NOSSA 2012 – 2016

The Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA) is affiliated with the national body of native orchid society, Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS).  NOSSA regularly sends reports of its to ANOS.  This year’s report covered four years of the society’s activities and is reproduced here to give readers an idea of the many things that we do.  This report was produced by Robert Lawrence (currently Vice President).

NOSSA REPORT 2012 to 2016

I believe that the last annual report from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia was in 2011 when we were just commencing a three-year plan with the establishment of a series of subcommittees. All of the committees have since ceased to exist, but not without significant accomplishments.

The Website Subcommittee had established a website, but a Webmaster has since been appointed. The website now uses WordPress and is maintained so that its management could easily be transferred to another person. The website provides a weekly educational post about Australian orchids. It has also provided a point of contact from those outside of the Society. It is linked to a Facebook page that increases the profile of NOSSA among those interested in orchids throughout Australia and beyond.

The Education Subcommittee had established a picture competition at the monthly general meetings. There is still only a small number of contributors, but many excellent pictures are shared. The winning picture from each meeting is used as a basis of one of the weekly posts on the website.

Advertising v1

The Education Subcommittee had a vision to produce a brochure of 20 common orchids of the Adelaide region for free distribution to the general public. The NRM (Natural Resources Management) Education ran with the idea and produced a poster of Common native orchids of the Adelaide Hills. This provided brief, but comprehensive, profiles of 29 native orchids and the weedy species. This has been printed as a double-sided poster and is available from the website of Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges. NOSSA members worked with NRM staff on the details of the poster and NOSSA members contributed many of the photographs. This poster was completed and launched in April 2015.

NOSSA also provided monetary assistance as a loan with the publication of the field guide entitled, Start with the leaves. A field guide to common orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills. This guide covered 50 orchid species as well as native lilies and some weeds in the Iridaceae family that are sometimes mistaken as orchids. The contribution of $8,000 was recovered only 8 months after publication.

The Disc Publication Sub-editing Subcommittee saw the publication of South Australia’s Native Orchids on DVD discs in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both the DVD and the book were published in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both continue to sell.

Title Page

A new subcommittee has been established in February 2016 to oversee the publication of a field guide, expected to be called Wild Orchids of South Australia.  It is proving to be a challenge to be brief enough to reduce the information to a size suitable for a field guide. (Editor’s note: it has since been decided to defer this until after the development of the interactive website, see below.)

NOSSA members have being working since 2014 to establish an interactive website and database modelled on the Go Botany website run by the New England Wild Flower Society in the USA. This was supported by a grant from the Australian Orchid Foundation.  The project is called Wild Orchid Watch. It is hoped to produce an interactive, web-based orchid identification tool. Recording sightings through such means as apps on mobile telephones are also being investigated.

In 2014 NOSSA made a donation to help establish the Orchid Conservation Program. This was led by Dr Noushka Reiter. Once established, staff in the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources began to organise a trial with four threatened orchid species from South Australia. Noushka visited South Australia during 2015 and collected samples from each of these species and isolated fungi from these. Seed was also collected and work on propagation commenced in 2015. During 2016 NOSSA sponsored the propagation of one of the four species through the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Caladenia gladiolata, an endemic species, was selected.


Paul Beltrame, a secondary teacher at Kildare College, contacted and joined NOSSA during 2014 with the interest in getting girls at this school involved in the propagation of native orchids. A program was organised modelled in the Orchids in Schools program run by the Orchid Club of South Australia with Les Nesbitt’s involvement.

A delegation from Kildare College, ably assisted by their enthusiastic laboratory assistant Nenah McKenzie, visited Noushka in Melbourne and learnt the technique for separating and growing fungi. They have since separated fungi from two of our more common greenhood species and supplied this for seed kits that were made available to members as a trial at the start of the 2016 growing season.

The trial of seed kits was done for Pterostylis nana and Pterostylis sanguinea. A trial was conducted in this growing season of seed kits for members. Kits included a pot, growing media, seed, fungus, mulch and instructions. There seems to be limited success with the current round, but improvements are planned from the lessons learnt. One particular growing mix proved successful with a small number of seedlings appearing. The contribution of the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College has been necessary for the isolation and production of fungi for the kits.

In October 2012 Cathy Houston and Robert Lawrence collected seed of Pterostylis arenicola from the only population on the Adelaide plains after monitoring in September indicated a good year for seed production. The seed was germinated in 2013 and was deflasked at a working bee at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens in early August 2016. The students from the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College participated. Latest reports are that 40 plants look like surviving. These will be used for seed production and for reintroduction.

Oligochaetochilus arenicolaHL

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

In 2012 NOSSA was asked to care for and propagate rescued Diuris behrii plants from Hillgrove Resources Mining Lease near Kanmantoo in the Mt. Lofty Ranges. The plan was to maintain the rescued orchid clones in cultivation for several years and to produce additional plants for reintroduction within the mining lease area each Autumn. A comprehensive recording and auditing system has been put in place to track each clone and any seed/daughter tubers/plants. By August 2015 there were 609 plants with 75 original mother plants. There were 95 daughter plants returned to the site for revegetation in each of the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, a total of 285 plants.

Funding from Hillgrove Resources has assisted NOSSA financially and has made it possible to consider funding conservation work. NOSSA is planning to apply for charity status so that donations can be used for tax deductions. Donations will then be feasible through our website. We are also starting an orchid seed bank. Seed will be available only to members and it is hoped that this will increase our membership. There is a demand for Australian orchids overseas and it is hoped that this will become a means for raising funds for conservation. Other means of fund-raising such as sausage sizzles and selling kits for craftwork are also being considered.

NOSSA members still continue to be involved in surveys and monitoring threatened orchids.  Members have been involved in the planning of monitoring.


Weeding and Monitoring, two of NOSSA’s conservation activities

The management committee of NOSSA is currently working on a revision to the Rules of Association. In the current version there is a two-year limit on the term of the President of two years. In the first 16 years from 1977 there were there were eight different presidents before one had a second term. Bill Dear was president in alternate terms until he retired and moved to Western Australia in 2012. Robert Lawrence was elected president in March 2014, but for the first time in 2016 there were no nominations for president and he was nominated to the role of vice president with no other nominations. The management committee has appointed a subcommittee to review the Rules in relation to the terms of the president. Another change planned is change from having monthly general meetings to having less formal monthly meetings at which no decisions are made or minutes kept. All resolutions will require calling a formal special meeting. This idea is adapted from the approach used by ANOS Victoria.

Over the last two years NOSSA has asked new and renewing members to complete a survey of their interests. This has proved to be an effective way of getting information on the interests of our members with 79 responses, this being about half of the number of memberships. This is an overall summary of the results ranked according to number of responses:

 Area of interest

Responses Percentage
General Orchid Knowledge 53 67%
Field Trips 48 61%
Photography 47 59%
Conservation 46 58%
Growing Terrestrials 35 44%
Surveys 30 38%
Growing Epiphytes 28 35%
Citizen Science 20 26%

At its establishment NOSSA was primarily a Society of orchid growers. These figures reflect a decline in interest in growing orchids. The figures are somewhat surprising in that the numbers interested in growing orchids are much larger than the number of growers. Presumably some of these are interested in learning with a view to getting involved with growing later.  At least we hope this is the case.

We are certainly noticing a decline both in our numbers of growers and in members involved in surveys due to age and health.

The greatest number expressed an interest in general knowledge and we are relying on the Journal and the Website help to keep people interested and informed. Next was field trips, but we haven’t had that many that have attended field trips in in the last few years. Only 11 of those who expressed an interested in field trips are not interested in photography, the next item of interest, and only 10 people interested in photography were not interested in field trips. Not many of these share their photographs at monthly meetings. We are hoping to get members to make their photographs available for the identification guides.

Bearded Orchid

Bearded Orchid Photo: Helen Lawrence

It is pleasing that 58% are interested in conservation, thus supporting the efforts of our Conservation Officer.

Growing terrestrial orchids was next on the list; we hope that the tuber bank and the NOSSA Seed Kits are meeting the demand from members. Twenty-two of the 41 interested in growing orchids are interested in growing both terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. Only 8 of the respondents are bringing plants to meetings and a couple of others have not completed the survey. Of those interested in growing terrestrial orchids, one is a former grower and another is interested in growing them in situ at revegetation sites.

Thirty members expressed an interest in doing orchid surveys and three of these are interested in participating in the future, presumably when more time is available.

Citizen science is a new concept to many and came last in our list of interests. One who did not indicate an interest said he was monitoring orchids at a particular site; this has been taken as an interest. Surveys are certainly one form of citizen science and only 2 of those who indicated an interest in citizen science did not indicate an interest in being involved in surveys now or in the future. Thirteen of the 30 interested in surveys did not express an interest in citizen science. If these were included, interest in citizen science would be 43%.

Only seven members indicated an interest in all of the categories and one of these wants to keep in touch with the club and with old friends.

The Annual Spring Show in September 2015 was a particular success, largely due to the efforts of one our new members in promoting the show through local media and by other means. We also benefited from the donation of collections of growers who had decided not to continue with their collections.

Garden display

Annual NOSSA Spring Show

NOSSA has continued to maintain a tuber bank that is available for members. A small number of our members are also members of ANOS Victoria, and have obtained tubers from their collection. This is hopefully contributing to the variety of terrestrial orchids grown by our members.

Working bees continued to be conducted in association with the Threatened Plant Action Group at Belair National Park for improving habitat for the nationally endangered Pterostylis cucullata (Leafy Greenhood), at Grange Golf Club to protect and monitor Pterostylis arenicola (Sandhill Greenhood) this being nationally vulnerable and locally endangered and on York Peninsula in conjunction with a local Friends group for the nationally endangered Caladenia intuta.

NOSSA has for many years used Australian Orchid Club (AOC) judges and knowledgeable members, who have all studied the ANOS judging rules, to judge orchids at NOSSA monthly meetings and shows. As the number of judges has fallen in recent years, judging training sessions have had to been discontinued. We wait in anticipation for a proposed ANOS judges correspondence course, as we have for more than 10 years. There are at least three AOC judges interested in the ANOS judging correspondence course. It is disappointing that ANOS Awards are still limited to Queensland, New South Wates and Victoria.

In summary, NOSSA continues to be active in many ways and these activities are working together to support each other.

Interested in these activities, why not join up and get involved.  Click here for Membership details.

10 sm RAL Diuris brevifolia

Diuris brevifolia (Late Donkey Orchid)




August 2016 Winning Picture

1608 sm CC Pheladenia deformis.jpg

This month’s entries are an interesting collection as it is probably the first time that all entries are currently in flower.  Rosalie Lawrence entered a Pterostylis pedunculata, Ricky Egel (second) Corysanthes despectans, Robert Lawrence (third) Pyrorchis nigricans whilst both Rob Soergel and Claire Chesson (winner) entered Pheladenia deformis. All four are colony forming species.

Both parts of the scientific name for the winning orchid refer to the labellum. Pheladenia meaning false glands which is referring to the calli and deformis meaning departing from the correct shape or mis-shapen.

The labellum plays an important role in pollination; it is the landing platform for the insect. Depending on the process by which the flower is pollinated – or at least attracting the pollinator – this can attempt to mate with the labellum which it has confused for a female of its species (pseudocopulation), or can then feed on the nectar produce. Like many orchids Pheladenia does not produce nectar so the actual attractant for the insect is hard to determine.

The labellum is a distinctive feature of orchids.  A modified petal, they are so amazingly varied and complex that botanists often provided detailed descriptions of the features which are present in various combinations, as a means of describing the species. Terms such as lobes, margins, gland/calli, hairs/vestiture/setae, longitudinal ridges, plates, auricles, spurs, papillae etc are used to describe the various features of the labellum.

Some of the features of the labellum of P. deformis are:

  • It is stiffly attached to the column, unlike Arachnorchis tentaculata which is hinged and freely moving
  • It is tri-lobed meaning that the labellum shape is divided into three distinct sections.
    • Unlike Diuris pardina where this feature is easily seen, it is obscured as the outer two lobes are erect and curved in so that it forms a trumpet like appearance with the column.
  • The margins or edges of the labellum have fine teeth which are slightly curved inward. The margins of Arachnorchis cardiochila are smooth-edged and curve outward from the ‘throat’ of the labellum
  • It has two types of calli, fleshy, non-secreting glands.
    • The ones at the base are not as easily seen but they are described as being papillae, e., small, irregular, pimple-like projections or bumps.
    • The more obvious ones that give the flower its bearded appearance are elongate and without a swollen head, like the bristles on a brush.
    • In contrast, Thelymitra does not have any type of calli, although it should be noted that calli do play an important role in orchid pollination.
  • The apex, tip of the labellum, is curved under (recurved to reflexed)

To see some of the variety of labella, Orchids of South Australia (Bates and Weber, 1990) have several drawings detailing the differences on pages 35 to 38, 81, 97, 104 to 106, 114, 119 to 124.

So why spend time looking at details of labella?

It is not important for identifying Pheladenia deformis but it can be a distinguishing feature for other species, for example, the lateral lobes of Diuris maculata are much narrower than D. pardina (Jones, in Harden (ed.) 1993); or the shape of the callus cluster on Chiloglottis which alludes to the species.



Bates, R.J & Weber, J.Z. (1990) Orchids of South Australia, Government Printer, Adelaide

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

Jones DL (1993). Diuris in Harden GJ Flora of New South Wales, Volume 4. University of NSW Press, Sydney.

Jones, D L et al, (2006) Australian Orchid Genera, an information and orchid identification system, interactive CD-ROM

Thank you to Greg Steenbeeke for assistance with this article.

Sun Orchid Observations – Extract from Start With The Leaves

In the past week there has been some Facebook conversation on the identification of some Thelymitra (Sun Orchids) here in South Australia.  Sun Orchids can be problematic particularly when there is only one photograph.  If the photograph has a clear view of a diagnostic feature, then identification becomes simpler but there are many species for which careful observations are necessary to determine the correct one.  This is important when considering some of the complexes, eg T. nuda and T. pauciflora which have several similar species.  Colour is not always helpful as there can be either variation in colour or no colour at all.  Further complicating identification is that Sun Orchids readily hybridise, far too easily sometimes!

When Robert Lawrence wrote his book, Start With the Leaves, he realised the difficulty in identifying some orchids, so he included a checklist of observations.  The checklist is extensive but was developed to be used with the electronic version of South Australia’s Native Orchids by RJ Bates which covered all the known South Australian orchids in 2011.

 To assist in orchid identification, take as many photographs as possible, showing different parts of the plant and habitat from as many different angles.  But remember, photograph the typical plants.

Which is which

In this collage there are several species but which is which?

At the bottom of the post is a picture showing the parts of the flower.

The following extract is from pages 185 – 187

Thelymitra species (Sun Orchids)

Habitat features

Describe the habitat where the plants are found

Is the species confined to swamps or very moist sites?

Was the site burnt in the last year or two?  (Find out when if possible)

Are the plants restricted to a particular habitat or is there a range of situations where it grows?

Has it multiplied following disturbance?

Does it prefer wet or dry sites?

What other plants are growing with the orchids, including the trees forming the canopy?

Number of plants

Estimate the number of plants or describe the distribution of the plants at the site

Do plants occur in small clumps?

Do plants occur in colonies and if so how large are they?

Size of the plant

What is the height of the flower stem and width of the flower stem?

Leaf features

What are the length, width and shape of the leaf?

Is the leaf flat, channelled (u-shaped) or tubular in section?

Does the leaf change shape along its length?

Does the leaf have parallel ridges?

Is the leaf thick and fleshy or thin and papery?

What colour is the leaf?

Does the leaf have a reddish base and is the red colouration in parallel lines?

Are there any hairs on the leaf and are they confined to the margins?

Is the leaf rigid and upright or is it weak at the tip and falling under its own weight?

What is the tip of the leaf like and does it have a pointed apex?

Are the leaves shiny or to they have a powdery covering?

Stem features

What is the diameter of the stem?

What is the colour of the stem?

How high is the fistula, the point the point where the stem separates from the leaf?

Sterile bracts

(Bracts are leaf-like structures along the flowering stem)

How many bracts are there on the stem (ie those that are not immediately below a flower)?

How long is each of these bracts?

What colour are the bracts?

Are the bracts tightly or loosely wrap around the stem?

Fertile bracts

(Fertile bracts are leaf-like structures at the base of each flower)

How long are the bracts?

What colour are the bracts?

Ovary features

(The ovary is the structure immediately below the petals and sepals that becomes the seed capsule after the flowers are pollinated)

What colour are the ovaries?

How long are the ovaries?

How wide are the ovaries?

Flower features

What time of the year are the flowers open

What is the length and width of each flower?

Do the petals and sepals open widely, or does the flower remain almost closed?

What colour are the petals and sepals?

Do the petals have spots or darker coloured veins?

Is the labellum larger or smaller than the other segments (petals and sepals)?

Are segments rounded, pointed or cup shaped?

What colour is the outside of the buds?

What conditions are required for the flowers to open?  Are they only open in hot, humid conditions?

 Column features

What colour is the main part of the column?

Describe the post-anther/mid-column lobe

Is there a tubular structure on the top of the column?  What colour is this and does it have a collar of a different colour?

Does the lobe have a cleft in the apex and how deep is this?

Does the column have lateral lobes (arms) reaching in front of the column?

Are there trichomes (hair-like structures) in a mop or toothbrush arrangement?

Is there a sharp bend in the column arms?

If there is not a tubular lobe, are there three levels of structures on the column?

Are there papillae (rows of narrow bumps)?  How many and what colour are they?

What colour is the crest, if present?


Describe the fragrance of the flower or whether there is none

Thelymitra Flower Details

Related Articles

Thelymitra (Sun Orchid) Columns

What Orchid is This? How Photos can Help! Part One of Two Parts

What Orchid is This? How Photos can Help! Part Two of Two Parts – Comparing Crytostylis reniformis and C. robusta

Spotted Pink Sun Orchid – Beautiful but Only A Hybrid  T. x irregularis

November 2015 Winning Picture includes T. x truncata and T. x irregularis

Those Blue Orchids Again – An Overview of the Thelymitra nuda complex


Leptoceras and Leporella – Why are they in different genera?

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 Leporella fimbriata was put into Eriochilus, as Eriochilus fimbriatus (1882), then Leptoceras fimbriata and finally into its own genus Leporella (A S George 1971).  Caladenia menziesii 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.

Leporella fimbriata  in patch

Leporella fimbriata – note the absence of leaves and the dry sandy conditions [Photo: R Lawrence]

Leptoceras menziesii in patch

Leptoceras menziesii – note the abundance of leaves [Photo: R Lawrence]

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.


Feature Leptoceras Leporella
Pollination Strategy Strategy unknown

Native Bee

Strategy pseudocopulation

Winged male ants (Myrmecia urens)

Myrmecophyte – lives in mutualistic association with colony of ants
Labellum Curved white with red stripes

Has calli

Wider than longer, purple and green

Has no calli

Flowering Time Spring (September to November) Autumn (March to May)
Habitat Shaded sites – moist gullies; scrub, heath, woodland and foret Open sites – acid sands, light scrub, stringybark
Leaf Emergence Leaves emerge before flowering Leaves emerge after flowering


Leptoceras menziesii (Rabbit Ears Orchid)

Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid or Rabbit Ears Orchid) after a fire, [Photo: R Lawrence]

REFERENCES: accessed May 13 2016 accessed May 13 2016 accessed May 13 2016

Pelloe E, Western Australian Orchids 1930

Bates R & Weber J, Orchids of South Australia, 1990

Bates R Editor, South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011

Martin A, The Vocabulary of Orchids: an Amateur Perspective 2005

Rogers R, South Australian Orchids 2nd Ed 1911

Jones D, A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia including the Island Territories 2006


Part One covered hints for photographing orchids so as to be able to identify the plant.  Part Two gives an example with Cyrtostylis robusta (Winter Gnat Orchid) and C. reniformis (Small Gnat Orchid).

Although the flowering times are different – C reniformis is spring flowering and C. robusta is winter flowering – there is a slight overlap in August when it is possible for both to be flowering at the same time and in the same place.

The flowers are very similar but major difference between the two species is the leaf.  Both leaves are roughly kidney shape but C. robusta is pale green with pale , almost undistinguished veins, silvery underneath whilst  C. reniformis is heavily veined, blue-green above and green below.

Cyrtostylis reniformis (4)

C. reniformis, easily identified by the leaf, even when in bud.

The other differences are more subtle.

  • C. reniformis has dark buds and the apex of the labellum tends to be rounded rather than pointed
  • C. robusta has pale reddish buds and larger flowers, labellum crenulated (slightly wavy) and a fine point at the apex.
Cyrtostylis reniformis

C. reniformis – This is not a good identification picture because though the leaf is present, it is too blurry for identifying the species and the angle of the flower obscures the labellum  details

Consequently, it is important that photographs of the flowers clearly show the labellum – pointed labellum apex for C. robusta compared with the rounded labellum tip of C. reniformis.


Cyrtostylis robusta

In this photograph it is possible to identify the plants as C. robusta because of the leaves even though there are no clear views of the labellum.

March 2016 Winning Photograph

1603 sm JS Arachnorchis sp

We frequently receive entries from Western Australia but this month our entries were from both the west and the east. Allen Jennings entered a Calanthe triplicata (Christmas Orchid) from New South Wales. Pauline Meyer’s was from the west, (Western) Flying Duck Orchid, Paracaleana nigrita. The other entries were South Australian, Jenny Pauley’s recently photographed Leporella fimbriata (Fringed Hare Orchid), Greg Sara’s Thelymitra rubra (Common Pink Sun Orchid) and Judy Sara’s Plumatochilos sp. (Bearded Orchid) and Arachnorchis sp. (Spider Orchid).

The winning photograph was Judy’s Spider Orchid. Obviously it was one of the Green Comb Spider Orchids – A. dilatata complex. Of this group there are about a dozen possibilities. Knowing the location, Mt Boothby, helped to narrow the options with the most likely candidate being Arachnorchis stricta but it wasn’t convincing. It would appear that the tips of the sepals may have been chewed off when in bud.

A distinguishing feature of this species is that there are no clubs or osmophores on the sepals. Other species of this complex have clubs. Another feature is that the dorsal sepal is bent over the column unlike many other green combs which have an erect dorsal sepal. The features that caused doubt were lateral sepals looking droopy instead of being characteristically stiffly held out but dry conditions could cause this. The other was that the labellum did not strictly fit the description of A. stricta but then again it is a variable species.

The conclusion was a possible hybrid but there is no information on the likely parents or that is an atypical A. stricta that may have been damaged in bud.

This is an example of the difficulties that can occur when attempting to identify a plant from one photograph.


Personal communications Thelma Bridle (NOSSA Conservation Officer)

Personal communications Bob Bates

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

Rules of entry:

The subject matter must have something to do with Australian orchids.  Any format is acceptable including Photo shopped images, artwork, etc

How to enter:

Email – jpg as large as you are able to send it, preferably A4 ratio for printing

Post: PO Box 565, Unley, 5061

Bring in to the meeting


The following article is from the April 2016 Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia.  The article is complete in itself but Part Two of this post will illustrate how images can help with images of Crytostylis robusta and C. reniformis.

Orchids are beautiful plants and many of us like to capture that beauty on photographs. And there are many beautiful pictures around.

Many times NOSSA, the Herbarium and other specialist groups receive images requesting identification but the vital information is missing.

When photographing for identification, it is necessary to take more than one image, particularly if you are unable to easily return to the site for more images. When in doubt, take several shots from many different angles highlighting different features of the plant and its habitat.

Another very important point to remember is, when there are several of the same plant, to photograph the orchid that is most representative of the group, not the atypical or unusual plant.

General Guide

As a general guide, it is helpful to take a picture of each of the following

  • whole plant
  • individual flower – both from the front and the side, occasionally the back.
  • flower head
  • leaf or leaves
  • habitat

Other helpful things to consider photographing are:

  • capsules of the finished flower – sometimes it can yield useful information.
  • for some genera, the stem can also be a helpful feature as between some species there can be a difference in the hairiness of the stem.
  • It is also worth including in a photograph an indication of whether the plants are growing in colonies with others or as scattered individual plants.

Importance of Size

It is also good to give an idea of size, this can be as simple as using a thumb or hand, a coin (show the reverse not the head) or any item that had an easily recognized size. It is important to have the object next to the feature being photographed. For example, a coin on the ground next to a leaf or a hand immediately behind the flower gives a clear indication of size. Remember to take another photo without the hand or coin.

Some Specific Identifying Features

Some species are distinctive and easily recognised, eg the Flying Duck Orchid, but others are not and it is helpful to know what part of the plant to photograph as different genera will have different identifying features.

  • Spider orchids – the tips of the segments (petals and sepals) and details of the labellum are important
  • Sun orchids – the column in the middle, the ovary at the base of the flower, and the number of bracts (leaf-like growth) on the stems
  • Pink fingers – the length of the leaf in comparison with the length of the flower stalk; also the back of the flower is helpful
  • Gnat orchid – the leaf is the best identifying feature, but also the bud can be helpful
  • Hyacinth orchid (of the Adelaide Hills) – labellum
  • Mosquito, Mayfly and Helmet orchids when not in flower – both sides of the leaf
  • Gastrodia – the flower spike
  • Rufoushoods – side view of the flower and close up of the labellum as the hairs on or surrounding the labellum are important features.
  • Leek Orchids – the labellum is very important, as well as part if not all of the flower spike as the distance between the individual flowers aids identification
  • Greenhoods – if present, the non-flowering rosette of leaves

The Australian Virtual Herbarium has some good tips for photographing flower. Click here to visit the site


Spider Orchid

Spider Orchid Photo: Robert Lawrence

This image lacks the ends of the segments to determine the identification.  The presence or absence of  clubs on the ends of the segments (petals and sepals) can often be the distinguishing feature with many of the Arachnorchis (Spider Orchids).

Atypical Cyrtostylis leaves

These leaves are an unusual shape and by themselves are not suitable for identification

CLUES TO ORCHID IDENTIFICATION – Prasophyllum & Microtis Leaves

Orchids are attractive and abound in variety. It is the variety that often provides the challenge of identification. As a novice it can be a bit overwhelming. In the eye of the beginner, the experienced orchid hunters appear to have no difficulty with identification. Over the years they have accumulated various clues that guide them toward accurate identification.

This series aims to document the clues that orchid hunters use.

Prasophyllum and Microtis Leaves

The first in the series relates to distinguishing between Microtis and Prasophyllum leaves. When in flower it is easy to see which is which but not so when only in leaf; and as they do not always produce flowers it is helpful to be able to separate them out at leaf stage.

Both leaves are green. Both are cylindrical. Both are hollow. Both resemble onion leaves.

M & P Leaves

Both types of leaves are long, thin and green.  The damaged Microtis leaf (below) shows the hollow.

The differences can be found in one or two areas. Microtis leaves are always green at the base whereas Prasophyllum leaves usually but not always will have a red or purplish coloured base. To help in identification, it is necessary to examine the base by moving the leaf litter aside to see where the plant emerges from the soil.

M & P Leaf Bases

The bases reveal the difference between the two genera.

Prasophyllum species that could have a green base are P. laxum, P. occulatans, P. sp Jip Jip, P. elatum, P. sp Sandplain, P. pallidum (although this is short and usually in bud when noticed), P. spicatum, P validum.  So further observations are necessary.

Another other area of difference is that the broken leaf of a Microtis yields a mucilaginous (thick sticky) sap; the Prasophyllum leaf does not.

Within the segregate genera used by many NOSSA members, there are two other genera with similar leaves. They are Microtidium and Hydrorchis. Again they are green, cylindrical, hollow but only hollow in the lower half. The top half is solid.

It should also be noted that Microtis can form dense colonies but Prasophyllum will never form more than loose colonies.

Finally, if upon gently feeling the base of these leaves it feels solid, that will indicate that there is a bud and it will most likely flower this season.

M & P Flowers

Once in flower, the differences between the two genera is obvious.

September 2015 Winning Photograph

09 sm PM A ferruginea possible

Caladenia huegelii complex

Plumatichlos sp Woodland Bearded Greenhood

Plumatichlos sp Woodland Bearded Greenhood

Five photos were entered for the September competition and there was a draw, Pauline Meyers’ flower of a plant from the Caladenia hueguelii complex from Western Australia and Jill McPherson’s Plumatichilos sp. Woodland Bearded Greenhood from Scott Creek Conservation Park. The other three by Chris Davey were photographed on Yorke Peninsula (see Letter to the Editor in this September Journal).
As winners they showcase the great diversity that are found in our Australian terrestrial orchids.

Plumatichilos belongs to the greenhoods but the features that set it apart from the other greenhoods are the long thin bristled labellum, the galea pinched in the middle resulting in two openings and the rosette of leaves growing a short way up the stem. Nationally there are thought to be several species but only a small handful have been named. In South Australia, there may be a few distinct species but currently they are usually identified with a phrase name such as Plumatichilos sp Woodland Bearded Greenhood.

Mainly flowering in spring the flowers of the Caladenia huegelii complex are characterised by the thickened clubs on the three sepals, petals shorter than the long sepals, fringed (either short or long) labellum with four or more rows of calli. All of these features can be seen in Pauline’s photograph but the leaf is not so easily seen which should be long, hairy and curve inward. In all there are said to be twenty two species within this complex of which twenty are named.

Brown et al (2013) Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia, Floreat, WA Simon Nevill Publications.
Jones, David L (2006) A complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW: Reed New Holland
Jeans, Jeffrey & Gary Backhouse (2006) Wild Orchids of Victoria, Seaford Vic: Aquatic Photographics.
Bates, R. J. (2011) South Australia’s Native Orchids NOSSA DVD, Adelaide

Clues to Orchid Identification – Columns

Orchids can be incredibly easy to identify or frustratingly difficult.  For instance, the Flying Duck orchid is easily recognizable.  The name says it all. But for many other orchids, particularly the ubiquitous blue sun orchids, it is necessary to make careful observations.



Which is which

In this collage there are several species, but which is which?


For sun orchids the most important distinguishing feature will often be the column, details of which are described or illustrated in orchid keys.  For example Bates and Weber, Orchids of South Australia (1990) has an illustrated dichotomous keys showing the different types of columns.

As part of the key, drawings of the column were included

Images from Bates & Weber, Orchids of South Australia, pages 147 to 150; courtesy of the Board of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium.

With today’s cameras, it is possible to photograph the column, preferably from front, side and above.  This helps greatly with identification.

The following photographs illustrate the variety of columns.

Thelymitra alcockiae

Thelymitra alcockiae


Thelymitra grandiflora

Thelymitra brevifolia

Thelymitra brevifolia

Thelymitra cyanea

Thelymitra cyanea

Thelymitra peniculata

Thelymitra peniculata

Thelymitra pallidifructus

Thelymitra pallidifructus

Thelymitra juncifolia

Thelymitra juncifolia

Thelymitra inflata

Thelymitra inflata

Thelymitra arenaria

Thelymitra arenaria


Thelymitra megcalyptra

Thelymitra megcalyptra

Thelymitra X truncata - a natural hybrid

Thelymitra X truncata – a natural hybrid

And it is not only the blue orchids that can be a problem, in South Australia; there are three pink orchids which are different in size and flowering time, features that are not obvious in a photograph,  so the column is a helpful identification tool.

Thelymitra luteocilium

Thelymitra luteocilium – has tufted hairy column arms

Thelymitra rubra

Thelymitra rubra – has finger-like column arms and no tuft

Thelymitra carnea

Thelymitra carnea – has smooth column arms


And just what is the column? It is the reproductive organ of the orchid flower and is unique amongst plants because it is the fusion of the male (stamens) and female (pistil) parts.  It is usually found in the centre of the flower and both releases and receives the pollen sac.