This month’s entries of Oligochaetochilus arenicola, Caladenia flava, Calochilus robertsonii , Diuris palustris and Caladenia procera illustrated the variety of shapes to be found in orchids.
All but one are reasonably common; all but one were photographed in situ and that one was the winning picture by Kris Kopicki – Caladenia procera. Its common name, Carbunup King Spider Orchid, reflects its location near Busselton Western Australia. This species has a severely limited distribution with a small population and is threatened by land clearing for development. Consequently it is rated as critically endangered.
The other aspect of this plant is that it is a photograph of a plant in a pot not the bush. Kris benched the original plant at the September Tuesday meeting when it was still in bud. By Saturday it was in glorious flower.
This picture exemplifies the two objects of NOSSA which “are to promote and engage in activities for the promotion and furtherance of:
the culture, propagation, conservation, knowledge and scientific study of the native orchids of Southern Australia and the Australasian region;
the preservation of orchids as a species and their preservation within their native habitat.”
Some terrestrial orchids are relatively easy to grow but not this one. It takes time patience and skill to grow them. C procera is one of the fungi dependent species and though capable of living many years, it can take up to six years before flowering, although under ideal condition it could mature in as little as two years.
Being able to grow the different terrestrial orchids is one of the ways NOSSA can help in their conservation. NOSSA has a Growers’ Forum each meeting night where members can attend and learn from experienced growers how to grow both epiphytes and, importantly, the terrestrials.
Native Orchid Society of South Australia Inc. (NOSSA) Rules of Association 2007
The theme for the November Photograph Competition will be Orchids and Insects (spiders and other similar small critters will be honorary insects). The April Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Vol 38 No3 had an article on how to photograph pollinators which is reprinted here below along with some pictures of orchid pollinators.
For most of us trying to photograph a pollinator is a hit or miss event.
Back in 2007 when Robert and I were still fairly new members, Bob Bates suggested we visit Talisker to photograph Dipodium – “and while you are there, photograph a bee pollinator” and “It has to be this weekend, or you will miss it” – from me “What is a bee pollinator?” So on a hot January day, the family spent the morning at Talisker. Robert busily photographing every Dipodium he saw. By early afternoon, the children were hot and tired but Robert wanted another half an hour. After more than a hundred photographs and in that last half hour Robert spotted a bee on one of the flowers only to have it disappear when it heard the shutter sound of the camera. Fortunately when we looked at the picture it showed the pollinia of the D. pardalinum on the head of a native bee – we had our bee pollinator!
The lesson we learnt from that day was to turn the shutter sound off.
Talking to Rudie Kuiter and reading his book Orchid Pollinators of Victoria 2nd edition 2013, the other factors contributing to our success were:
a hot day,
flowers in the sun
This is when the bee pollinator is most likely to be active, see page 110. Although, Rudie’s book is a compilation of his observations for specific Victorian species, there are many clues to help us successfully photograph pollinators; of which follows (direct quotes from his book are in quotation marks):
His most important point is observation.
“Working out how and when to catch the insects in the act of pollination is a question of finding the right flowers and figuring out about the insect’s likely visiting times. To observe the action means watching the plants for many hours and have some idea when the creatures are flying.” (Page 110)
“Temperature and air movement play a major role in the pollination processes. On windy days the pollinator is usually not active, whilst temperatures effect (sic) the flying ability of the insects and controls the scent produced by the orchids.” (Page 110)
His notes infer searching before 10 am. (Page 2)
Most species become active when temperatures rise above 16⁰ C. Look for freshly opened flowers or visible pollinia. Check either the day before or in the morning. Several cool days preceding a warm day are more likely to aid success. (Page 10)
Green combed spider orchid
The best time seems to be a short period of not more than 30 minutes in the early morning between 10 and 11 am. In summer, the temperature can be a few degrees higher than the 16⁰ C of spring before the wasps are active. Also see note above for wasps. (Page 17)
“pollinators are rarely seen or photographed ….” (Page 54)
As temperature rises, the labellum develops a glossy surface which attracts the pollinator. Whilst still warm after dark, the pollinator remains active, suggesting at nocturnal pollination. See also Page 59. (Page 110)
“The fungus gnats were usually seen during late mornings when temperatures rose above 11⁰ C.” (Page 64)
“The smell becomes strongest above about 25⁰ C.” (Page 76)
“seems the wasp is only seen on the orchids when temperatures reach about 27⁰ or more.” (Page 79)
“I watched a large number of Thelymitra peniculata on a very hot day in early November. It was coolish early in the morning and warming quickly. Flowers were still closed at 10 am, and by 11 am most were open. As a flower was about to open, one could wait for a small bee to arrive. It seemed every flower was visited within a few minutes.” (Page 80)
“One has to be very patient to wait for bees on these flowers. I’ve found a very hot day was best to see bees showing an interest.” (Page 84)
Pollinators are seen in the early afternoon when mid-day temperatures are 12⁰ C or more and the flowers are in the sun. (Page 94)
Pollinators are attracted to the fresh flowers and pollination takes place within half an hour of insects flying. Once inside the flower it may take 6 – 12 minutes before they are ready to leave. (Page 110)
Requires temperatures of about 29⁰ C but need to be photographed from a distance as pollinators may be easily disturbed. (Page 106)
When looking for pollinators and wanting to get close, insect repellents should not be used and also strong perfumes may be a problem as most insects are touchy to approach.
In summary, the most likely time to photograph pollinators is when they are most active, when:
There is a warm day following a few cooler days.
Day time temperature has risen (relative to the season), ie late morning to early afternoon but there are exceptions.
Flowers are freshly opened.
Flowers are in sun, not shade.
There is no wind.
Photographing pollinators takes planning, observation and patience but it is well worth the effort.
Rudie Kuiter’s book is available for loan from the NOSSA library.
Special thanks to Rudie for taking the time to read through and respond to this article.
Thank you to Rudie for allowing us to use two of his photographs showing pollinators.
NB The genus Genoplesium has also been known as Corunastylis.
The winning picture was a single flower of Thelymitra epipactoides (Metallic Sun Orchid) taken by Rosalie Lawrence. This picture was cropped from a photograph taken on a mobile phone. Phones have come a long way since the days of Alexander Graham Bell!
T. epipactoides is a special orchid both in its beautiful colourings and that it is one of our rarest orchids. This endangered species has been well studied in an effort to prevent its demise with the result that there is an abundance of information about it. Recently, with the knowledge gained, Dr Nouska Reiter of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) and her team have managed to cultivate 3,000 plants with the plan to re-introduce them back into the bush in the Wimmera area.
Following are some interesting points from two good sources, which are the
(2)……can remain dormant as a tuber in the soil for up to nine years ……….
(But once a plant has flowered)
(2)…….Plants can produce flowers from their second year of growth onwards for up to four consecutive years, but no more. Individual plants can remain dormant for up to two years then grow to produce flowers, but if dormant for four years or more, plants generally do not reappear. …..
(2)…… Detailed monitoring suggests that mature plants only live for about 10 years before dying (Cropper 1993). ……..
(2)……..flowers open when the relative humidity is lower than 52%, air temperature is above 15 °C, and there are clear skies ………….
(2)……..Flowers remain for up to four weeks but wither a week after pollination ……
(2)……. fungus is required to initiate successful seed germination (Calder et al. 1989) and seeds cannot survive more than two weeks without associating with the fungus ………
(1)…….Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. …….
(2)….The leaf is loosely sheathing ………
(2)…Mature non-flowering plants have slightly narrower leaves to 51 cm long and not sheathing …
(1)………Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. ………
(2)…. is undulating plains, crests of hills, gentle slopes of low broad ridges and at the bottom of broad, shallow swales (Obst 2005). It grows in sandy soils over a clay subsoil, with these soils having a tendency to become waterlogged in winter and spring, and drying out in summer and autumn ……
(2)…..This species is a post-disturbance coloniser, utilising early successional stages after disturbance events such as human activities, fire, animal activities such as scratching of the soil, or associated vegetation disturbance. ……
(2)……..requires open sites for flowering and seedling recruitment (Calder et al. 1989). ………
(1)……Population estimates vary from about 1050 plants in Australia (DEH 2006), to less than 3,000 plants (Coats et al 2002). More recent assessments suggest the population could be less than 1500 plants in the wild …….
(2)……In the Murray Darling Basin and South East Regions of South Australia there were ten populations of the Metallic Sun-orchid recorded in 2004 by Obst ……..
Reminder – November theme is Orchids and Insects (Spiders and other such critters are honorary insects)
Pauline Meyer’s winning photograph is a whole plant picture of Western Australia’s flamboyant Queen of Sheba Orchid. It was taken at Eneabba, north of Perth and identified by a local as Thelymitra variegata but in consulting the books it would appear that it is the Northern Queen of Sheba, T. pulcherrima. There are three species known as Queen of Sheba orchids in Western Australia – T. varigata, T. pulcherrima and T. speciosa.
T. variegata was originally named in 1839 by John Lindley but under the genus Macdonaldia. In 1865 Ferdinand Mueller moved it to Thelymitra, later people began to separate it out to three different species* but it wasn’t until 2009 that Jeff Jeanes describeds T. pulcherrima and T. speciosa as distinct species from T. variegata.
All three species have a single thin spiral leaf and showy multi-coloured flowers.
T. pulcherrima and T. speciosa differ from T. variegata in the following points.
T. speciosa, begins flowering earlier, is a slightly shorter plant with fewer flowers (one, more rarely two) and although the flowers are a similar size to T. variegata they are even more colourful and the petals and sepals are distinctly different colours.
T pucherrima is similar in height to T. variegata but has smaller flowers with yellow, red, purple mauve sepals and pink purple mauve petals. It too begins flowering earlier than T. variegata.
They all have distinct separate locations as reflected in the common names – Southern Queen of Sheba (T. variegata), Eastern Queen of Sheba (T. speciosa) and Northern Queen of Sheba (T. pulcherrima). For some good images go to Retired Aussies or the Chookman
Finally there is one other species that is similar to these three and it is called Cleopatra’s Needle, T. apiculata.
Northern Queen of Sheba
Eastern Queen of Sheba
Southern Queen of Sheba
North of Perth between Lancelin and Dongara
Between the Stirling Range and Condingup
Between Perth & Albany with disjunct populations near Hyden
late June – early September
late June – September
August to September
1 to 5
1 to 2
1 to 5
150 – 350
100 – 200 mm
100 – 350 mm
25 – – 35mm
30 – 50 mm
30 – 50 mm
Yellow, red, purple and mauve
Yellow, red, purple and mauve
Deep pink purple blotched
Pink or purple and mauve
Pink or purple and mauve
Deep pink or purple and darker purple blotched
Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia 2013, pages 425 & 427
I would like to thank Andrew Brown, co-author, for his help with this article.
* The name T. puchemirra is mentioned in the Western Australian Native Orchid Study and Conservation Group 2008 field trip report
With a common name of Queen Orchid, Thelymitra crinita is aptly named, for the flower has a quiet regal air of elegance and delicacy that would appeal to many people. Lorraine Badger who took this photograph was one of those people.
T crinita is a common Western Australian orchid that can be found from Perth around to Albany with a disjunct area near Esperance. Back in 1839, it was one of 60 orchids named by John Lindley in ‘Appendix to the first twenty-three volumes of Edwards’s Botanical Register together with A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony’ page xlix. Though the register is written in English the species description is in Latin, here reproduced for all those Latin buffs –
On a recent visit to the South Australian State Herbarium, Michelle Waycott, Chief Botanist, explained that there is a strict botanical standard for describing a species. You may be pleased to know that at the 18th International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011, it was determined that from the 1st January 2012 it was no longer mandatory for descriptions to be in Latin only. English can now be used.
Taken at the same site as February’s winning photograph – Ramsay Conservation Park on Yorke Peninsula, the winning photograph was of an Arcahnorchis sp. by Pauline Meyers.
A positive identification was not possible due to a number of factors making firm identification difficult. Most likely it is a hybrid of the Green-combed group of spider orchids and though not positively identified there are some things that can be observed. The Green-combed group according to Gary Backhouse consists of three sub-groups, A dilatata (largest sub-group), A concinna and A integra, but David Jones has them as three separate gorups.
Some features of this group are
One of two flowers
Flowers mainly green or greenish and red
Hinged and mobile
Green comb-like teeth on the margins (edges)
Tepals (petals and sepals)
Green to greenish with red stripes
Brown to yellow clubs at the tips
From the photograph it can be seen that all the green-comb features are visible except for the clubs, The dorsal sepal is obviously thickened but it is not as clear for the other two sepals. This could be due to the angle of the photograph.
Another observation to note is that it is a freshly opened flower as suggested by the elongated appearance of the labellum. As the flower ages the labellum curls further under itself. It is important to remember that an old flower and a young flower of the same species could be mistaken as two different species.
In South Australia, species belonging to the green-comb groups are
A dilatata sub-group consisting of
A aurulenta, A clavula, A dilatata, A interanea, A macroclavia, A necrophylla, A parva,
A phaeoclavia, A septuosa, A stricta, A tensa, A tentaculata, A verrucosa, A villosissima
A concinna sub-group consisting of
A toxochila, A conferta
A integra sub-group consisting of none in South Australia
To iterate from last month – Orchids are an interesting group concerning identification. Some are extremely easy to identify but others not so.
Backhouse, G. (2011). Spider-orchids – the Genus Caladenia and its Relatives in Australia on CD Rom.
Jones, D. L. (2006). A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia including the Island Territories, (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, N.S.W., Reed New Holland.
R.J.Bates. (2011). South Australia’s Native Orchids (DVD) [Electronic Version]
Thank you to Thelma Bridle for reviewing the article.
This month’s winner photographed by Pauline Meyers was a spider hybrid identified by Bob Bates as Arachnorchis brumalis x A conferta.
Orchids are an interesting group concerning identification. Some are extremely easy to identify but others specifically the sun orchids, but also the spider orchids, can be difficult to identify partly due to the ease with which they are able to hybridise.
A frequent hybrid occurrence across Australia (see map for Arachnorchis distribution) is the pairing of the green comb spider orchids of the A dilatata complex with the white spider orchid of the A patersonii complex as seen in this picture. A brumalis belongs to the A patersonii complex and A conferta to the green comb orchid.
Hybrids will be variable but obviously they will have characteristics of both parents. By looking at the two parents it can be seen that this picture of Pauline’s contains features of both. From the A conferta parent, the inherited features are the wide labellum of the green comb, thickened calli and the red on the segments whilst the long thin segments, glandular tips (osmophores) long and thin, not clubbed are from the A conferta.
I would like to thank Bob Bates for his helpful comments with writing this article and also Colin for his helpful website www.RetiredAussie.com with its many images of both A conferta and A brumalis which enabled me to view both species at the same time making it much easier to see the characteristics of both parents within the hybrid
Reference for the map.
Australian Orchid Genera: an information and identification system Electronic series: ABRS Identification Series Publishers: Australian Biological Resources Study/CSIRO Publishing Year: 2006 Authors: D.L.Jones, T.Hopley, S.M.Duffy, K.J.Richards, M.A.Clements, X.Zhang ISBN-10: 0 643 09336 2 ISBN-13: 978 0 643 09336 2
Although originally from the disk quoted above, the map was accessed from this site https://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/cd-keys/orchidkey/html/genera/ARACHNORCHIS_map.htm
The winner for Part two of November’s competition, Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid) was David Manglesdorf.
In South Australia, though much smaller than its big brother – Caleana major, it still suffers from similar problems ie lack of pollinator, vulnerable status, extremely limited distribution within the Southern Lofty region. The Little Duck is widespread in the east extending from Queensland down around into the South East, as well as across to Tasmania, plus one other distant location.
One of the differences between the two species is that the minor is able to set seeds without insect pollination occurring. Could this possibly help provide an explanation for its other location?
There is one colony near the very popular tourist resort of Rotorua, New Zealand where it is called Sullivania minor, (Paracaleana minor is recognised as a synonym). According to Graeme Jane it has been there ‘over a very long period’. The speculation is that it ‘could have arrived during one of those periodic severe bushfire seasons in eastern Australia when
smoke, ash and apparently orchid seed and insects are carried high into the atmosphere and brought eastwards in the jet stream in a few hours. More likely though (since it has occurred nowhere else), it arrived in soil on the shoes of a visitor to the thermal wonderland.’
Just some food for thought as to how plants may spread around the world – but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that it is also another one that cannot be cultivated and needs to protected where it naturally grows if we are to continue to enjoy this species.
Department Of Environment And Heritage. 2008. Paracaleana minor: Small Duck-orchid. Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges South Australia: Threatened Species Profile, May 2008.
This month’s competition consisted of two sections – the Flying Duck and the Little Ducks. The winner of the Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana major) picture was Patsy Love. Bob Bates provided a commentary on the Duck Orchids in South Australia.
Caleana major or Flying Duck orchid is unique and the unique shape of its flower was featured on an Australia Post stamp in 1986. It is found only in Australia and it ranges as far north as the Tropic of Capricorn, around the eastern seaboard, across to the South Australian/Victorian border where there is a gap until the southern section of the Mt Lofty Ranges. The latter distribution is know as disjunct because it is isolated from the main distribution group. In the Mt Lofty region, the range has been severely restricted. Records prior to 1983 show the distribution to be as far north as Cleland, Belair and Greenhill. Post 1983 distribution consists of a few isolated locations in the south. Though common in the eastern states, in South Australia it is listed as Vulnerable.
The factors contributing to the South Australian vulnerable status is the restricted distribution as a result of loss of habitat due to clearing, grazing, weed infestation, inappropriate timing of slashing, etc.
Another factor is lack of pollinator. Bob stated he has seen a male sawfly pollinating flowers (the labellum resembles a female sawfly) in New South Wales but no-one has ever seen it happening in South Australia. He also added that non-one has ever seen a naturally occurring seed-pod. It is suspected that the pollinators no longer live in South Australia. Thus it is important that the plants and their habitats are not disturbed.
The survival of the duck orchids is made even more precarious by their popularity. This seems to be the orchid that people most want to grow in cultivation. Sadly some people attempt to remove them from their native habitat. Tragically, when this does happen they inevitably die; no one, not even experienced growers, have been able to grow them in cultivation. It is important to concentrate on protecting its habitat if we are to continue to enjoy this unique species.
Calenana major, Adelaide Mount Lofty South Australia Threatened Species Profile, DEWNR, 2007