Where Have All the Growers Gone?


The following article is the longer version of the summary that will appear in the September 2021 NOSSA Journal. John Eaton, the NOSSA Speaker Co-ordinaor, has written passionately on his summary of Les Nesbitt’s talk given at the August General meeting. He completes his summary with an echo of Les’ appeal for the next generation of orchid growers whose expertise is so necessary for the continuting conservation of our unique orchids.


In one of NOSSA’s most significant and challenging meetings for many years, members were treated to a talk by our Patron, Les Nesbitt – whimsically titled – “Where have all the Growers Gone?” – after the 1955 Pete Seeger song-lament. Les integrated our NOSSA history into his talk.

Les was a founding member of NOSSA which was formed on 22nd March, 1977 – 44 years ago, with 44 very keen members. NOSSA membership had grown to 100 members by the year’s end.

The fledgling Native Orchid Society of SA first met at “Goody Tech” alias Goodwood Boys Technical High School. From then on – it was “All Go!” in those early years.

NOSSA’s second meeting soon saw the formation of the Seed Bank where new members were given Ptst. curta tubers from Roy Hargreave’s wash trough.

Our first three orchid displays – between 1978-1980 – were held in conjunction with the South Coast Orchid Club at Marion. The first (judged) NOSSA Show was held in 1981 – in the Supper Room at the September monthly meeting. By the following year (1982) it had expanded into the first NOSSA Public Show –held at The Orphanage, Goodwood.

The aims of the Public Show were four-fold

  • To educate the public
  • To raise Society funds
  • To exhibit members plants
  • To obtain new members

Over one thousand people attended this first public show! – almost ten times the number we would expect nowadays.

In 1983, these NOSSA Public Orchid Shows moved to The St Peters Town Hall where they remained for many years until the venue became too expensive.

Native Orchid “Rescue Digs” to preserve native orchid species threatened by development, occurred throughout the 80’s & 90’s. Les regarded these as the “golden years” for Native Orchid growers which continued until 1996 – the year that NOSSA sponsored the Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS) Conference at Flinders University.

Thereafter the Shows were transferred to St Bernadette’s where they remained until 2019. Les then presented some pictures of these Native Orchid exhibits and pots from previous years and from the SAROC Fairs of 2017-2019 and 2021.

Les outlined NOSSA’s many efforts to create a new cohort of growers amongst members. Early members were growers, exhibitors, bushwalkers & photographers. However our current membership seems less interested in growing and exhibiting, preferring to focus instead on recording native orchids in the field – during bushwalking.

Les stressed the importance of growing in the preservation of indigenous native orchid species, especially as we face climate change. He then threw members a challenge, stressing the importance of growing native orchids to ensure their preservation in the hard years ahead – for all things green!

To support would-be growers, he referred members to some valuable references – such as NOSSA’s Green 1985 handbook: “Native Orchids of South Australia” – an invaluable guide to members interested in growing Native Orchids. There are also numerous articles on orchid culture in the early NOSSA Journals.

Lamentably, the emphasis nowadays is more on photographing and recording terrestrial native orchids in the field.

Les also mentioned the Tuber Bank, successfully run by Jane Higgs until severe frosts killed her orchids. Sadly, there are no members prepared to organise it now.

Les also mentioned other significant initiatives such as the New Members’ Group that met before General meetings, the 2016 “Flagship Orchids” 1-day orchid workshop initiative of the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators – in creating orchid-enhanced habitats.

Les also mentioned the $2.00 seedling plant-growing competitions with annual recalls until the first plant flowerings and the 2016 and 2017 Seed kits for the culture of – (mycorrhizal) fungus-dependent terrestrial orchids. These included detailed growing instructions –still available to those willing to “give growing a go!”

Notwithstanding the Covid-19 challenges, there were the most recent propagation initiatives of 2020-2021.

In a recent talk, Robert Lawrence has described the importance of indigenous native orchids as an indicator species of a healthy bushland. If we don’t respond to the challenges Les has thrown out to our membership – it may be a matter of “Where have all the orchids gone – long time passing”! There won’t be any orchids left for us to photograph. So it’s really up to us!

Who’s prepared to step up to the challenge?

I’m rapidly approaching 80! It’s too late for me to build space-demanding infrastructure such as a temperature-regulated shade-house/green-house and benching tables. But I do want to “step up to the plate” as a native orchid mini grower! I believe that the years ahead will be challenging ones for anything green, including me! Les reminded us that our common terrestrial are most at threat as the seedbanks of researchers tend to focus on the rare and endangered terrestrials.

Les’s talk has challenged me to establish a local (indigenous) terrestrial orchid presence in my native garden – where I’ve already got a burgeoning population of Microtis – dumped accidently in one of the loads of woodchips that replaced my lawn – 30 years ago. I’m hoping this indicates the presence of sufficient mycorrhizae to help me to establish some of the common greenhoods that Les said were most at threat from climate change. And hopefully, they will keep the microtis company! Dr Teresa Lebel, a speaker I’ve scheduled for March 22nd, 2022 is a fungi expert.

I hope Les’s talk – or if you missed it – this inadequate account of it – will challenge you, also – to become a mini-grower. As Henry Schoenheimer once said of our finite, depleting – and depleted – planet – in his book of the same name – “Small is Beautiful”!

John Eaton, NOSSA Speaker Coordinator, 28/08/2021

2021 June Talk – Photostacking Australian Orchids

For the June Native Orchid Society of South Australia’s meeting we were privelaged to have June Niejalke speak to our members about how to use photostacking when photographing our beautiful orchids.

Photographing our exquisite orchids is a challenge due to their size and the need to use macro. Sharp focus seems to elude many of us and for many years, we have admired her sharp images that has enabled us to see the hidden details of these tiny bush gems.

It was a pleasure to listen to her share her photographic methods. I hope you too find this video as helpful as those who were at the meeting found it.

2020 September Talk – Orchids and Fire

The Native Orchid Society is involved in many different activities, one of them being to assist researchers. In 2020, Covid 19 struck bringing many university projects to a halt. But in South Australia, NOSSA members were able to help PhD candidate Alex Thomsen, University of New South Wales, set up her project titled Impacts of Changing Fire Seasons on Orchids. The following video is her brief presentation of her planned research that she gave to the general membership at the September meeting.

Orchid Code of Ethics or How I can conserve our native orchids

So many of us are interested in preserving our native flora and fauna, and for NOSSA it is the native orchids. But many of us may not be aware of how we can play a significant role in minimising our impact upon the environment so that they are still around for our children and grandchildren

The following video is a brief overview of two documents that NOSSA has produced. They are guidelines to help individuals know how they can minimalize their impact on the environment and so assist in the conservation of our beautiful and unique native orchids.

Below are the links to the documents referred to in the video:

Code of Ethics – Sensitive Sites 2 page
Code of Ethics – Sensitive Sites 3 page
Code of Ethics – Photography

Ethical Nature Photography in Tasmania

Australian Orchids: Their Role in Human Lives

In July, NOSSA resumed face to face meetings but with an innovation. We introduced Zoom meeting as part of our face to face meeting. We are hoping that this will allow more members to become involve with the meetings.

Our first speaker, Greg Steenbeeke, spoke to the meeting from Sydney; and we had another member joining in from Victoria. Greg kindly allowed us to record his talk which is available for all to hear.

Australian Orchids: Their Role in Human Lives
Speaker: Greg Steenbeeke

Anyone wanting to join our General Meeting, please contact the treasurer via email – nossa.treasurer@gmail.com

Petalochilus – when use of a segregate or common name is helpful

The following article is from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal Volume 44 No 7, author Rosalie Lawrence.

Over the years there have been many orchid name changes (particularly at genus level), some quite drastic, some multiple times and for many there can be a reversion back. Yes, this creates confusion but there are times when some of these name changes, known as segregates (both at species and genus level) can be useful.

Caladenia carnea (synonym Petalochilus carneus) Photographer Lindsay Ames

A case in point, is Lindsay Ames’ winning photograph (June) – Caladenia carnea synonym Petalochilus carneus. Petalochilus was proposed as a genus in 2001 by DL Jones, MA Clements, et al. It was one of many proposed genera changes. Many discussion papers followed but in 2015 after further taxonomic and DNA work, Mark Clements et al published a paper that “points to Lindley’s 1840 interpretation of Caladenia (…..) as being the most accurate reflection of the group.” Hence the discontinued use of Petalochilus and the other segregate genera.

So, it currently belongs with Caladenia, a large genus with over 350 species (mainly in Australia). It is a genus with great morphological (visual) diversity – compare Caladenia tentaculata with C. cucullata or C. flava. But Caladenia
subgenera Caladenia (synonym Petalochilus*), as a much smaller segregate genus allows us to visualize a specific group within the Caladenia genus.

Caladenia flava Photographer Pauline Meyer

Caladenia sens. lat. are characterised by single hairy leaf, lacking lobes or serrations; hairy stem; showy flowers with similar sepals & petals. The labellum is highly modified consisting of three lobes with calli on the middle lobe.

Caladenia tentaculata (synonym Arachnorchis tentaculata) Photographer Jane Higgs

Petalochilus is further characterised by small (1 – 5 cm) pink to white flowers,
short broad forward projecting tepals; erect to slightly incurved dorsal sepal,
distinct trilobe labellum, hinged, with calli and red transverse bars, column
green to pink with red to purple bars.

Caladenia carnea (synonym Petalochilus carneus) Photographer: Rob Pauley

Yet within Petalochilus itself there can be further groupings of which P carneus is most likely the main one. This consists of at least 8 species – P carneus (C carnea), P catenatus (C catenata), P coactilis (C coactilis), P fuscatus (C fuscata), P ornatus (C ornata), P prolatus (C prolata) , P. vulgaris (C vulgaris) and P xantholeucus (C xantholeuca). When a specimen cannot be identified to species level, it may be helpful to refer to it as a complex.

This is where comes the fun of trying to identify the specific species in the field (or for that matter from a photograph). To help myself understand, I often produce comparison charts based on descriptions found in the literature. The chart comparing the eight species is available as a pdf.

Caladenia prolata (Petalochilus prolatus) Photographer: Helen Lawrence

*Throughout the article the synonym Petalochilus is used for Caladenia subgenera Caladenia to make a clear distinction from Caladenia sens lat. It needs
to be noted C carnea is considered the type specimen for Caladenia so with any splits, it will remain in Caladenia.

References

Backhouse G et al,Bush Gems: a guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria 2016
Bates R B South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011
Clements MA, et al, Caladenia Revisited: Results of Molecular Phylogenetic Analyses of Caladeniinae Plastid and Nuclear Loci 2015
Jones DJ, A Complete Guide to Australian Orchids including it Territories and Islands 2006
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caladenia Accessed 3 August 2020
https://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Petalochilus Accessed 3 August 2020

Thank you to Andrew Brown for reviewing this article.

NOSSA: The Doco

Last year, UniSA second year media students were required to produce a short documentary about a local organised. Three of their students, Vanessa Rossi, Tayla Elliot and Emma Sullivan, chose to produce a video about the work of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia. And for this we thank them. It was interesting working with them and they learnt a few things about our bush gems – namely that they are not big and showy!

Some adjustment needed to be made to the original video, but it is now available for viewing

South Australia’s Arachnorchis cardiochila

The following article, March Winning Photograph, is from Volume 44 no 4, May 2020 Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal.

Pauline Myers’ Arachnorchis cardiochila was the winning picture. Synonyms for Arachnorchis cardiochila are Caladenia cardiochila, Phlebochilus cardiochilus and Caladenia tessellata. Common names include Heart Lipped Spider Orchid, Thick Lipped Spider Orchid, Fleshy Lipped Caladenia.

This species was named in 1886 by Professor Tate who presented it at the Royal Society of South australia at the October meeting. He did the original drawing.

The type specimen was collected at Golden Grove on October 2 1886 but it had also been collected much earlier (1865) at Barraba Scrub which is in the region of Mallalla.

Its fate in both these areas has not been good; it is extinct in Golden Grove and critically endangered in the region containing Barabba Scrub. Although, it is considered to be a reasonably common orchid throughout its range in South Australia, Victoria and Southern New South Wales, there are areas of concern as seen the Seedbank of South Australia map below.

It should be noted that though Caladenia tessallata is listed as a synonym that this was used incorrectly, as C. tessallata is a separate but similar species found in the eastern states. Its main difference from C. cardiochila is that the edge of the labellum (lip) is toothed, not smooth as seen in Pauline’s photo.

Terrestrial Culture – December & January

The following two articles are from the December 2019 NOSSA Journal. Written by Les Nesbitt, they cover the months of December and January.

Terrestrial Culture – December

A few late orchids such as Diuris drummondii may still have green leaves and flowers so will need watering every couple of days. Most terrestrials will have died down by now on the Adelaide Plain. Watering consists of a quick squirt with the hose once a week to moisten the top 1 cm to prevent tubers shrivelling. A small terrestrial collection of pots can be moved to a cooler place out of direct sun under a bench or to the south side of the house. A large collection must stay on the benches so extra shadecloth is added for the summer.

Repotting is in full swing now. Keep a stock of the required materials on hand including sand, soil, native potting mix, clay, blood & bone, chopped sheoak needles, smashed and sieved gum leaves pots labels, shadecloth squares for crocking, pencils to write on plastic, sieve and bowl, watering can & shadehouse benching. A system for washing and sterilizing pots before reuse is essential to control disease and virus.

Pots dry out quickly in hot windy weather. Water a day or two before repotting so that the potting mix is just moist. If too dry dust will be a problem and tubers can be damaged by hard lumps of mix. Too wet and the mix sticks to the tubers and clogs the sieve. The ideal is a mix that is easy to work when separating wet pots take tubers from mix. It helps to move some pots under cover in case of rain. Wet pots take several days to dry out which can hold up repotting. Alternatively, a sheet of plastic over the pots when rain is forecast will shed the water but remember to weigh it down with bricks or it will blow away.

Pick out the tubers and put them in a kitchen sieve sitting in a container of water. Use a jet of water to wash the tubers clean and spread them on a towel to dry. Discard any tubers that are soft or have turned black. If the tubers are healthy, firm and a pale colour the mix can be reused. Colony type tubers should have at least doubled in number since last year. Add half fresh mix to the old mix and add a big pinch of blood & bone fertilizer. Should the old mix be dark in colour, or the tubers not be healthy looking then throw out the old mix and pot up in new mix.

Select the pot size, place a shadecloth square in the pot to retain the mix when it dries out. Fill the pot with mix to about 2cm from the top. Select the largest tubers for a show pot and push them into the mix with the shoot on top. The small tubers can be potted in another pot to grow bigger next year. Cover the tubers with more mix and almost fill the pot. Firm the mix down with your hand or use the bottom of an empty pot. Cover the surface with chopped sheoak needles. Write out a label with the name of the orchid and the provenance,
if known. On the back of the label note the number of tubers and the date planted. Water the pot gently so as to not disturb the needles. This helps settle the soil around the tubers and makes subsequent watering easier. Put the finished pots back in the shadehouse to await the next growing season.

Send off your tuber bank order before Christmas or you might miss out on your choices. The tuber bank is a great way to increase your terrestrial collection.*

*Tubers are sold only to financial members

Terrestrial Culture – January

Start watering the blue tag pots in January. Pots of orchids from the East Coast of Australia where it rains in Summer are given a blue tag as the culture is different compared to local terrestrial orchids. This early shooting group includes most cauline greenhoods, Pterostylis baptistii and Corybas hispidus. Local South Australian tubers can be kept completely dry until at least mid-February if pots are shaded.

When your tuber bank order arrives, pot up the tubers straight away. Plant each species in a separate 125mm or 150mm pot. Don’t forget to record the provenance name (if known) on the label and in your recording system. The
provenance is the location of the original collection. Provenance is important because in 10 years the orchid will possibly be extinct in that area as suburbia expands or weeds take over the habitat.

Summer watering is important. Too little and tubers may dry up. Too much and they may rot or come up early before the heat of summer is over when they will be attacked by thrip and aphids. A light sprinkle on top of the pots once a
week works OK.

Try to finish repotting this month. If left until February there is more chance of breaking off the new shoots which can be well developed by late February.

End with the Pods #1

In 2011, Robert Lawrence wrote a book titled Start with the Leaves, a beginners guide to orchids and lillies of the Adelaide Hills. Bob Bates, editor of South Australia’s Native Orchid 2011, suggested that the next title should be End with the Pods. Well another field guide has not been written but following Bob’s suggestion, it might be interesting to see how far one can go with orchid identification based upon the pods, or finished seed capsules.

As most of the orchids for the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula have finished, it might be worth a look at some capsules found this year and see how far we can go with identification.

Here is the first one:
These pictures were taken on a mobile phone on the 30th November, 2019 on the Fleurieu Peninsula. There were several plants with single pods scattered across the park. The stems were reasonably tall (est 30cm) and surprisingly easy to spot.

The habitat is open forest consisting of Eucalyptus leucoxylon (Blue Gum), E. baxteri (Brown Stringybark) and E. fasciculosa (Pink Gum).

Seed pod
Senensced leaf of the same plant above

Is there enough information to identify this plant to species level?
Comment on what you think it is and why.