CULTURE OF FAST MULTIPLYING (FM) TERRESTRIAL ORCHIDS

Recently, NOSSA updated the Terrestrial Culture Fact Sheet.  Instead of one sheet, it was decided to split it into three – Culture of Fast Multiplying Terrestrials, Culture of Slow Multiplying Terrestrials and Culture of Fungi Dependent Terrestrials.  Though much of the growing information is similar, there are some significant differences of which growers need to be aware.  The first of the fact sheets is Culture of Fast Multiplying Terrestrials.

FLAGBEARER SPECIES: Pterostylis curta

Pterostylis curta Labellum and column 92RL

Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood) is rated rare in South Australia.  Ex situ conservation is another dimension to conservation.

Others include Chilogolottis, Corybas, Cyrtostylis, Diplodium, Microtis most Pterostylis and some Diuris. Most FMs are Autumn or Winter flowering. The exceptions are Diuris and Microtis. FM are the most common terrestrial orchids to be seen at meetings and shows. Once seedlings are established they are no longer fungi dependent.

GROWTH HABIT: FMs are the easiest terrestrial’s orchids to grow. They multiply by forming 2 – 5 tubers per plant each year. The annual growth cycle comprises 6 – 8 months as growing plants under cool (5 – 20⁰ C max, 0 – 14⁰ C min) moist conditions and 4 – 6 months as dormant tubers in hot (18 – 42⁰ C max, 12 – 30⁰ C min) dry conditions.  New tubers are produced in winter/spring. FMs are colony types, ie they multiply annually and will spread out over time if planted in the ground. Each tuber sends up a shoot to the surface in autumn and leaves grow rapidly in late autumn/early winter as temperatures fall and the rains set in. FMs mainly flower in Autumn and Winter. Diplodium & Pterostylis leaves are usually the first to appear in March followed by Diuris and Microtis in April, and Corybas in June to July. In October/November the leaves go yellow, then brown and dry as the days get longer, hotter and drier in late spring.

LIGHT/SHADE: In Adelaide, they thrive in a shadehouse of 50% shadecloth. Some species prefer heavy shade, others full sunlight but most will adapt to a wide range of light intensity. Sun loving species (Diuris & Microtis) prefer a brighter location for good growth. Corybas like the shadiest corner.  If the leaves and stems are weak and limp or if the leaf rosettes are drawn up to the light, then the shading is too dense and amount of light should be increased.

In very cold areas an unheated glasshouse may be required for frost protection although light frosts do not worry the majority of species.

AIR MOVEMENT/HUMIDITY: All species like good air movement and will not thrive in a stuffy humid atmosphere especially if temperatures are high.

WATERING: The soil should be kept moist at all times during active growth by watering gently if there is no rain.  Hand watering is especially necessary in spring as soil in pots dries out more rapidly than in the garden. Watering must be done slowly so that the matt of needles on the surface of the pot is not disturbed. Slugs and snails love these plants and must be kept under control. Raising the pots off the ground on galvanised steel benching is very effective in controlling these pests.

After the leaves have turned yellow, let the pot dry out completely to dry up the old roots and tubers otherwise they may turn into a soggy mouldy mess and rot may destroy the adjacent new tubers.

REPOTTING: They grow better if repotted annually otherwise the plants crowd together around the rim of the pot.  Repotting is normally done between November and January. The pots can be knocked out and the tubers examined without harm.  For best results repot the tubers in half fresh soil mix. A suitable soil mix is 40% loam, 50% sand and 10% organic matter with a little blood and bone fertilizer added. (They will also grow in native potting mix.) A 5 mm sieve is a useful tool for separating tubers from soil. Replant the dormant tubers with the tops 20 mm deep. Cover the soil surface with a mulch of chopped sheoak needles (20 – 50 mm lengths). This prevents soil erosion and assists with aeration under the leaves.

SUMMER CARE: Keep the pots shaded and allow the pots to dry out between light waterings until mid-February when they should be set out in their growing positions and watered a little more often. The tubers of some species will rot if kept wet during the dormant period, others will produce plants prematurely which are then attacked by pests such as thrip and red spider mite and fungal diseases in the warm weather.

FERTILIZING: FMs are very hardy and will benefit from weak applications of folia feed in the early growth stages.

OTHER CULTURE NOTES:

NB: IT IS ILLEGAL TO TAKE PLANTS (WHOLE PLANT, FLOWERS, SEEDS AND TUBERS) FROM THE WILD

 

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Do Any Orchids Grow Near The Sea?

Orchids are found in a wide range of habitats.  One such habitat is the littoral zone or more simply the seaside.  The following information is taken from the NOSSA’s CD/DVD South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011.

The Littoral Zone

Many orchid species have a linear distribution following the coastline. Here on the leeward side of sandhills the air is usually moist and mild, few frosts occur so close to the sea and sea-fogs in winter will cause water to drip into the sand which easily soaks up both the moisture and the extra nutrients provided by sea-spray. Some of the best known coastal orchids include the gnats Cyrtostylis robusta, pink fairies Caladenia latifolia, coast onion-orchids, Microtis arenaria and coastal helmet orchids Corysanthes expansa as well as C. despectans. All of these are colony forming species, mostly because the windblown sand would soon cover ‘single plant’ species which start to appear after the second line of dunes.

Coastal species can be a few kilometres from the sea but there are several that grow either at the high tide mark, within sight or sound of the sea or in coastal dunes. Apart from the ones already mentioned above, the following are some others that can potentially be found within sight and sound of the sea.

  • Acianthus pusillus (Mosquito Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis cardiochila (Thick Lipped Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis fragrantissima (Scented Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis fuliginosa (Coastal Spider Orchid)
  • Arachnorchis sp Brown Bayonets (Port Lincoln Spider Orchid)
  • Bunochilus flavovirens (Coastal Banded Greenhood)
  • Bunochilus littoralis (Lake Saint Clair Banded Greenhood)
  • Caladenia sp Selfing Coastal Dunes (Little Dune Fingers)
  • Corunastylis nigricans (Port Lincoln Midge Orchid)
  • Diuris orientis (Wallflower Orchid or Bulldogs)

    Diuris orientis

    Diuris orientis (Wallflower Orchid)

  • Diplodium erythroconchum (Red shell Orchid)
  • Glossodia major (Waxlip or Purple Cockatoo Orchid)
  • Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid, Rabbit Ears)

    Leptoceras menziesii (Rabbit Ears Orchid)

    Leptoceras menziesii (Rabbit Ears Orchid) after a fire

  • Prasophyllum elatum (Tall Leek Orchid)
  • Prasophyllum litorale (Vivid Leek Orchid)
  • Prasophyllum sp Late Coastal Dunes
  • Pterostylis cucullata (Leafy Greenhood)
  • Pterostylis curta (Blunt Greenhood)Pterostylis curta Labellum and column 92RL
  • Thelymitra antennifera (Rabbit Ears; Lemon Sun Orchid)07 JB T antennifera sm

Unfortunately, where there has been settlement, it is now unusual to find these species so close to the sea.

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!