April 2018 Winning Photograph

1804 sm JF oligochaetochilus excelsus koongawa 2

Oligochaetochilus excelsus, an impressive name for the winning photo, taken by John Fennell. It was originally formally described and named Pterostylis excelsa by Mark Clement in 1986 from a specimen cultivated from a tuber taken from Eyre Peninsula. This was subsequently published in the fourth edition of Black’s Flora of South Australia. In the early 2000s, the genus Pterostylis was split into several different genera of which Oligochaetochilus was one.

Although not everyone accepted this change, it is helpful for understanding the characteristics of this group. They are found only in Australia and are primarily a semi-arid inland group, sometimes the only orchids to occur in a locality.

Bob Bates has documented some of the drought tolerant and drought avoidance features found in this group as follows.

Drought tolerance:

  • Large moisture-storing tubers, shallowly buried to take advantage of light rain.
  • Waxy leaves pressed flat to the soil thus avoiding water loss.
  • Fast growth, some species are able to flower on just two good rainfalls.
  • Leaves senesce (die off) before or soon after flowering begins; moisture and food from the leaves is then stored in the tuber and scape. Leaves are able to absorb moisture from dew.
  • Leaves also contain an anti-freeze and can tolerate black frosts.
  • Just one month after rain a replacement storage tuber is produced as large as the old.

Drought avoidance:

  • Plants favour damper microhabitats, growing at the base of larger rocks and in seepage zones or on the cooler damper south side of bushes.
  • Tubers of desert species do not usually germinate in drought years.
  • Leaf senesces (dies off) before hot weather meaning plants avoid moisture loss during flowering.
  • Plants cease respiration in long dry periods and resume after rain even up to three months later, staying green even in bone dry soil.
  • Leaves are pressed to the soil.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterostylis accessed 10 May 2018

Jessop, J. P. and Toelken, H. R. (eds) (1986). Flora of South Australia. 4th ed. Adelaide: Government Printers Adelaide.

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

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March 2018 Winning Photograph

1803 A4 sm JF Arachnorchis formosa

Four very different species were entered this month. Ricky Egel’s autumn flowering Coryunastylis fuscoviridis (see February Journal for name usage), Rosalie Lawrence’s winter flowering Diplodium bryophilum and John Fennell’s spring flowering Stegostyla cucullata and Arachnorchis formosa.

It was no surprise that John’s A. formosa (syn. Caladenia formosa) was the winning photograph. Words such as stunning, spectacular, wonderful and attractive are used in the description of this rare orchid and is reflected in its common names – Scarlet Spider Orchid, Elegant Red Spider Orchid, Elegant Spider Orchid and Blood-red Spider Orchid. It is truly a stunning red flower with its drooping petals and sepals (tepals).

A. formosa is part of the large patersonii alliance which is characterised by white to reddish flowers with (mainly) drooping tepals ending in long, slender (sometimes thickened) sparsely to densely glandular (hairy) tails, labellum with short to long marginal teeth. The features that separate A. formosa from others in the complex are the large (~60 mm across) deep red flowers with long (~80mm) tapering, drooping tepals. Similar species to A. formosa is the smaller once common but now extremely rare Caladenia ‘Fleurieu Peninsula’ In Victoria there are some other similar species.

A. formosa is confined mainly to the South East and into south western Victoria.

References:

Backhouse, G., (2011). Spider-orchids – the Genus Caladenia and its Relatives in Australia, Melbourne, Electronic version.

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

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

2018 February Winning Photograph

1802 sm RP Caladenia carnea

A small but varied number of entries for our first competition of the year. Andrew Primer entered a lovely picture Thelymitra azurea from Eyre Peninsula; Thelma Bridle entered Calochilus cupreus one of South Australia’s endangered orchids; John Fennell’s close up of Caladenia prolata and Rob Pauley’s mass flowering of Caladenia carnea.

The winner was Rob Pauley’s C. carnea a wide spread orchid which ranges from across the Eyre Peninsula through to the South East as well as occurring in the Eastern States and Tasmania. Although considered common both nationally and at a state level, there are regions within its range where it is considered to be Near Threatened, Rare and even Vulnerable. Also, despite being common, the Seedbank notes that there are areas of probable decline: Fleurieu (KAN02), Mt Lofty Ranges (FLB01), Eyre Mallee (EYB05), Wimmera (MDD05) and Southern Yorke (EYB01). It is a reminder that not only the rarest species but also that common species can be in decline.

The situation is complicated by taxonomic issues; C. carnea is not only a highly variable species but also a complex of several similar species plus many undescribed species which continues to challenge botanists.

References:

http://saseedbank.com.au/species_information.php?rid=815 accessed 8 March 2018

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

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

Orchids in the Snow?

It’s Christmas and usually, despite Australia’s hot climate, we associate Christmas with snow and cold but we don’t tend to associate them with orchids. And yet, for Australia we do have not one but two Christmas flowering orchids in snow country, that is, on the isolated sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, an island where “[r]ain and snow are frequent, with only a few days each year with no precipitation”. Admittedly at this time of the year, being summer it is warmer with an average temperature of 7.9degrees Celsius.

The first species was only discovered in 1978 and not recognised as an unique species until 1993 when it was named Corybas dienemus (syn. Nematoceras diemenum). Previously it had been linked with Corybas macranthus.

The second orchid species is  Corybas sulcatus (syn. Nematoceras sulcatum) and this species, possibly the world’s rarest orchid, has gone travelling. Staff from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens have manage to collect and amazingly propagate the seed.  Amazingly because orchids, particularly the terrestrial orchids, are difficult to grow. It is now flowering, this Christmas season, but under very carefully controlled conditions in Hobart.

Click here and here to see images and read about this amazing journey.

So Christmas, orchids and snow do go together in Australia, albeit in the far flung island of the south.

Corybas sulcatus (Grooved helmet-orchid) is one of two endemic orchids which occur on Macquarie Island (Photo: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens) Image Source

Reference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nematoceras_dienemum accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/macquarie-island/location/climate-weather-tides accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2017/sub-antarctic-orchid-shows-true-colours-far-from-home accessed  23 December 2017

 

2017 September Winning Picture

1709 sm JF Thelymitra x truncata

 

Natural hybrids are both fascinating and challenging. Fascinating because they don’t occur readily, (although of all the plant families, orchids have one of the greatest propensity for hybridising). Challenging because of the difficulty in determining the parents unlike the manmade hybrids where we can track which parents are being used to make the hybrid.

Obviously, the hybrid will share characteristics of both parents and this is the case of this month’s winning photograph, John Fennell’s Thelymitra x truncata. In the South Australian setting, a spotted orchid hybrid suggests that one of the parents will always be T. ixiodes/juncifolia and because it is blue it is most likely that the other parent will also be blue, from either the T. pauciflora or T. nuda complexes. This is true also for T. x merraniae. This is because there is no naturally occurring blue pigment. Whereas a pink or yellow parent and a blue parent will not produce a blue hybrid. Consider T. x chasmogama, T. x irregularis, T. x macmillanii are never blue.

Finally, it is fitting that this should be the winning photograph as this is the centenary month (September 2017) of its presentation to the Royal Society of South Australia, by Dr R S Rogers who also named this hybrid. The other hybrids entered were Jane Higgs Caladenia Harlequin and Diuris Earwig, both cultivated plants; Pauline Meyers Caladenia falcata X Drakonorchis barbarossa; John Fennell’s Caladenia x idiastes, T. x irregularis; Rickey Egels T. x macmillanii along with Lorraine Badger’s Caladenia roei hybrid and Caladenia x ericsoniae.

Reference

https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/109628#page/353/mode/1up

https://nossa.org.au/2017/07/28/2017-june-winning-picture/

https://nossa.org.au/2014/09/26/thelymitra-x-irregularis-beautiful-but-only-a-hybrid/

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

Rules of entry:

The subject matter must have something to do with Australian orchids.  Any format is acceptable including Photo shopped images, artwork, etc

 

2017 July Winning Picture

July Winning Photograph

Corybas demenicus

July is Helmet Orchid Season; and the theme for the July Picture Competition.

In Australia, the genus Corybas in the broad sense (sensu lato) has four segregate genera; three on the Australian mainland (Corybas, Corysanthes & Anzybas) and one (Nematoceras) on Macquarie Island. All three mainland segregate genera were represented this month. Robert Lawrence’s, Anzybas unguiculatus; Margaret Lee, Corybas aconitiflorus with Jane Higgs, Lorraine Badger and John Fennell all entering Corysanthes diemenica. Lorraine also entered Corysanthes despectans; and John an image of Corysanthes incurva. The clear winner was Jane Higgs’ Corysanthes diemenica (synonym Corybas diemenicus).

The flower of Corybas sensu lato is characterised by a large dominant dorsal sepal and an equally dominant labellum. The other features associated with an orchid are not so obvious. The column is short and not visible. Even the ovary is barely visible whilst the other petals and sepals are but short thin filaments near the ovary. The base of the labellum wraps around to form a tube which hides the column; and the upper portion of the labellum folds back on itself and flares out. With this structure, two new features are introduced, the boss in the centre of the labellum and the auricles, two earlike openings formed from folding at the base of the labellum. Two growth features that are different from many other orchids are that the bud and leaf grow concurrently and once pollination has occurred the stem elongates so that the ovary can be raised up to 20 to 30 cms, thus allowing for seed dispersal.

Jane’s picture clearly shows these features as in the labelled image below.

Corybas demenicus

Thank you to Greg Steenbeeke for reviewing this article.

Reference

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

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

Jones, D. L., A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland

Jones, D. L.; Hopely, T; Duffy, S. M.; Richards, K. J.; Clements, M. A and Zhang X, Australian Orchid Genera an information and identification system. Electronic version, 2006, CSIRO

Rules of entry:

The subject matter must have something to do with Australian orchids.  Any format is acceptable including Photo shopped images, artwork, etc

Orchid Basics – Labellums and Columns

Orchids are unique in the floral world. Two distinctive characteristics that set orchids apart from other plants are the labellum and the column.

The labellum is a modified petal.  It is extremely varied in appearance; “often lobed, spurred, adorned with glands, appendages of calli (callus, a hardened swelling or thickening of the skin), sometimes mobile and highly irritable and often brightly coloured”. * The labellum is important for pollination.

The column (as described by Bates and Weber) “is a distinctive feature of all orchids and a unique structure in the plant kingdom. It is formed by fusion of the male parts ‘stamens’ and female organ ‘pistil’.”*

Below are examples of the various types of labellums and columns in some South Australian terrestrial orchids. Each genus has its own characteristic labellum and column.

Sun Orchid

Thelymitra – though the labellum is almost indistinguishable from the other petals and sepals, the column is quite complex.

Hyacinth Orchid

Dipodium or Hyacinth Orchid

Greenhood

Pterostylis or Greenhoods – generally a simple labellum with the column hidden well back into the hood.

Spider Orchid

Arachnorchis (syn Caladenia) can have quite varied and complex, mobile labellums

Helmet Orchid

Corybas or Helmet Orchid – the labellum dominates and the column is hidden deep inside the flower.

Donkey Orchid

Diuris or Donkey Orchid – the labellum is divided giving the appearance of more than one structure.

*Bates and Weber Orchids of South Australia 1990

 

2017 June Winning Picture

1706 sm RWL Thelymitra grandiflora 10

This month’s theme for the photo competition was blue and white. White flowers can occur as a result of lack of colour such as Rosalie Lawrence’s Caladenia latifolia (Pink Fairies) which is normally pink. White orchids can also occur naturally such as the Arachnorchis argocalla (White Beauty Spider Orchid) and Arachnorchis intuta (Ghost Spider Orchid) both photographed by John Fennel, or as a dominant colour such as Lorraine Badger’s Eriochilus collinius (syn Eriochilus sp Hills Woodland).

Of the blue orchids, both Ricky Egel and John Badger entered pictures of Thelymitra x truncata (Blue Spotted Hybrid Sun Orchid) whilst Robert Lawrence entered a Thelymitra grandiflora (Giant Sun Orchid) which was the outstanding winning picture.

Blue in the floral world is unusual colour in the floral world for it is not a naturally occurring colour. In fact, “[t}he key ingredient for making blue flowers are the red anthocyanin pigments. Less than 10 percent of the 280,000 species of flowering plants produce blue flowers.” (Lee, 2010 as cited in Oder 2014).

Whilst blue orchids occur outside of Australia, their “colour cannot rival” … “the intensely blue flowers” … “especially [are] unique in the orchid world” … “of their Australian counterparts. The sun orchids (Thelymitra) in particular are famous for their sky blue flowers.” (Ronse 2008: 103)

Based upon Jones 2006 tome, the following genera have true blue orchid species – Cyanicula (9 species), Pheladenia (1 species), Epiblema (1 species) and the largest group Thelymitra (about 65 out of potentially 118 species) plus one hybrid, XGlossodenia tutelata. Of the epiphytes, blue is almost non-existent except for three which Jones lists that rarely might be bluish and they are Vappodes bigibba, V. lithocola and V. phalaenopsis*.

With such rarity, is it any wonder then that the Chinese attached special significance to it as a plant that could cure lung disease and the Aztecs saw it as a symbol of strength.

*Names used as they appear in Jones 2006 tome

Reference

Jones, D. L., A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland

Lee, David (2010), Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color< Chicago, University of Chicago Press

Oder, T, The Science of Blue Flowers https://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/the-science-of-blue-flowers accessed 6 July 2017

Pretty Zesty All About Blue Orchids http://www.prettyzesty.com/2012/11/all-about-blue-orchids.html accessed 6 July 2017

Orchids in Medicine?

Question: Are orchids used in medicine?

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

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

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

 

 Total number species

 

 Percent of species used medicinally

 

 Number of Species used medicinally

 
World wide

434,910

 

6.48%

 

28,187

 
             
Asteraceae

32,280

 

7.17%

 

2,314

 
Orchidaceae

27,753

 

2.23%

 

619

 
Moraceae

1,229

 

22.54%

 

277

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

Cym caniculatum drawing

Notes:

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

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

Reference:

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

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

 

Born to Fly …

Orchid seeds are minute …

… like dust particles.

Orchid seeds are produced in the thousands …

… like dust particles.

And like dust,

Orchid seeds are born to …

… FLY!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dust-like seeds of Pterostylis nutans

So what do they look like? Amazingly Johann Georg Beer (1803 – 1873), an Austro-Hungarian orchidologist and explorer published in 1863 Beitra ¨ge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen. In it, Beer had produced in exquisite detail illustrations of orchid seeds. Beer was not the first to draw orchid seeds but his “drawings are morphologically accurate and artistically magnificent. Beer’s artistic ability, patience, and botanical expertise are obvious. His are probably the first detailed colour renditions of orchid seeds and seedlings to be published.”*

Fig-1-Orchid-seeds-Beer-1863

Seeds_of_orchids_(J.G.Beer_-1863)

Reference

*Arditti, J, 2008, An history of orchid hybridization, seed germination and tissue culture, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society June 2008

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229790264_An_history_of_orchid_hybridization_seed_germination_and_tissue_culture