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
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 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.
Department Of Environment And Heritage. 2008. Paracaleana minor: Small Duck-orchid. Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges South Australia: Threatened Species Profile, May 2008.