Corybas Pollinators

Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper 5, October 2017, is about he and his team’s observations on the pollination strategies of fungus-gnats with Corybas. A small section from the introduction is quoted below:

Certain flowers in large colonies were most popular over several days and both sexes were observed feeding on the boss, which suggests a food-related attraction. Virtually nothing was known about the Corybas pollinators and primary literature to date only offered hypotheses. Based on our findings, the persisting statement in literature that ‘Corybas species attract fungus-gnats as putative brood-sites’ is incorrect for the taxa in Victoria. No evidence of ovipositing in flowers was found. Females feeding looked gravid and were presumed to be unfertilised. All individuals looked fresh with undamaged wings and it was apparent they had recently hatched.

Is this a hypotheses that needs revising? Rudie definitely demonstrates the importance of careful and meticulous observations.

Click here to read the full article

Corysanthes diemenica 077

Corysanthes diemenica (Veined Helmet Orchid)

Advertisements

2017 August Winning Picture

The following article  appeared in the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal September 2017 Volume 41 Number 8. It is a longer and expanded version of the article as  George Bentham was one of most influential botanists of the 19th century making it difficult to summarize his life. Even this article barely scratches the surface of this most interesting man.

The theme for the August competition was Striped or Blotched orchids.

1708 JF Thelymitra benthamiana cr

Blotches or stripes, which one? An interesting collection was entered. Representing the stripes were John Fennell’s Dipodium pardalinum, Shane Grave’s Cyrtostylis robusta labellum, Helen Lawrence’s Thelymitra cyanea, Robert Lawrence’s Diplodium dolichochilum and Lorraine Badger’s T. campanulata. There were less blotches; Ricky Egel’s Diuris pardina and John Fennell’s T. benthamiana.

T. benthamiana (Leopard Sun Orchid) is a popular orchid to photograph and it is not surprising that it is again (see April 2016) a winner in our competition. It was named after the Englishman George Bentham (1800 – 1884) one of the foremost and influential systemic botanists of the 19th century. At about the age of 16 or 17 years he was introduced to botany, and despite training as a lawyer, he devoted his life to the study of botany.

Though never visiting Australia, he produced the world’s first completed continental flora, Flora Australiensis, a seven volume work produced over 15 years (1863 – 1878). As monumental as this was, at the same time he was working on his greatest work, co-authored with Joseph Dalton Hooker, Genera Plantarum (1862 – 1883) in which is introduced the Bentham & Hooker system of plant classification. This system is still in use by many herbaria around the world. It involved the study of actual plant specimens, a practice which Bentham used himself. For instance, in the production Flora Australiensis, he would examine, critique and describe over a 1,000 species each year.

This practice harkens back to his early days when in his Flora of the French Pyrenees (1826) he adopted the practice of citing nothing second-hand. He never deviated from this. It did help that he was able to read in fourteen modern European languages plus having a good command of Latin, the language used for many botanical writings. This enabled him to access original material which he did by visiting every European herbarium when preparing for his first major work Labiatarum Genera et Species (1832 – 1836).

A shy and unassuming man, Bentham had the respect of the botanical world as was reflected in the various awards he received. Described as a genius, [a man of] indefatigable industry, the premier systematic botanist, he considered himself an amateur botanist, never a professional, even though he donated his extensive collection of more than 1,000 specimens to Kew Gardens in 1854 where he worked full time until his death in 1884. Bentham lived in, and contributed to, the transitional period from the dominance of the gentleman botanist to the government being responsible for collections of national and scientific significance.

He was responsible for introducing into orchid taxonomy (1881) a new classification recognising Subtribes, which precedes Genus in the classification system; introduced the word ‘orchidologist’ to the world in his Notes on Orchideae, 1881. Although there is only one Australian orchid named after Bentham, he has a whole genus of 29 species named after him: Benthamia which is endemic to Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. Worldwide, Bentham was directly involved in naming over 200 orchid taxa.

Thanks to Greg Steenbeeke for critiquing this article.

Reference

N. T. Burbidge, ‘Bentham, George (1800–1884)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bentham-george-2979/text4345 , published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 29 August 2017.

George Bentham Retrieved August 31, 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bentham

The Taxonomy of the Orchidaceae Retrieved 31 August 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy_of_the_Orchidaceae

Bentham, George (DNB00). (2012, December 29). In Wikisource. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Bentham,_George_(DNB00)&oldid=4211195

Bentham and Hooker system of Classification. Accessed August 31, 2017 from http://vle.du.ac.in/mod/book/print.php?id=13270&chapterid=29150

Notes on Orchidaea (Journal of the Linnean Society)

English Oxford Living Dictionary. Accessed 31 August, 2017 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/orchidologist

 

Gleanings from the Journals: Dockrillia linguiformis 2006

This week’s blog is an extract from Volume 30 No 10 November 2006.  In this article of Len Field he gives not only cultural notes but also some interesting background including an orchid link with the infamous Captain Bligh.

Dockrillia linguiformis (Sw) 1800 Brieger

Dockrilla linguiformis

Dockrilla linguiformis

Len Field
Common names Thumbnail orchid, Tongue orchid, and in North Queensland the Tick
orchid.
The name linguiforme is from the Latin lingu(a
) as in linguiforme (a tongue). It was also claimed for many years that this was the orchid that Olaf Peter Swartz the German botanist founded the genus Dendrobium in 1800, but this was wrong, although this was the first orchid seen by white man when they landed at the rocks area in Sydney cove, Port Jackson.  It was introduced into England by Rear Admiral Bligh of Bounty fame.
Other names it has been called are
Dendrobium linguiforme var. linguiforme Swartze 1800
Callista linguiforme (Swartze) Rev. Kuntze 1891
Dendrobium linguiforme (Swartze) var. huntianum Rupp 1942
There was another variety named from this species called var. huntianum by Rupp in 1942, which was named after T.E. Hunt and is a June or July flower and found near Ipswitch (sic) in Queensland, but as it reverts to type form it never reached true variety status and was considered just a variation of the type form.
This orchid has a huge range of habitat which stretches from almost the Victorian border up to North Queensland and West to the Great Dividing Range. It is very common throughout this area and equally happy as an epiphyte or a lithophyte but where as a epiphyte it likes swamp oaks (
Casuarina glauca), river oaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana), in fact it will grow on most trees that will hold there bark including the tea trees (Leptospermum species).  I have seen this orchid hundreds of kilometres inland from the coast still forming large mats on the rock faces, while in its more prolific growing areas these mats will cover huge areas of the rocks where it can survive and grow in extreme exposed conditions that would kill other orchids. In the dry times the leaves which are very thick, tough and numerous will shrivel and can last up to six months without water. This is a feature of a lot of Australian Dendrobium and Dockrillia
Flowering is from August to October with blooms that are long lasting, up to two weeks with one raceme per leaf.
Culture. If grown on slabs which is the usual way it should be hung up high and if grown in pots a very coarse open mix. In nature it likes plenty of sunlight although at times it will grow in shade. Whichever way it is grown it should have good light, humidity and air movement.

Den linguiforme drawing

Dendrobium linguiforme


The Grace and Charm of Fitzgerald’s Orchids

Orchids have fascinated people over the generations.  Robert Fitzgerald was one of them.  He had a lasting influence upon Australian orchids.  This extract from the Brisbane Courier Saturday 27 September 1930 Page 20 gives a brief biography of him.  The author of the article is Estelle Thomson.

 

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Great Australian Botanists

III. – R. D. FITZGERALD

In 1830 Robert Desmond Fitzgerald was born at Tralee, in Ireland.  When he was a young man of about 26 he came to Sydney and entered the surveyor-General’s office as a draughtsman; he became Deputy Surveyor-General, and held that post till he retired in 1887 to devote the rest of his life to his great work, the study of Australian orchids.  He travelled all over the Commonwealth and made innumerable drawings and paintings of orchids.  He drew always from the living plant (rather an exception in his day when the dried specimen was often used, even when fresh plants were available), and his drawings have grace and charm and also an unmistakable individual style.

His work was published in several huge folio volumes, called “Australian Orchids,” and in these he figures and describes over 200 species.  As well as making the original drawing in colour, he made the lithographic plates for a number of the reproductions.

He kept no dried specimens, and so left no herbarium on his death (at Hunter’s Hill, Sydney, in 1892), and this is to be regretted, as he described and named a number of new species, and the type (the original specimen) not being available it is sometimes difficult to determine whether other specimens are true to this type, or variations, or actually different species.

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

 

June 2016 Winning Picture

1606 sm RM Caladenia cairnsiana

It is always good to see other members submitting images for the competition. This month Rob Soergel entered Urochilus sanguineus growing with Bunochilus viriosus and Ros Miller a Caladenia cairnsiana. Others were Rob and Jenny Pauley’s mass flowering of short Urochilus sanguineus, Pauline Meyers’ Arachnorchis cardiochila hybrid (possibly with A. strigosa) and Lorraine Badger’s Diuris corymbosa.

The winning picture taken by Ros Miller C. cairnsiana (Zebra Orchid) is one of Western Australia’s unique and interesting orchids. It was first collected by Baron Von Mueller (Victorian Government Botanist 1857–1873) from the Stirling Ranges and subsequently named in 1869 after the Rev Adam Cairns a Melbourne Presbyterian minister who promoted “various philanthropic studies”. In the 2000’s various synonyms were applied to the name, most notably Jonesiopsis cairnsiana (2003).

Many of the distinctive features of this species are readily seen in Ros’ picture – the non-clubbed, equidimensional short lateral sepals and petals which are hard pressed up against the ovary; the smooth, upswept labellum. What is not seen is the leaf which is erect large pale green with the bottom third usually irregularly blotched with red-purple.

Flowering from August to November, occasionally in clumps, these orchids are distributed over an extensive geographic area from Lancelin approximately 130 km north east of Perth, to Israelite Bay near Esperance some 775 km south east. They grow in a range of habitats from forests, woodlands, to mallee heathlands.

Interestingly for such a widespread and colourful flower, they are often missed being seen as they are ‘small and hard to see’.

References

Brown, A., et al,(2013) Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia. Perth, WA: Simon Neville Publications

Hanson, Kim (2016) WANOSCG Facebook conversation July 2016 https://www.facebook.com/groups/377740182396565/

http://www.orchidspecies.com/caladcairnsiana.htm accessed July 6 2016

http://members.iinet.net.au/~emntee/HISTORY_OF_ORCHID_COLLECTING.htm accessed July 6 2016

Archer, W http://esperancewildflowers.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/zebra-orchid-caladenia-cairnsiana.htm acc 12 July 2016

April 2016 Winning Picture Competition

1604 sm CC T benthamaniana

Thelymitra benthamiana; Photographer: Claire Chesson

Five entries were received, again spanning the country from east to west. John Badger entered a Chiloglottis reflexa recently photographed in Tasmania, Pauline Meyers an unidentified Western Australian Spider orchid, Judy Sara had two entries from the latest field trip, Eriochilus collinus (previously phrase name Adelaide Hills) and Leporella fimbriata and Claire Chesson’s Thelymitra benthamiana.

T. benthamiana, the winning picture, is a beautiful sun orchid that is found across the southern Australia from Western Australia through South Australia to Victoria and Flinders Island. More common in west than elsewhere it is the only one of the seven species in the T. fuscolutea complex to be found in the east.

It would appear that this complex has been a problematic as indicated by Jeanes (2006) in his article Resolution of the Thelymitra fuscolutea (Orchidaceae) complex of southern Australia published Muelleria; the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria research journal.

Since the early days confusion, which persisted into this millennium, has occurred. In 1871 Reichenbach recognised 3 species one of which was T benthamiana but Bentham after whom the orchid was named disagreed and consider it but a synonym of T. fuscolutea. There were many twists and turns in the names but in effect, for over a hundred years, most authors followed Bentham’s taxonomy rather than Reichenbach’s until 1989 when Mark Clements after studying the drawings, literature and orchid type material came to the same conclusion as Reichenbach that T. benthamiana was a distinct species from T. fuscolutea. Since then, authors have followed Reichenbach/Clements taxonomy.

Over the decades, the number of species in this complex varied considerably. By 1938 three separate species were recognised, but between then and 1989 it fluctuated between recognizing one, three and four species and in 1998 the orchidologist were considering a possible seven species.  These were all confirmed and named in Jeans’ 2006 paper. Today, according to Orchids of Western Australia there is potentially an eighth member in this group.

Jeanes highlights some of the issues involved in determining which species is which. Some of the issues are lack of accurate/detailed information such as location, type of terrain, habitat, surrounding plants, date of collection, etc. Dried specimens by themselves are inadequate as important features may be lost in the drying process.

This complex is but an example of a widespread problem across many of our Australian orchids indicating not only the need for careful observations in the field but meticulous record keeping that others can access.

References

Jeans J A, Resolution of the Thelymitra fuscolutea R. Br. (Orchidaceae) complex of southern Australia. Muelleria 24: 3-24 (2006)

Brown A, et al, Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia, 2013

Thank you to Juergen Kellermann, (senior botanist for the State Herbarium) for critiquing this article.

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 17 of 20

Hugo Flecker (1884 – 1957)

A pioneer Australian radiotherapist, radiologist, general medical practitioner and toxicologist of Cairns (Queensland) who dug his own radioactive ore at Radium Hill (South Australia), a medical graduate from the University of Sydney, and a natural historian; his life and works are commemorated by the Flecker Botanic Gardens in Cairns.

Orchids

Cestichis fleckeri (= Liparis fleckeri) Slender Sphinx Orchid

Thelychiton fleckeri (= Dendrobium fleckeri) Apricot Cane Orchid

Australian Orchids & the Doctors They Commemorate Part 16 of 20

Hereward Leighton Kesteven (1881 – 1964)

A general medical practitioner, medical scientist, zoologist, pioneer of industrial medicine in Australia, and national medical director of the Allied Works Council during World War II.

Orchids

Dendrobium kestevenii  is the name applied to the hybrid between D. speciosum subsp. speciosum and D. kingianum

Those Blue Orchids Again …

Volume 31, 2013 of the Muelleria contains an orchid article by Jeffery A Jeanes. The title may be long – An overview of the Thelymitra nuda (Orchidaceae) complex in Australia including the description of six new species – but the subject is of interest to all of us who want to know our sun orchids, many of which are not always easy to identify.

 

By way of introduction, Muelleria is the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne official research journal and has been published since 1955.

 

Though a technical article there is much to be gleaned for the ordinary reader, for instance the article contains a good description of the commonly used terms for describing the column for example stigma, trichomes, anther, post anther lobe, etc. This is helpful to know as the column structure is often the main feature of the plant used to identify the individual species. Naturally the key features of the T. nuda complex are covered comprehensively, as well as a brief discussion of the taxonomic history.

 

Another helpful section is the dichotomous key for all fifteen species described in the article. Of the fifteen species four are found in South Australia and are pictured below.  But to discover more read the article ……

Thelymitra nuda

Thelymitra nuda

T megcalyptra130927

Thelymitra megcalyptra

Thelymitra glaucophylla photographed by Robert Bates

Thelymitra glaucophylla photographed by Robert Bates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thelymitra alcockiae

Thelymitra alcockiae

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 September Winning Photograph

The winning picture was a single flower of Thelymitra epipactoides (Metallic Sun Orchid) taken by Rosalie Lawrence. This picture was cropped from a photograph taken on a mobile phone. Phones have come a long way since the days of Alexander Graham Bell!

Thelymitral epipactoides or Metallic Sun Orchid

T. epipactoides is a special orchid both in its beautiful colourings and that it is one of our rarest orchids. This endangered species has been well studied in an effort to prevent its demise with the result that there is an abundance of information about it. Recently, with the knowledge gained, Dr Nouska Reiter of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) and her team have managed to cultivate 3,000 plants with the plan to re-introduce them back into the bush in the Wimmera area.

Following are some interesting points from two good sources, which are the

  1. Biodiversity Information Resources Data page  (quotes in blue)
  2. Species Profile and Threats Database page  (quotes in brown)

 

Life Cycle

  • (2)……can remain dormant as a tuber in the soil for up to nine years ……….

(But once a plant has flowered)

  • (2)…….Plants can produce flowers from their second year of growth onwards for up to four consecutive years, but no more. Individual plants can remain dormant for up to two years then grow to produce flowers, but if dormant for four years or more, plants generally do not reappear. …..
  • (2)…… Detailed monitoring suggests that mature plants only live for about 10 years before dying (Cropper 1993). ……..
  • (2)……..flowers open when the relative humidity is lower than 52%, air temperature is above 15 °C, and there are clear skies ………….
  • (2)……..Flowers remain for up to four weeks but wither a week after pollination ……
  • (2)……. fungus is required to initiate successful seed germination (Calder et al. 1989) and seeds cannot survive more than two weeks without associating with the fungus ………

Plant Information

  • (1)…….Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. …….
  • (2)….The leaf is loosely sheathing ………
  • (2)…Mature non-flowering plants have slightly narrower leaves to 51 cm long and not sheathing …
  • (1)………Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. ………

Topography:

  • (2)…. is undulating plains, crests of hills, gentle slopes of low broad ridges and at the bottom of broad, shallow swales (Obst 2005). It grows in sandy soils over a clay subsoil, with these soils having a tendency to become waterlogged in winter and spring, and drying out in summer and autumn ……
  • (2)…..This species is a post-disturbance coloniser, utilising early successional stages after disturbance events such as human activities, fire, animal activities such as scratching of the soil, or associated vegetation disturbance. ……
  • (2)……..requires open sites for flowering and seedling recruitment (Calder et al. 1989). ………

Population Size

  • (1)……Population estimates vary from about 1050 plants in Australia (DEH 2006), to less than 3,000 plants (Coats et al 2002). More recent assessments suggest the population could be less than 1500 plants in the wild …….
  • (2)……In the Murray Darling Basin and South East Regions of South Australia there were ten populations of the Metallic Sun-orchid recorded in 2004 by Obst ……..

 

Reminder – November theme is Orchids and Insects (Spiders and other such critters are honorary insects)