Discovering Ducks (Orchids that is)!

Each year the Australian Orchid Foundation has an orchid essay competition.  The topic for 2014 Essay Competition was Our Favourite Orchid.  The orchid featured, unsuprisingly, was the Flying Duck Orchid, Caleana major.  The authors were K Yin and Sau-wan Chan.  It is an interesting story and well worth the read of their discovering the delights of this unique Australian orchid.

It all started with the arrival of an email from Sau-wan’s sister who lives in Hong Kong with an article about the Flying Duck Orchid. The article contained lovely pictures of this orchid taken from different angles. It stated that this orchid from Down Under was as unique to the Australian flora as the kangaroo and platypus were to the Australian fauna. The orchid even had a stamp from Australian Post released in its honour! The email ended with the question asking us if we had seen the orchid. This really presented a serious challenge to us and we were both embarrassed and curious by this – embarrassed because of the fact that we had neither seen nor even heard of this orchid after having lived in Australia for nearly 40 years. We love the Australian bush and regard ourselves as having at least above average knowledge of Australian flora and fauna amongst our friends. … Read More

caleana major

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

References:
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].