As part of 40th NOSSA anniversary, the theme for this month was Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid or Rabbit Ears). Entries were received from John Badger, Pauline Meyers, Robert and Rosalie Lawrence, with John Badger’s being declared the winner.
In February 1978, it was announced that the nascent NOSSA society required an emblem. Members were invited to send in drawings, to be judged by members and then ratified by the committee. Mrs Chris Butler (Ron Robjohns’ daughter) was the winner. The first Leptoceras menziesii flowers to be benched at a NOSSA meeting were in September 1978. It appears to be an easy plant to grow but a most difficult one to flower.
This seems to be because it is fire dependent. In spring, it will flower profusely if there has been a summer fire such as occurred after the 2015 Sampson Flat (SA) fires. It is possible that the gas ethylene produced during a fire event may initiate the flowering response.
Otherwise, apart from the occasional flowering plant, it will be mainly leaves that are found when out in the field. The single leaf of this plant lying prostrate along the ground is distinctive. It is firm, boat-shaped, glabrous (no hairs), with a fine ‘snake-skin’ pattern. Interestingly, sterile plants can be mistaken for a plant with a developing bud as there will be at the leaf base a ligule (a thin membranous growth, often found on grass stems).
Backhouse, G, et al (2016) Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria Electronic version
Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA
QUESTION: Are there more than one species called Hare Orchid? This one [Leporella fimbriata] looks different from Leptoceras…? Why are they in different genera?
Originally they were described the genus Caladenia but as the knowledge information increased other genera were created. Thus Leporellafimbriata was put into Eriochilus, as Eriochilusfimbriatus (1882), then Leptocerasfimbriata and finally into its own genus Leporella (A S George 1971). Caladeniamenziesii became Leptoceras menziesii.
This does not answer the why of the question which is about classification but Jones (2006) is helpful when he says:
“Plant classification systems rely on interpreting and measuring the features in one group of plants and comparing these with another group, either seeking difference or similarities. Studies in orchids are usually biased heavily towards features of floral morphology but recent studies have revealed the importance of vegetative features in the roots, stems and leaves. The most successful classification system is one that is balanced and based on a wide range of vegetative and floral features.” To add to this list is the molecular studies being done on orchids.
This means the authors advocating change need to clearly show why a name change and/or a new species is warranted.
For instance, Fitzgerald gives the following reason for not including Leporella fimbriata in the Caladenia genus
“Leaves much more frequently observed than flowers. It is with great reluctance I depart from the naming in ‘Flora Australiensis’ [author Bentham, 1863 – 1878], but I cannot concur with the inclusion of this with Caladenia, and have place it in Lindleys’ Leptoceras for the following reasons: Leaf or leaves not those of Caladenia. In Caladenia I have never seen more than one leaf, always thin and usually hairy; in this plant leaf thick, hard and shining, occasionally two. In Caladenia tubers are generally numerous, in L. fimbriata I have only observed one. The labellum, is without the characteristic glans and is not of the form obtaining in Caladenia, the stigma is very different in form being triangular and deep sunk, the upper parts overhanging, not oval and shallow; and the flowers have the peculiarity of drying and continuing in a state hardly to be distinguished from the fresh flowers long after the seed has been shed. It approaches C. menziesii only (so far as I can see) in having erect linear-clavate petals, in which C. menziesii is itself peculiar, L. firmbriata seems to come near to Eriochilus than to Caladenia but differs from it again” Quoted from Emily Pelloe Western Australian Orchids 1930
Concerning Leptoceras menziesii, Bates & Weber have made the following statement:
“True Caladenias have hairy scapes and hairy leaves. (C. menziesii now believed to belong to a separate genus is glabrous)”.
Even though they are not Caladenia, why not have them in the same genus for both have glabous (without hairs) leaves, more leaves than flowers, erect spathulate (spoon shaped) glandular petals, colony forming, similar distribution.
There are similarities. In fact, Bates (2011) calls them sister genera but despite the similarities there are enough differences to recognise them at genus level at present including “different flowering times, different mycorrhizal fungi associations and different pollination” some of which are detailed in the chart below.
Winged male ants (Myrmecia urens)
Myrmecophyte – lives in mutualistic association with colony of ants
Curved white with red stripes
Wider than longer, purple and green
Has no calli
Spring (September to November)
Autumn (March to May)
Shaded sites – moist gullies; scrub, heath, woodland and foret
Orchids are found in a wide range of habitats. One such habitat is the littoral zone or more simply the seaside. The following information is taken from the NOSSA’s CD/DVD South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011.
The Littoral Zone
Many orchid species have a linear distribution following the coastline. Here on the leeward side of sandhills the air is usually moist and mild, few frosts occur so close to the sea and sea-fogs in winter will cause water to drip into the sand which easily soaks up both the moisture and the extra nutrients provided by sea-spray. Some of the best known coastal orchids include the gnats Cyrtostylis robusta, pink fairies Caladenia latifolia, coast onion-orchids, Microtis arenaria and coastal helmet orchids Corysanthes expansa as well as C. despectans. All of these are colony forming species, mostly because the windblown sand would soon cover ‘single plant’ species which start to appear after the second line of dunes.
Coastal species can be a few kilometres from the sea but there are several that grow either at the high tide mark, within sight or sound of the sea or in coastal dunes. Apart from the ones already mentioned above, the following are some others that can potentially be found within sight and sound of the sea.
Some native terrestrial orchids only flower in the season after a bushfire. They are stimulated by the hot gases given off during the fire. One of those gases is ethylene. Bananas are shipped down from Queensland to the southern states of Australia as green bananas to stop fruit fly outbreaks. On arrival they are put in sealed rooms and exposed to ethylene gas. The bananas ripen a few days later. Traces of ethylene remain in the banana skin. Overripe fruit also emits ethylene gas. Orchid flowers do not last long if ethylene is present in a closed glasshouse.
We know that dormant tubers exposed to ethylene often flower the next season. The best example is the Hare orchid Leptoceras menziesii. In summer I put dormant tubers in a small dish in a plastic bag with a banana skin and seal the bag with a rubber band. The skin may go mouldy so should not touch the tubers. I leave the bag inside my shed for about 2 weeks then remove the tubers and pot them up. The exposed plants make leaves almost twice as large as normal tuber leaves. This procedure should not be carried out with the same plants the following year as they may get exhausted and die out. I have found results with other shy flowering species are not so reliable. Maybe they need a stronger does of ethylene.
A British navy surgeon who circumnavigated the globe from west to east with Captain George Vancouver, in the tumultuous voyage of 1791 to 1974, explored extensively in south-west Western Australia, and was later president of the Linnean Society of London; his name is recorded in the names of banksias (including the firewood Banksia [Banksia menziesii]), orchids and mosses of the King George Sound hinterland which record his service to Australian botany.