April 2018 Winning Photograph

1804 sm JF oligochaetochilus excelsus koongawa 2

Oligochaetochilus excelsus, an impressive name for the winning photo, taken by John Fennell. It was originally formally described and named Pterostylis excelsa by Mark Clement in 1986 from a specimen cultivated from a tuber taken from Eyre Peninsula. This was subsequently published in the fourth edition of Black’s Flora of South Australia. In the early 2000s, the genus Pterostylis was split into several different genera of which Oligochaetochilus was one.

Although not everyone accepted this change, it is helpful for understanding the characteristics of this group. They are found only in Australia and are primarily a semi-arid inland group, sometimes the only orchids to occur in a locality.

Bob Bates has documented some of the drought tolerant and drought avoidance features found in this group as follows.

Drought tolerance:

  • Large moisture-storing tubers, shallowly buried to take advantage of light rain.
  • Waxy leaves pressed flat to the soil thus avoiding water loss.
  • Fast growth, some species are able to flower on just two good rainfalls.
  • Leaves senesce (die off) before or soon after flowering begins; moisture and food from the leaves is then stored in the tuber and scape. Leaves are able to absorb moisture from dew.
  • Leaves also contain an anti-freeze and can tolerate black frosts.
  • Just one month after rain a replacement storage tuber is produced as large as the old.

Drought avoidance:

  • Plants favour damper microhabitats, growing at the base of larger rocks and in seepage zones or on the cooler damper south side of bushes.
  • Tubers of desert species do not usually germinate in drought years.
  • Leaf senesces (dies off) before hot weather meaning plants avoid moisture loss during flowering.
  • Plants cease respiration in long dry periods and resume after rain even up to three months later, staying green even in bone dry soil.
  • Leaves are pressed to the soil.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterostylis accessed 10 May 2018

Jessop, J. P. and Toelken, H. R. (eds) (1986). Flora of South Australia. 4th ed. Adelaide: Government Printers Adelaide.

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version. NOSSA

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Clarification of Pterostylis valida

Short Paper 3 Identity of Pterostylis valida (Orchidaceae) by Rudie Kuiter was published in June 2017. In this paper, Rudie has tackled the difficult group of Rustyhoods or Oliogochaetochilus (specifically Pterostylis valida) within the genus Pterostylis. Many of the different species occur in isolated pockets over a wide geographical range. Differences can be subtle but Rudie has sought to clarify the distinction between P. valida  and similar species. Click here read the complete paper.

A typical flower at the type-locality, green with the usual stripes on the transparent parts of the hood, cup-shaped synsepalum and dark labellum swellings. Opposite page Image of the original 1941 description page by Nicholls of Pterostylis valida as a variety of P. squamata. It was cropped with the deletion of the description of Caladenia hastata, the other species. 

A typical flower at the type-locality, green with the usual stripes on the transparent parts of the hood, cup-shaped synsepalum and dark labellum swellings. (Image from Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper)

 

Are there any orchids growing in the desert?

Think of deserts and the image is that of a bleak barren landscape with little to see but this is not so.  The conditions are harsh but there is a myriad, though not an abundance, of hardy fauna and flora if one but looks closely.

But concerning orchids – No orchids have been found in true deserts…..  They also appear to be absent from the arid mountains of the far north-west, or at least no-one has ever found orchids there.

Orchids need moisture and so they do not grow on unstable soils such as dry sand-hills, gibber plains or the many saline areas of the far north but on the desert fringes there are micro-climates where the moisture, humidity and soil structure is  just right (to quote Goldilocks) for orchids.  This micro-climate is created by [s]hrubland  [which] is … [an] … important dryland orchid habitat. Besides providing shade and shelter for the orchids, shrubs like the many species of wattles, Acacia and hop-bush Dodonea drop fine leaves which help to hold the soil together and slowly break down into humus rich with nutrient and water storing capability. These shrublands usually form in soils too dry or shallow for trees. Orchids of course have no need for deep soils as they are shallow rooted. 

Robert Bates Semi-arid Shrubland.jpg

Semi-arid Shrublands, Flinders Ranges

Of the five desert botanical regions, the Eastern region contains the most number of species with over a dozen species.

Botanical Regions Map

Colour added to indicate the desert regions (in red)

Orchids of the Eastern Region – this region is from the east of the Flinders Ranges to the New South Wales border and includes the Olary Spur and Lake Frome.

Arachnorchis toxochila – Dry Land Spider Orchid or Bow Lip Spider Orchid.
Corunastylis tepperi – Mallee Midge Orchid
Diplodium robustum – Common green shell-orchid.
Hymenochilus pagophilus – Mountain Shell-orchid
Microtis eremaea – Desert onion orchid
Microtis frutetorum – Common woodland onion orchid.
Oligochaetochilus bisetus species complex, Rusty rufous-hoods

Oligochaetochilus sp. Blue-bush Plain – Blue Bush rufous-hood (O. bisetus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Outback – Outback rufous-hood (O. bisetus complex)

Oligochaetochilus cobarensis – Little desert rufous-hood
Oligochaetochilus sp. Crossed Sepals Bibliando rufous-hood. (O. hamatus complex)
Oligochaetochilus sp. Bimbowrie Bimbowrie Rufoushood (O boormanii complex)
Oligochaetochilus linguus – Swept-back Rufoushood

Oligochaetochilus sp. Old Boolcoomatta Large-lip rufous-hood (O. linguus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Quartz – Quartz hill rufous-hood (O. linguus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Slender desert – Slender Desert rufous-hood (O excelusus complex)
Undescribed not within any other Oligochaetochilus complex

Oligochaetochilus sp. Canegrass – Desert Sand-hill Orchid.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Oratan Rock – Diminutive rufous-hood

Oligochaetochilus sp. ‘Mt Victoria Uranium Mine’ – Uranium rufous-hood

Prasophyllum odoratum – Scented Leek-orchid

Prasophyllum sp. Desert Desert Leek-orchid (P. odoratum complex)

The Gairdner-Torrens region includes, besides the salt lakes it is named after, the Gawler Ranges and the southern part of the Great Victoria Desert.  Though not as many species as the Eastern region, it contains some different species including a Sun Orchid.

Thelymitra megcalyptra

Thelymitra megcalyptra

Arachnorchis interanea – Inland Green-comb Spider Orchid
Arachnorchis toxochila – Dry Land Spider Orchid or Bow Lip Spider Orchid.
Hymenochilus pagophilus – Mountain Shell-orchid
Hymenochilus pisinnus – Tiny Shell-orchid
Jonesiopsis capillata – Pale Wispy Spider Orchid
Linguella sp. Hills nana – White haired little-greenhood.
Microtis eremaea – Desert onion orchid
Oligochaetochilus ovatus – Ovate Lip Rufoushood
Oligochaetochilus xerophilus – Desert rufous-hood
Prasophyllum sp. Desert Desert Leek-orchid (P. odoratum complex)
Thelymitra megcalyptra – Scented or Dryland Sun Orchid

Third of this group is the Nullabor region.  Consisting of flat treeless limestone plains, this area, surprisingly, has two species both of which have been found close to the coast.

Urochilus sanguineus – Maroon banded greenhood
Corunastylis sp. Intermediate – Halbury Midge Orchid (C. rufa complex)
Urochilus sanguineus

Urochilus sanguineus

The final two regions Lake Eyre and North-Western contain the vast expanses of desert of the far north of South Australia.  Definitely not a place to find orchids yet one specimen has been collected from each of these two regions.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Everard Range (L. Scott 173), Mimili Orchid (possibly O. woollsii complex) from North-Western Region.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Gammon Range (O excelusus complex) from the Lake Eyre region.

It is unusual to find orchids in the desert because they only grow when there have been good winter rains which isn’t very often.  But nevertheless, here in South Australia we have over 20 possible species – an astonishingly high number for such a harsh area!

Reference:

Bates R J ed, South Australia’s Native Orchids, 2011 Native Orchid Society of South Australia

Map adapted from Flora of South Australia, Fourth Edition, 1986

 

 

Orchids come in ‘under par’ at Grange Golf course

With the development of cities here in Australia, many of our orchids were lost as habitat was cleared and the newly arrived settlers built houses and reconstructed the gardens they knew from the Old World; but the odd pocket of native bushland has survived.  Cemeteries and golf courses have often been the only refuge for remnant bushland.  One such refuge has been The Pinery, Grange Golf Club, the only known location of Oligochaetochilus arenicola (syn. Pterostylis arenicola) on the Adelaide Plains.  In the National Parks and Wildlife Act, this orchid is scheduled as vulnerable. The Golf Club left this site intact and has been supportive of the conservation efforts of the Threatened Plant Action Group who in turn have received assistance from the Native Orchid Society of SA and the Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges.

Typical of the rufus hood this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum. Photographer: H Lawrence

Typical of the rufushoods, this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum.
Photographer: H Lawrence

Below is a media release from the Natural Resources, Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges

Orchids come in ‘under par’ at Grange Golf course

News release
30 September 2015

A tiny remnant population of rare orchids which survives in a patch of bush on Grange Golf Course has increased 50% since last year, according to a new survey.

The survey conducted this month found 1200 individuals of the Sandhill Greenhood Orchid (Pterostyllis arenicola), a nationally threatened species which is considered critically endangered in the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges region.

When surveys began 20 years ago, only about 100 plants survived at this site. But the latest survey has revealed the population is steadily increasing

The orchid comeback is thanks to decades of care by four groups involved with the annual survey: the Threatened Plant Action Group, the Native Orchid Society of SA, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges, and with support from the Grange Golf Club.

The tiny fragment of native pine bushland in the middle of Grange Golf Course is one of the only known locations of this species within the entire Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges region, with other small populations known from near Wellington and Tailem Bend.

The orchid grows 10cm-25 cm high and produces hood-shaped flowers that are green and brown or red-brown with white markings. Most species of orchid flower for only a short period and for the Sandhill Greenhood, it will flower only for the next few weeks.

Grange Golf Course just happens to provide ideal conditions for the plant: red sandy soils and an over-story of native cypress pine trees.

Dedicated project partners have tackled the main threat to orchids – suffocation by Perennial Veldt Grass and Soursob weeds – through years of patient hand weeding.

The orchid comeback is a great success story of collaboration across the community to save one of our state’s tiny floral gems.

As a demonstration of nature’s interdependence, conserving the Sandhill Greenhood also means conserving a particular mycorrhizal fungus that must be in the soil for Sandhill Greenhood seeds to germinate. In addition, the flowers must be pollinated by a particular type of insect, the fungus gnat. The gnat is attracted by the orchid’s pheromones and tries to mate with the flower, only to find itself loaded up with a packet of pollen which it then transfers to the next flower as it continues its romantic adventures.

While the survey results are good news, the Sandhill Greenhood population is still precariously small, and it is hoped that as the population grows, so do the options to secure the species into the future.

South Australia has over 260 species of orchids, including 50 species of greenhood.

For a free colourful field guide to local orchids, go to http://www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/adelaidemtloftyranges/home and search for ‘orchid’.

Moving Labellums

The following article titled Moving Lablellums written by Helen Lawrence is reproduced from the NOSSA Journal Volume 36 (1) February 2012

Labellums are fascinating. Well I think they are fascinating, especially the ones that move.

Bunochilus viriosus labellum down

Bunochilus viriosus with the labellum down

Why do these labellum move? You may have observed that the orchids which have labellums often have “hoods” and inside these “hoods” are the pollen. It is quite simple, the pollinator lands on the labellum, triggers it and is held captive by the labellum. As it struggles to free itself it pollinates the orchid. Clever, isn’t it?

Bunochilus viriosus labellum up

Bunochilus viriosus with the labellum up

So that these labellums can capture the insect they need to be sensitive. Consequently they can easily be “set off.” This can happen with of a gust of wind, or if the plant is in a pot, the labellum may trigger if the plant is moved/knocked.

It is easy to see these labellums as they move up into their “triggered position.” They move reasonably quickly, so the insect does not have time to respond.

However, how does the labellum return to its “normal” position? Does it slowly return to the position, or does it happen in a sudden movement in the same manner as when it is triggered?

One day when I was travelling in the car with a Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood), I observed something very interesting. When I looked at the flower, the labellum was up, but then when I looked at it a minute or two later, the labellum was down. The labellum had to move quickly. However was it the bumps in the road which caused it to move? I had to find out.

I devised an experiment to satisfy my curiosity, and find out what these fascinating labellums actually do.

First I had to find an orchid with a labellum that could be triggered. I ended up using an Oligochaetochhilus bisetus (Two-bristle Greenhood).

Oligochaetochilus arenicola

Oligochaetochilus arenicola

Second I had found a good camera that could take high definition video. I placed it on a “tripod” (a pile of books).

So I had set up my apparatus, set the camera rolling, triggered the labellum, and left the room.

So what happened?

For the first six minutes after I had triggered the flowers nothing happened. There was no movement that I could see.

In the next five minutes, the labellums of the two flowers slowly moved downwards until they were half way down.

After twelve minutes of the flower being triggered, the labellum returned rapidly to its original position. This final stage of the labellum moving lasted for less than five seconds, and appeared to move at the same speed as when it was triggered.

So it looks like the labellum returns to it normal position first moving slowly and then in a rapid final movement which returns the labellum to its original position.

Urochilus sanguineus

Urochilus sanguineus

If I thought it would be that simple, I was mistaken.

As I briefly looked through the fifty minute video I took, I came upon something that made no sense to me.

A minute after the labellum had returned to its resting position, one of the labellums suddenly returned to its “triggered” position. What’s more, there was nothing in the room to trigger the labellum: no wind, no insects, and no people. So what triggered the flower?

I do not know. Six minutes after the labellum was triggered it returned to its original position, and then two minutes later the other flower’s labellum moved into the triggered position. The first flower was triggered again for no apparent reason at all, four minutes after the second flower was triggered and still remained up.

Once the labellums returned to their original position, there was no more movement.

Maybe triggering the labellum causes a chain reaction. Maybe the labellums periodically “trigger themselves.” Well, I can’t give you any answers, all I can tell you is that it looks like this is an example of how we barely know anything about these wild gems. They are beautiful but bizarre and of course fascinating!

After 7 minutes, just before the labellum moved

After 7 minutes, just before the labellum moved

After 12 minutes, labellum about to fall

After 12 minutes, labellum about to fall

After 13 minutes, labellum in original position

After 13 minutes, labellum in original position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a 50 minute video is a bit long to watch, Helen has produced a four minute video, so watch and enjoy the music!

An Examination of Two Rufoushoods

This week’s post is taking a brief look at a paper by Noushka Reiter, Mark Clements and Kate Vlcek which appeared in Muelleria, Volume 31: 69 – 76, 2013.

Titled “An examination of Pterostylis xerophila (Orchidaceae) and the confirmation of P. lingua as a new species in Victoria” this paper seeks to ascertain whether the records collected are correctly identified, that there are differences between them both in morphology and associated vegetation.

Both P. xerophila and P. lingua are found in South Australia where they are known, respectively, by the synonyms Oligochaetochilus xerophilus and O. linguus. In fact the type specimen for O. xerophilus is from South Australia.

In the introduction, the authors give a detailed description of Oligochaetochilus otherwise known as the ‘rufa group’ which differs from Pterostylis, in the strict sense, in several features. Some of the main features of this group are:

  • Basal rosette of overlapping stemless leaves
  • Leaves senesced, withered and died, by flowering
  • Erect multi-flowered
  • Flowers
    • Lateral sepals
      • hang down
      • basal half joined
      • tips become long and threadlike
    • Labellum
      • is very mobile
      • has obvious long white hairs and often short hairs as well
Typical of the rufus hood this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum. Photographer: H Lawrence

Typical of the rufus hood, this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum.
Photographer: H Lawrence

Later in the articles, the differences between the two species are discussed. There is much of interest concerning the two species but one outcome of the research was to establish that P. lingua (O. linguus) had been incorrectly identified in the records and by correcting the names of the specimens the authors were able to confirm that it did occur in Victoria.

To find the answer to the authors other questions, read the paper

And for those that need a glossary of the terminology used, click here

For images of P. xerophila (O. xerophilus) click here

For images of P. lingua (O. linguus) click here