2015 July Winning Photograph

07 sm JP Anzybas unguiculatus 2

Anzybas unguiculatas (common name Little Pelican or Cherry Helmet Orchid) was the main focus for this month’s competition with three photographs of this diminutive flower.

The other photographs were Ed Lowrey’s close-up of a triggered Urochilus sanguineus labellum, John Badger’s first Diuris palustris sighting for this year and Pauline Meyer’s mass flowering of Leptoceras menziesii post fire. Of the Anzybas, Jenny Pauley entered two and Lorraine Badger one. Jenny Pauley’s photograph of two flowers was the outstanding winner.

Originally named Corysanthes unguiculata (1810), then Corybas unguiculatus (1871), the genus name was changed in 2002 to Anzybas in recognition of its distribution both in Australia in New Zealand. Since 1945 it had been recognised that the New Zealand species Corybas cheesemanii was a synonym for Corybas unguiculatas although the juvenile plant can have two leaves unlike the Australian species which is single leafed.

An interesting feature of this flower is the prominent white ears at the rear of the helmet (not clearly seen in this photograph) which are part of the labellum.

These plants are small. The gum leaves and twigs give an idea of size but the engagement ring shows it very clearly.
These plants are small. The gum leaves and twigs give an idea of size but the engagement ring shows it very clearly.  Note also the prominent ‘white ears’ of the labellum.

An unusual aspect of this photograph is that the colour of the underside of one of the leaves. It lacks the characteristic distinguishing feature of the purple underside of the leaves. According to orchid growers, the light affects the leaf colour. Heavy shade produces green leaves. It is possible that the heavy leaf litter where this plant was growing provided enough deep shade to cause the colour loss.

Bates (1990) states that it (has) not proved amenable to cultivation, but it has, on rare occasions, been benched at NOSSA meetings with the most recent occurrence was in July 2010 but it remains a very difficult plant to cultivate. The electronic version Vol 34 No 7 has a photograph of the plant just visible within the moss.

It is not always easy to photograph this species as not only is it rare with limited numbers but there are very few sites where it can be found. Added to that is that the window of opportunity is short in South Australia with a flowering time from June to August compared with those interstate which can range from May to October.

There has always been an interest in Australian orchids.  Over the years there have been many photographs of orchids.  This stereographic postcard from 1928 is a study in beauty – https://i0.wp.com/www.slv.vic.gov.au/pcards/0/0/4/im/pc004332.jpg

This postcard is held by the State Library of Victoria.

Although the distribution covers the Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island and the South East regions of South Australia, it has become increasingly rare due to loss of habitat which consists of leaf litter on damp soils.  As a result, there are very limited localities where they can now be found.

It is one of our earliest helmets to flower which is from June to July.


http://www.flora.sa.gov.au/cgi-bin/speciesfacts_display.cgi?form=speciesfacts&family=&genus=corybas&species=unguiculatus&iname=&submit=Display accessed August 5 2015

Les Nesbitt personal communication

Jones, David L (2006) Native Orchids of Australasia, Frenchs Forest, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Bates, R.J. & and Weber, J.Z. (1990). Orchids of South Australia, Adelaide: Flora and Fauna of S.A. Handbooks Committee

https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/instance/apni/499184 accessed August 5 2015

https://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/cd-keys/orchidkey/html/genera/Anzybas.htm accessed August 5 2015

Bates R, (Editor) 2011 South Australia’s Native Orchids (CD-ROM), Adelaide: NOSSA

Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Vol 34 No 7 August 2010

http://rsnz.natlib.govt.nz/volume/rsnz_76/rsnz_76_04_007280.html accessed August 5 2015

Rupp, HMR and Hatch, ED (1945) Relation of the Orchid Flora of Australia to that of New Zealand in Proceeding of the Linnean Society of New South Wales Vol 70 1945, pages 53 – 61

https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsoflin70linn#page/60/mode/2up accessed August 5 2015

Orchid Identification Quiz #1

In 2006 the electronic version of the Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Volume 30 No 2 March contained a quiz – Do you Know Your Leaves? It featured photographs of the leaves of 15 different orchid. In 2011 Robert Lawrence produced a book titled Start With the Leaves which was based upon the premise that the flower is not always present but identification is still possible.

Many but not all can be identified to species level by the leaf alone.

So here is the web version of the original quiz – how well do you know your leaves?

Hint – 20 of them are South Australian, more specifically, the Mount Lofty Ranges region.  One is a weed.

Arachnorchis tentaculataThelymitra benthamiana Thelymitra antennifera Pyrorchis nigricans Plumatochilus sp Woodland Bearded Greenhood  Oligochaetochilus bisetusOrthoceras strictum Nemacianthus caudatus Eriochilus sp Hills Woodland  Leporella fimbriata Diuris palustrisGlossodia major

Diuris orientis

Diuris behrii

Cyrtostylis reniformisDisa bracteata - weed  Corunastylis spCaladenia prolata Calochilus robertsonii  Bunochilus sp non-fertile plant

Corysanthes diemenica

Did you get them?  Click on the image to go to the name and pictures of the flower. As a couple of the links are not working and until I have time to rectify them, click here to find the all answers in the Journal.
It will be on the last page.

More to come another time ………

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!

Why use a mulch on your potted terrestrial orchids?

Here in South Australia, it is very common to see a covering of She Oak needles (Allocasuarina sp.) on pots of terrestrial orchids.  According to Les Nesbitt, NOSSA founding member and experienced terrestrial orchid grower, there are four reasons for this

  • It keeps the leaves up off the soil.
    • Provides good air circulation
    • Helps prevent leaf rot.
  • It provides nutrients to the fungi
    • This is very important for the fungi dependent orchids.
  • It stops pitting into the soil when it rains.
    • This is most likely to occur when pots are under the drip line of a shade-cloth.
    • Pitting exposes the root system.
  • It allows the leaves to readily come through because of its small diameters.
    • Other mulches, such as gum leaves, smother seedlings.

She Oak needles are the choice of mulch because it is

  • Long lasting and takes more than year to break down
    • which means that it lasts the whole growing season.
  • Does not become mushy or spongy
    • unlike pine needles and grass cuttings which breakdown more quickly into a wet soggy mass and contribute to leaf rot.

It should be noted that it is necessary to replace this mulch yearly.

These two pots were in the same area under the shadecloth.  Notice the damage to the pot without the mulch.
These two pots were in the same area under the shadecloth. Notice the rain damage to the pot without the mulch.

2015 May Winning Photograph

05 sm PM Diuris hazeliae

Western Australia produces a lovely array of orchids and so it is not surprising to find in NOSSA photograph competitions that when a Western Australian species is entered it can often be the winner. This month was no different with Pauline Myers beautiful picture of a mass of Diuris hazeliae which was kindly identified by Andrew Brown.

This species has only recently been named in 2013 and as a result finding information was a challenge. Obviously there was no information in Jones Native Orchids of Australia (2006); and surprisingly the definitive Field guide to the Orchids of Western Australia (2013) A Brown et al did not appear to have any information.


  • the Western Australian Herbarium’s FloraBase (Western Australian Flora), has a map of distribution which is roughly a diagonal line from east of Geraldton to the north of Esperance. It is not listed as threatened.

    Distribution of Diuris hazeliae.  Map taken from the Western Australian Flora Base
    Distribution of Diuris hazeliae. Map taken from the Western Australian Flora Base
  • the Western Australian Herbarium lists the species as one of 59 new taxa added to their plant census in 2014.
  • from the Atlas of Living Australia it can be deduced that the flowering time is mainly August and September and is likely to be found in various types of shrublands margins including Eucalypt and mallee woodlands and appears to be mainly associated with rocky or granite outcrops.
  • and the National Species List APNI/APC yields the information that it was named after Hazel King, plant collector and conservationist with a special interest in orchids and was previously known by the phrase name Diuris ‘northern granite’ with a common name of Rosy-cheeked Donkey Orchid. It was found in a granite outcrop on her property Tampu (north of Beacon).

Fortunately Andrew Brown was able to help with extra information. It is listed in his book (page 212) but under the phrase name Diuris sp. Eastern Wheatbelt (Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid). Diuris sp. Northern Granite was found to be the same species and so the use of that name was discontinued but it does remain a synonym for Diuris hazeliae.

The following description is information updated from his book “Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia”

Diuris hazeliae D.L. Jones & C.J. French (yellow granite donkey orchid)

Flowering: August to September.


A common, inland donkey orchid 100 to 300 mm high with two to three basal leaves 50 to 150 mm long by 5 to 10 mm wide and up to seven predominantly yellow, brown marked flowers 20 to 40 mm across. Flowers are characterised by their broad petals, very broad dorsal sepal, narrow, reflexed, usually crossed lateral sepals and tri-lobed labellum with broad, spreading lateral lobes and a broad, flattened to convex mid lobe.

Distribution and habitat:

Found between Mullewa, Salmon Gums and Balladonia, growing in shallow soil pockets on granite outcrops and along drainage lines below rocky breakaways.


Named in 2013 from specimens collected at Tampu, north of Beacon in September 1997. The species often forms very large colonies on granite outcrops.

Distinctive features:

Inland granite and breakaway habitat.

Very broad dorsal sepal.

Diuris hazeliae is part of the Diuris corymbosa complex of which, in 2013, there were only 10 of the 26 Western Australian species formally named. This situation has now changed with 14 now formally named. As a final word, Diuris orientis is South Australia’s only member of this complex.

More images of this species can be seen on Retired Aussies website http://www.retiredaussies.com/ColinsHome%20Page/OrchidsWA/Diuris/Diuris%20sp%20northen%20granite/Diuris%20sp%20northern%20granite.htm


References – All websites accessed on 29th May 2015-06-04




Jones, Native Orchids of Australia and its Territories (2006)

Brown, Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia (2013)

Growing Dendrobium kingianum in Adelaide 1983 and Now

In 1983, Ron Robjohns, NOSSA’s first treasurer, wrote a comprehensive series of articles about growing epiphytes in South Australia. Thirty years on Ron’s information for growing is still helpful and applicable for today. Any updates or extra information are in black text.



Dendrobium kingianum (Pink Rock Lily)

This is possibly the best known and most variable of our native epiphytic orchids. Its range is along the coastal strip from the Hunter River in New South Wales to Rockhampton in Queensland. While it is principally a lithophyte and found growing in large mats on exposed rock faces, it is also found in shady gullies and on trees.

It has three to six lanceolate leaves up to 13 cm long on stems varying from slender stems, pseudo bulbous only at the base, to short stout pseudo-bulbous stems. The pseudobulbs are usually 8 to 10 cm long with some up to 30 cm in length; the colour varying from pale green to dark reddish green. One to three racemes of up to twelve flowers, often fragrant, are borne from the top of the pseudobulbs, the colour, while commonly pink, varies from white to purple. They are up to 25 mm in diameter having the labellum usually spotted and blotched with mauve. The flowering season is August to November.

It can be grown on slabs or trees (e.g. Jacaranda or Melaleuca) but locally, best results are obtained from pot culture – rafts or hanging baskets, using an open mix. Some growers use a commercial cymbidium mixture.

I have had good results by lining wire baskets with a thick layer of live spagnum moss and filling them with small pieces of seasoned pine bark and charcoal. I find that the plant not only grows up but also out of the sides of the basket.

Some shade is required in our summer I have had success using 50% shadecloth. Protection from our winter frosts is also necessary. Fertilise lightly in the growing season using commercial fertilisers at half strength.

Being hardy it is well suited to cultivation and hybridisation. D. x delicatum is a natural hybrid of D. speciosum and D. kingianum, also D. x suffusum is a natural hybrid of D. gracilicaule and D. kingianum.

A number of man-made hybrids are available. Some of the best known are D. Bardo Rose (D. kingianum x D. falcorostrum). D. Ella Victoria Leaney (D. kingianum x D. tetragonum), all of which respond well to pot culture and flower freely.*

Propagation is either by division or cultivation of “keikies”.

Drawing of Dendrobium kingianum
Drawing of Dendrobium kingianum

*The number of hybrids has increased since 1983.

Australia’s Most Popular Orchid?

Australia has some of the most varied, if not the most varied, terrestrial orchids.  This variety is reflected in the words used in their commons names – spiders, hoods, moose, cowslip, mosquito, comb, fingers, fairies, bearded, ant, bird, frog, helmet, midge, shell, donkey, bulldogs, parsons, bunnies, daddy long-legs, hare, rabbit, onion, leek, gremlin, duck.  This list is from words used for describing just the South Australian orchids.  The other states particularly Western Australia have even more common descriptive names!

With such a variety is there a favourite one?  From the searches and questions that come to this site, it would have to be the Flying Duck Orchid.  This orchid never fails to amaze people with its resemblance to a duck in full flight.

It was no surprise than to discover that the winner for the Australian Orchid Foundation 2014 Essay titled Our Favourite Orchid featured the Flying Duck Orchid.

The essay began “It all started with the arrival of an email ……. click here to continue reading

And just a reminder, it is only ever found in the wild.  No-one has ever been able to grow one and it cannot be bought or sold!  But so that we can all enjoy them, here is a short video clip …..

caleana major
Ducks in full flight
11sm C major actual size
To get an idea of the size of this superb orchid, bring this image up to A4 paper size











Native Orchid Identification Poster Launched

Over the years, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (NRM) have been involved with providing educational resources for schools and the community.  One resource has been A3 Identification Charts.

This week has seen the release of  another identification chart – Common Orchids of the Adelaide Hills.  Produced in collaboration with the Native Orchid Society of SA, it was launched at our general meeting on April 28.

These charts are available free from the NRM website.  To get a copy of the poster, click on the image below and scroll down to Identification Charts.  Whilst there have a look at some of their other posters.

NRM & NOSSA Orchid PosterPS the chart looks good on a smart phone which makes it convenient for out in the field.



March 2015 Winning Photograph

Three winners; three very different orchids but that is typical of Australian Orchids, there is no one species that you can point to and say that is a typical orchid as illustrated by the the winners which were Sarchochilus falcatus (Kris Kopicki), Diuris palustris (David Mangelsdorf) and Simpliglottis valida synonym Chiloglottis valida (Pauline Meyers).

Sarchochilus falcatus (common name Orange Blossom Orchid) is an epiphyte.  03 KK sm Sarcochilus falcatus Mt Banda BandaThe cultivated plant in this photo originated from the Blue Mountains just north of Macquarie.  Epiphytic/lithophytic orchids are found across northern Western Australia through the Top End and from a narrow band down the east coast to Tasmania; that is in all States except South Australia.  About a quarter of Australian orchids are epiphytes and despite the widespread distribution, 90% of epiphytic orchids are found primarily in the rainforests of northeastern Queensland.

S. valida (common name Large Bird Orchid or Frog Orchid) 03 sm PM Chiloglottis validaand D. palustris (common name Little Donkey Orchid or Cinnamon Donkey Orchid) are terrestrial, the larger of the two orchid groups.03 sm DM Diuris palustris  Terrestrials are mainly found across the southern part of the continent with some occurring in the north and tropics.  Their optimal habitat is the various types of sclerophyll forests found in Australia.

There is some distribution overlap but the two groups mainly occupy different habitats.

Concerning the habitat of the two terrestrials, S. valida ranges from tall moist closed forest to shaded places of drier open forests to sphagnum bogs and in the mature pine plantations of the South East.  Whereas D. palustris occurs in wet and swampy habitats in the Eastern states (hence it is named from the Latin palustre meaning swampy), in South Australia it is not so. Instead it is found in open terrain of grassland, grassy woodland, mallee and shrubland.

Some Odd Facts:

S. valida is a small ground hugging plant the scape (flowering stalk) of which elongates to 10cm or more after pollination.  Click on this video link to see these plants ‘talking’.  In New Zealand it is described as a vagrant having been introduced from Australia.

Sarchochilus falcatus is the most common and widely distributed species of this genus in Australia.  Occassionally it is lithophytic (grows on rocks). Though it had been rated Endangered and downgraded to Vulnerable in 2005, it is still under major threat from illegal collecting, trampling, water pollution, weeds and fire. New Zealand has epiphytes and the common name for them is Perching Orchids.

D. palustris is uncommon in South Australia and Tasmania; and rare in Victoria.  D. palustris was one of the subjects painted by Adelaide colonial artist and cartoonist Margaret Cochrane Scott in 1890s who had an affinity for native orchids.



All internet references accessed on 31st March 2015





Mark Clements The Allure of Orchids 2014


Bates 2011 South Australia’s Native Orchids DVD

Greenhood Pollination Strategy

Since orchids, and Australian orchids in particular, first came to the attention of the western world in the 1800s researchers have been fascinated by the so many different aspects of the orchid’s morphology and life cycle. One area of interest has been that of how orchids are pollinated. The mechanism of pollination has not always been clear as the orchids seem to use different and complex methods.  From time to time various papers have been published of observations by researchers.

One such paper was published in the Annals of Botany 113: 629 – 641, 2014 titled ‘Caught in the act: pollination of sexually deceptive trap-flowers by fungus gnats in Pterostylis (Orchidaceae)’ by R D Phillips, D Scaccabarozzi, B A Retter, C Hayes, G Brown, K W Dixon and R Peakall.

The ‘question and answer’ style of the paper helps with ease of reading and is worthwhile perusing, even for the lay person. The accompanying VIDEO is also of interest.

The essence of the paper was to establish whether sexual deception was used to facilitate pollination.  The species researched was Pterostylis sanguinea (syn. Urochilus sanguineus) and the researchers confirmed that this did happen.  Their research showed that the attraction for the insect came only from the labellum which exuded an alluring chemical.  P. sanguinea has a mobile hinged labellum which is a feature of other sexually deceptive orchids such Paracaleana, Caleana, Arachnorchis.

Urochilus sanguineus RWL
Pterostylis sanguinea syn. Urochilus sanguineus with the untriggered labellum
Urochilus sanguineus RWL(1)
Pterostylis sanginea syn. Urochilus sangineus with a side view of the labellum


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