September 2016 Winning Picture

Spring is here and it was reflected in the variety and large number of entries.  Lorraine Badger and Ros Miller entered Western Australian species – Caladenia x ericksoniae (Prisoner Orchid) and Paracaelana nigrita (Flying Duck Orchid) respectively.  The other six entries were all from South Australia, Diplodium robustum (Common Green Shell Orchid), Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) both from Jane Higgs, Greg Sara’s Oligochaetochilus sp (Rufoushood), Judy Sara’s Arachnorchis leptochila (Queen Spider Orchid), Claire Chesson’s Diuris behrii (Cowslip Orchid or Golden Moths) and the outstanding winning picture Pterostylis cucullata by Bevin Scholz.


In many ways, Bevin’s picture of P. cucullata (Leafy Greenhood) is a special picture because it represents some of the conservation work with which NOSSA is involved. For many years NOSSA has worked with the Threatened Plant Action Group (TPAG) to weed the areas in Belair where this species is located and to see such a good show of plants is encouraging.  It is a tribute to all who have contributed with their time and labour.

P. cucullata is rated Vulnerable both in South Australia and Victoria, and Endangered in Tasmania. It is also rated Vulnerable under the EPBC Act (Federal). Nationally it is known from about 110 sites with most of these sites being in Victoria and only a few sites in South Australia with Belair National Park having the largest and most important population for the state.

Historically this species covered an area of 2107 km2 in the Lofty Block region but that has now contracted by 82% to only 366 km2 with few locations. With such a reduced range, recovery plans were developed, both at state and federal level.  The plans examined the risks and threats to the survival of the different populations.

One of the threats to this orchid is fire, including proscribed burns.  Unlike some species such as Pyrorchis nigricans, Leptoceras menziesii or Prasophyllum elatum which flower well after fire, P. cucullata is fire sensitive; populations decline substantially.  There does not seem to be a safe time to burn for this species.  Should a population survive a burn, it would take it many years to recover.

Fire also leaves the population vulnerable to another threat, that of weed invasion.  Unfortunately, it is weedy where this species survives but over the years, a consistent, targeted weeding program has resulted in a declining weed population.  NOSSA and TPAG have appreciated the work and effort of volunteers and gladly welcome anyone else who would like to join. And one of the rewards? A beautiful, sunlit display of flowers as seen in Bevin’s picture.


Duncan, M. (2010). National Recovery Plan for the Leafy Greenhood Pterostylis cucullata. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria


Quarmby, J.P. (2010) Recovery Plan for Twelve Threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region of South Australia 2010. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, South Australia


2015 June Winning Photograph

06 sm PM Arachnorchis argocallaOf the five entries this month, four featured winter orchids. Lorraine Badger entered a Diplodium robustum, whilst Claire Chesson, Robert and Rosalie Lawrence all entered Urochilus sangineus. Though not the winning photographs it was interesting to see the differences between the U. sangineus with one being no taller than the small Acianthus pusillus next to it and another being taller than the rapier sedge.

But the winning photograph was the spring flowering Arachnorchis argocalla (White Beauty Spider Orchid) by Pauline Meyers. This is amongst our most threatened orchids and is dealt with in depth in the Recovery Plan For Twelve Threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region of South Australia 2010. This fungi dependent endemic orchid is rated Endangered both at State and National level.

Found in the Southern and Northern Lofty regions, it range has been severely reduced by possibly 80%. Since 1918 no plant has been found south of Adelaide.

Flowering from September to October, it is often found in grassy woodlands often growing on gentle southerly-facing hill slopes. The soil is a clay loam with a high humus content.

This beautiful orchid has one to two non-perfumed white flowers with thickened but not clubbed drooping lateral sepals and petals. The strongly recurved broad labellum is usually white, sometimes crimson, fringed with short teeth.

This is one of our larger spider orchids reaching a height of 60cms. The size of the plant flower and leaf help to distinguish it from other similar appearing orchids such as A. brumalis and albino flowers of A. behrii.

Like many of the spider orchids it takes 2 – 5 years to reach maturity and then has a potential reproductive life of 10 years. With an average pollination rate of less than 10%, the potential to increase the population is low and any threat to survival of the individual plants needs to taken seriously.

Some threats are obvious such as weed invasion including the garden escapees such as Topped lavender (Lavandula stoechas spp. stoechas) and action is being taken to curb the spread of weeds through targeted weeding programs.

Another threat is habitat loss. This has been the result of land clearing but sites are being protected either through conservation legislation or Heritage Agreements. Habitat loss can also occur indirectly and that is through Phytophthora being introduced into the sites. Although the direct effect of Phytophtora on the orchid is unknown, it is known that it can affect the plants that grow in association with this orchid. This threat can be reduced by all of us implementing good hygiene practices.

These were some of the threats noted in the Recovery Plan. This plan was not just defensive, ie attempt to halt and minimalize the damage; but it was also proactive with measures outlined to increase the population. These included seed and fungi collection eventually resulting in germination and cultivation with a view to re-introduction.

It is good to see that there is a plan and active steps are being taken to bring this orchid back from threat of extinction.

June 2015 other entrants

Photographers from L to R: Claire Chesson, Rosalie Lawrence, Lorraine Badger, Robert Lawrence


Websites accessed 1 July 2015

White Beauty Spider Orchid (Caladenia argocalla) Recovery Plan
Caladenia argocalla – White-beauty spider-orchid, biodiversity species Profile and Threats Database
Recovery Plan For twelve threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region of South Australia

Bates R J, South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011 DVD

Greenhood Pollination Strategy

Since orchids, and Australian orchids in particular, first came to the attention of the western world in the 1800s researchers have been fascinated by the so many different aspects of the orchid’s morphology and life cycle. One area of interest has been that of how orchids are pollinated. The mechanism of pollination has not always been clear as the orchids seem to use different and complex methods.  From time to time various papers have been published of observations by researchers.

One such paper was published in the Annals of Botany 113: 629 – 641, 2014 titled ‘Caught in the act: pollination of sexually deceptive trap-flowers by fungus gnats in Pterostylis (Orchidaceae)’ by R D Phillips, D Scaccabarozzi, B A Retter, C Hayes, G Brown, K W Dixon and R Peakall.

The ‘question and answer’ style of the paper helps with ease of reading and is worthwhile perusing, even for the lay person. The accompanying VIDEO is also of interest.

The essence of the paper was to establish whether sexual deception was used to facilitate pollination.  The species researched was Pterostylis sanguinea (syn. Urochilus sanguineus) and the researchers confirmed that this did happen.  Their research showed that the attraction for the insect came only from the labellum which exuded an alluring chemical.  P. sanguinea has a mobile hinged labellum which is a feature of other sexually deceptive orchids such Paracaleana, Caleana, Arachnorchis.

Urochilus sanguineus RWL

Pterostylis sanguinea syn. Urochilus sanguineus with the untriggered labellum

Urochilus sanguineus RWL(1)

Pterostylis sanginea syn. Urochilus sangineus with a side view of the labellum


2014 November Photograph Competition Part 2

Part Two of the November competition consisted of photographs of insects on orchids. There was quite a range of insects but the winner was a draw between Cyrtostylis robusta (Winter Gnat Orchid) with an ant and Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood) with a midge fly; both taken by Doug Castle.

With today’s technology it is not only easier to take crisp images but fine details can be seen particularly when enlarging the image. Hence when the pictures are enlarged it is possible to see hairs on the ant and feathered antennae on the midge fly.

With identifying orchids, it is often the detail that is important. Both of these orchids are distinctive and can be readily identified but it is good to examine why this is the case.

Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood)

Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood)

With the greenhood, there is enough detail to see that the dorsal sepal and lateral petals have united to form a galea, ie hood, and that the lateral sepals are semi-fused and erect resulting in lateral orifices (side gap) between the two structures. These are some of the features that separate Pterostylis* from the other greenhoods such as Diplodium, Speculantha and Taurantha. This becomes apparent when browsing through the greenhood photographs, pages 286 to 339, in Jones “A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia”. Having established that the plant is a Pterostylis, the twisted labellum is diagnostic of a P. curta as it is the only one that is described with a twisted labellum. Although not all the identifying features are present, enough information is available in this picture for identification.

In contrast the photograph of the Cyrtostylis robusta only has sufficient data to confidently identify it as a Cyrtostylis species, having a distinctive labellum that is larger than the lateral sepals and petals. In South Australia there are only two species and according to Bates (2011), the distinguishing features between the two

Cyrtostylis robusta (Winter Gnat Orchid)

Cyrtostylis robusta (Winter Gnat Orchid)

appear to be the leaf, the bud and the labellum. In this picture, the angle of the image does not give a clear view of the labellum (it could possibly be damaged) and of course there is no bud or leaf. It is possible that the pale edges of the dorsal sepal may give a clue to species identification as C. reniformis has mainly darker buds than C. robusta. Obviously Doug was able to identify it from his observations of the other features not present in this photograph.

In summary, one image is not always sufficient for identification. As was discussed on the night, to confirm identification, orchids should always be photographed from more than one angle, including pictures of other parts of the plant.

*In South Australia, Pterostylis foliata is a possible exception as it has no obvious lateral orifice.


Jones, D.L., T. Hopley, S.M. Duffy, K.J. Richards, M.A. Clements & X. Zhang (2006) Australian orchid genera. An information and identification system. CSIRO Publishing: Collingwood, Vic.

Bates, R.J. (2011) South Australia’s Native Orchids. DVD-ROM. Native Orchid Society of South Australia Inc.: Adelaide.

Jones, D.L. (2006) A complete guide to native orchids of Australia, including the island territories. New Holland Publishers: Sydney.