grass trees. You will find three yellow petals at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock and closely behind them three almost identical sepals at 2, 6 and 10 o’clock, so at first sight you see six apparently identical tepals (sepals and petals). Move on to the rush fringe-lily (Thysanotus juncifolius), as described in Ann Prescott’s ‘It’s Blue With Five Petals’. Clive Chesson is more up to date and tells me it is now T. racemoides. Again it is no longer a true lily, now sitting in family Asparagaceae. Here the tepals are noticeably different. Three wide densely fringe edged petals will be found, if you view the flower face on, at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock. The narrow non fringed sepals sit close behind at 2, 6 and 10 o’clock. These are just a generalisations because if the flower turns only about 60o a sepal will be at the top.
Most orchids, while close relatives of the true lilies and the one time lilies, do not show these arrangements. Let’s start with some that do.
In the large duck orchid (Caleana major) the petal at 12 o’clock, the dorsal petal, is modified, as in most, but as usual, not all, orchids, to become a labellum. In this charmer the labellum takes the form of a duck’s head. Its function is to snap down trapping a pollinator insect in the cup shape column below it, forcing it into contact with the sticky off white stigma and/or the yellow pollinia below it. Look closely and you will find the other two narrow petals drooping at around 4 and 8 o’clock. Two folded, twisted sepals can be clearly seen at around 1 and 11 o’clock. The third sepal, at 6 o’clock, is tucked in behind the cup shaped column. Note that, as with lilies, the top tepal is a petal.
The leek orchids (genus Prasophyllum) follow this pattern and also have their labellum at around 12 o’clock. These orchid groups, which are up the right way, are said to be ‘not upside down’, using the technical term ‘non resupinate’.
Most orchids are ‘upside down’ and are called resupinate. The whole flower rotates 180o, clockwise or anti I don’t know, at the embryonic stage. But let’s start with somewhat of an exception with the sun orchids (genus Thelymitra) which do not have a petal modified as a labellum. But they are indeed upside down.
Have a close look at the Thelymitra benthamiana flower. Note that the three petals, at roughly 2, 6 and 10 o’clock, are in front of the three slightly larger but very similar sepals, at 12, 4 and 8 o’clock.
Note that the toptepal is a sepal. The flower is upside down, that is resupinate. In most orchids the petal at 6 o’clock would be modified to be a labellum.
The Arachnorchis (possibly Caladenia to you) stricta, from Sherlock, out in the mallee, is more typical of terrestrial orchids in SA. It is upside down, that is resupinate, and has a petal modified to be a labellum.
The bottom petal has become a wide labellum, with fine edge combs and parallel rows of rich plum coloured calli covering its centre. Out at roughly 3 o’clock is a narrow petal, the other invisible on the other side. At the top, pressed tightly against the column, a sepal arches forward. Two larger sepals extend down at around 5 and 7 o’clock.
When I saw my first, my only, moose orchid, this season, I was in such a state of excitement that it looked to me to be up the right way, that is to say upside down.
Have a look. Two narrow short roughly vertical petals at about 1 and 11 o’clock. There are two sepals at just past 3 and just before 9 o’clock. That’s OK but where is the other sepal? Are there it is, where it should be, at midday. But hang on, it’s behind the flower stem (peduncle) and where is the column?
Holding the labellum up with a stick I found the column, the stigma and the pollinia, underneath the labellum. The third sepal now appears to be at 6 o’clock. And it all became clear. This flower was up the right way (non resupinate) but it has turned forward, on its peduncle, by about 180o, to become upside down, but not in the manner of resupinate flowers, because it is back to front. It is an inverted non resupinate flower. Still with me?