So what do they look like? Amazingly Johann Georg Beer (1803 – 1873), an Austro-Hungarian orchidologist and explorer published in 1863 Beitra ¨ge zur Morphologie und Biologie der Familie der Orchideen. In it, Beer had produced in exquisite detail illustrations of orchid seeds. Beer was not the first to draw orchid seeds but his “drawings are morphologically accurate and artistically magnificent. Beer’s artistic ability, patience, and botanical expertise are obvious. His are probably the first detailed colour renditions of orchid seeds and seedlings to be published.”*
*Arditti, J, 2008, An history of orchid hybridization, seed germination and tissue culture, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society June 2008
This week’s post is taken from the IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group Facebook post concerning Resolution decided upon at the final session of the International Orchid Conservation Congress Conference, held in May 2016 at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Hong Kong
It was posted by Michael Fay of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is also the Chair of the IUCN SSC Orchid Specialist Group. According to their website, “The Orchid Specialist Group is a global network of experts who volunteer their time and expertise to build a scientific and practical foundation for the conservation of orchids (Orchidaceae).”
(A list of the meanings of acronyms appears at the end of this post.)
Michael’s post follows
Here are the Resolutions from the final session of IOCC VI in Hong Kong:
Orchids are a flagship plant group with a high profile in human culture. They are known from all vegetated continents on earth but their occurrence reflects patterns in the global distribution of biodiversity and their intricate ecological associations, particularly with pollinators and mycorrhizal fungi, reflect sensitive ecosystem processes. Accordingly, orchids are indicators of ecosystem and climate health. Many orchids and their associated biota have been exposed to a variety of threats as a direct consequence of human-driven global change, with almost half of the ca. 27,000 known species now potentially at risk of extinction. Delegates of the IOCC support all efforts to research and mitigate these threats and secure environments on which orchids depend, and are committed to achieving meaningful conservation by recommending that:
The creation of orchid enhanced habitats is a priority for ecological restoration.
Enhanced in situ orchid protection requires the creation of orchid reserves. These will benefit a wide array of other species and biological communities and can be financed through various public and private sources.
The international and domestic wild plant trade is widely recognised by governments and civil society as a major threat to the persistence of many orchid species, and that its curtailment requires concerted government action and enforcement.
The propagation and cultivation of threatened orchids by small and local orchid enterprises should be supported for the sustainable production of orchids used in horticulture, medicine and food.
Orchid cultivation should be licensed and audited by government or other government-approved body through a national (or international) accreditation scheme that specifies adequate safeguards to ensure best practice. Propagated orchids should be traceable and distinguishable from wild orchids so as to minimise the risk of laundering wild plants.
National, regional and international networks should be established and strengthened for promoting in situ and ex situ orchid conservation.
The next generation of orchid taxonomists, ecologists and conservationists is nurtured through improved training, education, publicity and awareness-raising programmes.
Members shall strengthen the work of OSG by:
Facilitating and conducting national and global Red Listing of orchids, and contributing to the Sampled Red List Index (SRLI);
Monitoring and reporting on the illegal trade in orchids to national enforcement agencies and to TRAFFIC;
Reviving Orchid Conservation International as a vehicle for web-based education and channelling funding to orchid conservation programmes, along the lines of Birdlife International;
Embracing social media and other web-based interactive tools as dynamic and effective means of stimulating communication, raising awareness and building networks;
Using citizen science as an effective means of motivating individuals and amateur groups to record orchid occurrence (e.g. OrchidMap, iNaturalist) and help scale-up the collection of verifiable data;
Establishing and maintaining a global database of orchid reintroductions (including both successes and failures) and ex situ orchid collections that can be accessed and updated by members and which is linked to the IUCN Reintroduction Specialist Group;
Creating new sub-groups focusing on trade and molecular identification, to reflect important cross-cutting themes and challenges.
Thanks to Stephan Gale and Phil Cribb for producing the final version of these.
IOCC VI refers to the International Orchid Conservation Congress Conference was held in May 2016 at the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Hong Kong
IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature
OSG: Orchid Specialist Groups
SSC: Species Survival Commission
TRAFFIC: Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce
Leo Davis is an orchid hunter. He is meticulous in his observations and notes details that many of us may miss. In this article he muses upon the variations that he sees in the field.
You, as I do, must occasionally come upon an orchid or an orchid event that is a little outside normal experience. When I do, I wonder whether this is a purely chance event or is it caused by recent local environmental factors, or is it due to the genes of the plants. Or a combination of these?
I’ve been watching a couple of patches of fire orchids (Pyrorchis nigricans) that many of you will be familiar with, one at Knott Hill N.F.R., the other at Monarto C.P., where a few plants flower every year, without the normally required stimulation by fire. I need to check whether it is the same plants that flower each year.
The tall leek orchid (Prasophyllum elatum) puts up leaves at Scott Creek C.P. every year but does not flower. A fire swept through in early 2014 and most plants flowered in October. They’ve not flowered since. But over at Ramsay Way, west of Pt. Vincent, a few plants flower each year without fire. I assume genes are involved.
In April 2014 I chanced upon a patch of Adelaide Hills parson’s bands (Eriochilus collinus), along Moore’s Road, at Morialta C.P., in which the majority of plants had three flowers per stem. Was this because of favourable conditions or genes? Over the next two seasons I saw only the occasional double header and mainly single flowered plants. I will continue observations and records.
In July 2015 I found a dense patch, about 3 m2 in area, of hundreds the common mallee shell orchid (Diplodium dolichochilum), in Ferries-McDonald C.P. As usual less than ten plants were in flower, but two of them were double headers. I’ll be checking this season and expect this not to be a chance event but one due to genes.
On May 27, 2012, Bob Bates led a NOSSA outing to Scott Creek C.P. and as ever, when he leads, we saw and learned a lot. He showed us a patch of fringed hare-orchids (Leporella fimbriata) that he assured us should not be growing there on that steep rocky site and that the plants would not flower most years. Unfortunately he was right, as usual. I could not find plants in 2013 and 2014 and it took three searches in 2015 to find a very few leaves. On May 10 this year, over an area of less than 10 m2, I found perhaps 50 leaves and just seven plants in flower. Three of these had three flowers and a tiny unopened bud (check the photo) and the others were doubles. I’ve never seen a triple flowered plant in hundreds I’ve seen at Knott Hill N.F.R. Are genes in an isolated population at play here? Given the paucity of flowering at this site, it may take me years to sort this one out.
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.
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)
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?
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?
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?
(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 are leaf-like structures at the base of each flower)
How long are the bracts?
What colour are the bracts?
(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?
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Leporellafimbriata was put into Eriochilus, as Eriochilusfimbriatus (1882), then Leptocerasfimbriata and finally into its own genus Leporella (A S George 1971). Caladeniamenziesii 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.
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.
Winged male ants (Myrmecia urens)
Myrmecophyte – lives in mutualistic association with colony of ants
Curved white with red stripes
Wider than longer, purple and green
Has no calli
Spring (September to November)
Autumn (March to May)
Shaded sites – moist gullies; scrub, heath, woodland and foret
Part One – Attracting Pollinators looked at pollination strategy, but the fourth aim of the paper was to establish that Corunastylis littoralis reproduced by xenogamy or geitonogamy and that the species was not autogamous or apomictic, that is, pollinated, self pollinating or non pollinating plants.
Xenogamy or geitonogamy that is vector mediated pollination or out-crossing is when fertilization occurs by the transfer of pollen from one flower to another flower usually by the means of insect.
Autogamy or self-pollinating is when the flower is pollinated by its own pollen.
Apoximis is when reproduction occurs without pollination, that is, vegetative reproduction.
As explained in the paper, there are visual clues for determining which process is used by the plant.
Pollinia removal and pollen deposition
Pollinia not removed
Lacks pollen or it is tightly bound
Pollinia weakly attached to the viscidium
If pollinia present, then unable to be removed
Not all the ovaries are fertilized
All the ovaries are fertilized and have viable seeds
Swelling of the ovaries can occur whilst in bud
Likely to have no perfume
Flowers short lived
More detailed information was gained by dissecting the flower.
Because of their details, research papers can contain some very interesting facts of interest to a wide range of readers. This paper was no different. The aim of the paper was to identify the pollinator(s), how the attractant worked, confirm that C. littoralis was not autogamous (self-fertilizing) or apomictic (reproduction without pollination) and to assess the requirements & long-term viability of the pollinator.
The following summary notes have been drawn from both the research paper and the consultancy report. Note that Corunastylis littoralis is a synonym of Genoplesium littorale.
One of the interesting issues discussed was the different types of pollination strategies employed by orchids. It is commonly accepted that about one third of orchids use deceptive practices to attract a pollinator whereby they promise but don’t deliver. Some of these strategies are quite unusual. It would appear that there are at least four strategies now known. In order of frequency they are
The first two are well known to many orchid lovers. The orchid promises food such as nectar but does not produce any nectar or it has the appearance and even odour of the female insect pollinator so that it fools the male. The lesser known deception is brood-site mimicry where the female insect pollinator is tricked into laying the eggs on the flower but there is no chance for survival of the off-spring. Finally the most uncommon and unusual deception of prey or carrion mimicry, known as kleptomyiophily.
This method was discussed in detail in the report and made for fascinating reading although it was helpful to have a dictionary on hand.
Some insects are kleptoparasitic that is they feed on the haemolymph (roughly similar to blood) but from freshly killed insects. The researchers established that the pollinator for C. littoralis was not Drosophilidae (vinegar fly) but were instead from the families Chloropidae and Milichiidae known kleptoparasitic flies.
It has been observed that the pollinators swarm around the Corunastylis. This is a known behavioural pattern of kleptoparasitic flies that are attracted to the prey of other predators such as spiders, robber flies and other predatory insects.
It was noted that the pollinators were dominated by females. This precludes sexual deception and suggests that the females may require the haemolymph, which is protein rich, for egg maturation. It was also noted that C littoralis is a nectar producing orchid. It was considered that the nectar contained properties that mimic haemolymph.
Based upon these observations it was hypothesized that prey mimicry pollination syndrome was the best fit for the Corunastylis. Though this syndrome has been observed in orchids in the northern hemisphere, this would be the first time that this has been demonstrated as a possibility for Australian orchids.
Part two will consider the fourth aim of the paper which was to determine the method of reproduction.
Thank you to Colin Bower for checking this post and for allowing the use of his photographs.
A British navy surgeon who circumnavigated the globe from west to east with Captain George Vancouver, in the tumultuous voyage of 1791 to 1974, explored extensively in south-west Western Australia, and was later president of the Linnean Society of London; his name is recorded in the names of banksias (including the firewood Banksia [Banksia menziesii]), orchids and mosses of the King George Sound hinterland which record his service to Australian botany.
Having looked at the background, Professor Pearn documents the individual doctors and orchids. In the original paper the doctors were listed alphabetically but these posts will be in chronological order based upon the doctor’s year of birth.
Daniel Solander (1733 – 1782)
A medical student in Sweden and London, and botanist-librarian on the Endeavour voyage to Austalia (1769 – 1771); his name is commemorated in the names of Australian species of Aciacia, Banksia and Geraniums.