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?
Claire Chesson on your most beautiful picture.
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
March 2016 Photographer: Judy Sara
April 2016 Photographer: Claire Chesson
May 2016 Photographer: Pauline Meyers
2016 June Photographer: Ros Miller
2016 July Photographer: Robert Lawrence
2016 September Photographer: Bevin Scholz
2016 October Photographer: Helen Lawrence
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.
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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 …..
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.
- 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