2016 Orchid Picture of the Year

For the final meeting of the year we chose the best of the 2016 monthly winners of the picture competition.

Here in Australia we are fortunate to have such a variety of orchids. They may not be as big and showy as some of the overseas orchids but the diversity of shapes fires the imagination as reflected in this year’s monthly winners, when put together. The common names of the winners – spider, leopard, flying duck, cowslip, zebra, helmet, bluebeard and greenhood – reinforce this theme of diversity.

Patterns and colours contribute to the variety of our orchids. Australian orchid colours run the gamut of the rainbow and more, with Australia being home to most of the naturally occurring blue orchids in the world. This colour fascinates and allures people around the world so much so that nurseries will dye a white orchid blue because it will sell. There is even a website devoted to the colour called, not surprisingly, Blue Orchid  and the popular band master Glenn Miller wrote a song titled Blue Orchids (1944).

Could this be why the very clear winner for the year was Claire Chesson’s Pheladenia deformis common name Bluebeard or Blue Fairy?

  congratulations-clipart-k15686507

  Claire Chesson on your most beautiful picture.

1608-sm-cc-pheladenia-deformis

Pheladenia deformis

Claire won the August competition.

As a reminder, below are the other winners for the year.  Click on the image to see the related articles.

February 2016 Photographer: Pauline Meyers

1602 sm PM Caleana major

Caleana major

March 2016 Photographer: Judy Sara

1603 sm JS Arachnorchis sp

Arachnorchis sp. (Green Combed Spider Orchid

April 2016 Photographer: Claire Chesson

1604 sm CC T benthamaniana

Thelymitra benthamiana

May 2016 Photographer: Pauline Meyers

1605 sm PM Caladenia flava

Caladenia flava

2016 June Photographer: Ros Miller

1606 sm RM Caladenia cairnsiana

Caladenia cairnsiana

2016 July Photographer: Robert Lawrence

1607 sm RWL Corysanthes diemenicus

Corysanthes diemenica (mutation)

2016 September Photographer: Bevin Scholz

1609-sm-bs-pterostylis-cucullata

Pterostylis cucullata

2016 October Photographer: Helen Lawrence

1610-hl-sm-arachnorchis-argocalla

 

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The Grace and Charm of Fitzgerald’s Orchids

Orchids have fascinated people over the generations.  Robert Fitzgerald was one of them.  He had a lasting influence upon Australian orchids.  This extract from the Brisbane Courier Saturday 27 September 1930 Page 20 gives a brief biography of him.  The author of the article is Estelle Thomson.

 

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Great Australian Botanists

III. – R. D. FITZGERALD

In 1830 Robert Desmond Fitzgerald was born at Tralee, in Ireland.  When he was a young man of about 26 he came to Sydney and entered the surveyor-General’s office as a draughtsman; he became Deputy Surveyor-General, and held that post till he retired in 1887 to devote the rest of his life to his great work, the study of Australian orchids.  He travelled all over the Commonwealth and made innumerable drawings and paintings of orchids.  He drew always from the living plant (rather an exception in his day when the dried specimen was often used, even when fresh plants were available), and his drawings have grace and charm and also an unmistakable individual style.

His work was published in several huge folio volumes, called “Australian Orchids,” and in these he figures and describes over 200 species.  As well as making the original drawing in colour, he made the lithographic plates for a number of the reproductions.

He kept no dried specimens, and so left no herbarium on his death (at Hunter’s Hill, Sydney, in 1892), and this is to be regretted, as he described and named a number of new species, and the type (the original specimen) not being available it is sometimes difficult to determine whether other specimens are true to this type, or variations, or actually different species.

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

 

THE DUCKS – TAKING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE PART TWO of TWO

In Part One, Leo Davis’ first article centred on the Large Flying Duck, this second part is about the lesser known Little Duck.

TAKING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE 2 (The Small Flying Duck Orchid)

There are at least three speceis of flying duck orchids in SA, one in genus Caleana and two others having been moved from there to genus Paracaleana.

My favourite, of the two duck orchids that most of us see, is the small duck orchid (Paracaleana minor).  It is actually rarer than the more popular species, can bear six or more flowers on a spike, and has a more delicate and quirky charm, to my eye. 

As with the large flying duck the usual angle of photographing the smaller species is to emphasise the ‘flying’ nature.  But again there is other detail to see and to be illustrated from other view-points.

The accompanying image of the little duck flower, viewed from the front, shows variations on the same structures shown previously in the large duck orchid.  Down at the bottom of the flower is the sticky stigma (♀ part), not white this time, and immediately below is the triangular yellow pollinium packet (♂ part).  Again both structures sit in the bowl shaped column.

Paracalean minor arrows copy

Paracalean minor (Little Flying Duck Orchid)

Note the three part symmetry of the pollinium, with a distinctive Mercedes Benz logo (or Mitsubishi if your budget only stretches that far) to tease us.

The location of the female (♀) and male (♂) organs, adjacent to each other, fused to form a column, is one of the main distinguishing characteristic features of the orchid family.

As an afterword let me remind you that the little duck (like the larger, collected in Sydney in 1803) started out as Caleana minor but was moved to a new genus, leaving the large duck as the only member of its genus.  Rules of nomenclature mean that the small duck had to keep its specific name (minor), hence we now have Paracaleana minor but there is no, and never will be, Paracaleana major.  But Caleana minor still appears in publications and some folks may still use that name.

Some of you choose to use different scientific names to some that others use. Recently some of us bought a propagation pack that Les Nesbitt produced, to grow the maroon banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea.) In the unlikely event that my pack produces seedlings I will label them Urochilus sanguineus.  And we can both justify our choice.  And then, of course, some taxonomist could move the little duck back to its original genus one day. 

Then, of course, there is the added complication that David Jones (Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. 2006, p148) calls the species Sullivania minor!

Leo Davis

The Ducks – Taking A Different Perspective Part One of Two

Leo Davis is an orchid enthusiast with an eye for detail.  Everyone seems to be aware of and gets excited over the flower of the large flying duck orchid but in the article below, Leo takes a look at a more significant event – the rare fruiting of the duck in South Australia.

TAKING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE 1(The Large Flying Duck Orchid)
Leo Davis

When approaching an iconic orchid like a flying duck orchid the obvious imperative is to emphasise the flying duck image. But as much fun as that can be, we can find and record some other significant aspects of this species.  Do remember to look at all orchid flowers, with or without your camera, from different directions. And don’t forget the leaves.

In the last flowering season at Knott Hill NFR (Oct-Dec 2015) I photographed a double flowered large flying duck (Caleana major) on November 14.  At the bottom of the upper left hand side flower you can see a white stigma (♀ part), sitting at the base of the bowl shaped column. The sticky surface of the stigma is ready to trap a pollinium (a sack of pollen grains), if the correct pollinator arrives, with a pollinium attached. Immediately below is a three lobed the triangular yellow pollinium packet (♂ part), as yet not taken by a pollinator.  The highly sensitive mobile duck shaped labellum, a modified petal, looms above, waiting to slam a visiting insect down onto the pollinium, so attaching it to the back of the insect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) – note the location of the stigma and pollinium

On December 10 I found the same plant, and one adjacent, in FRUIT. This is not often observed in South Australia and it has been suggested that the specific pollinator may be thin on the ground.  I photographed both plants but that of the more advanced plant (shown), with fully withered flowers and plump developing ovaries, interested me more, because it suggested progress towards production of viable seed.

Caleana major fruiting body

Success – Caleana major Fruiting Bodies

I went back on March 9, this year, and was delighted to find and photograph the fruit that had ripened, dried and split, so releasing the dust like seed.  I was prepared for disappointment because the fate of seed pods of many orchid species is to be eaten.  For example for the hyacinth orchid (Dipodiun roseum), across both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 flowering seasons, at Knott Hill, all plants that I found had their seed pods consumed. Kangaroos?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dehiscent (splitting of the seed pod to allow dispersal of the seed) Caleana major

Robert Brown established the genus Caleana based upon his description of a specimen of Caleana major (1810).  The type specimen was collected in 1803, at Bennilong Point, the site of the Opera House, so the species is extinct at that site now, of course.

 

February 2016 Winning Photograph

1602 sm PM Caleana major

For our first competition of the year we had five photographs – three of flowers and two of participants on a field trip.  The species represented were David Mangelsdorf’s Calochilus robertsonii (Southern Bearded Orchid); Robert Lawrence’s Pheladenia deformis (Blue Bearded Orchid) and Pauline Meyer’s Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) which was the winning photograph.

There is no doubt that the Duck Orchids are very photogenic and that people want to see and photograph them.  When seen the for the first time their small size surprises most.  The flower is no bigger than a thumbnail, perched atop a spindly stalk that may only reach 50cms (20 inches).

Although the rusty red colour of the flower is quite exquisite, this means that it blends in with the surrounding leaf litter and scrub and is not easily spotted.

As species of Heathy Woodlands, in South Australia, it is often found growing in sparse colonies near the base of trees.  Other plants associated with them are banksias, eg Banksia ornata, Eucalyptus baxteri and bracken.  The soil is sandy, often from leached acidic dunes, or gravelly.

Reference:

2008 Department for Environment and Heritage Electronic Flora of South Australia species Fact Sheet: Caleana major R.Br. Available from pa-fact-pafactcaleanamajor.pdf

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

Australia’s Most Popular Orchid?

Australia has some of the most varied, if not the most varied, terrestrial orchids.  This variety is reflected in the words used in their commons names – spiders, hoods, moose, cowslip, mosquito, comb, fingers, fairies, bearded, ant, bird, frog, helmet, midge, shell, donkey, bulldogs, parsons, bunnies, daddy long-legs, hare, rabbit, onion, leek, gremlin, duck.  This list is from words used for describing just the South Australian orchids.  The other states particularly Western Australia have even more common descriptive names!

With such a variety is there a favourite one?  From the searches and questions that come to this site, it would have to be the Flying Duck Orchid.  This orchid never fails to amaze people with its resemblance to a duck in full flight.

It was no surprise than to discover that the winner for the Australian Orchid Foundation 2014 Essay titled Our Favourite Orchid featured the Flying Duck Orchid.

The essay began “It all started with the arrival of an email ……. click here to continue reading

And just a reminder, it is only ever found in the wild.  No-one has ever been able to grow one and it cannot be bought or sold!  But so that we can all enjoy them, here is a short video clip …..

caleana major

Ducks in full flight

11sm C major actual size

To get an idea of the size of this superb orchid, bring this image up to A4 paper size

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
 References:
  • 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.