As part of 40th NOSSA anniversary, the theme for this month was Leptoceras menziesii (Hare Orchid or Rabbit Ears). Entries were received from John Badger, Pauline Meyers, Robert and Rosalie Lawrence, with John Badger’s being declared the winner.
In February 1978, it was announced that the nascent NOSSA society required an emblem. Members were invited to send in drawings, to be judged by members and then ratified by the committee. Mrs Chris Butler (Ron Robjohns’ daughter) was the winner. The first Leptoceras menziesii flowers to be benched at a NOSSA meeting were in September 1978. It appears to be an easy plant to grow but a most difficult one to flower.
This seems to be because it is fire dependent. In spring, it will flower profusely if there has been a summer fire such as occurred after the 2015 Sampson Flat (SA) fires. It is possible that the gas ethylene produced during a fire event may initiate the flowering response.
Otherwise, apart from the occasional flowering plant, it will be mainly leaves that are found when out in the field. The single leaf of this plant lying prostrate along the ground is distinctive. It is firm, boat-shaped, glabrous (no hairs), with a fine ‘snake-skin’ pattern. Interestingly, sterile plants can be mistaken for a plant with a developing bud as there will be at the leaf base a ligule (a thin membranous growth, often found on grass stems).
Backhouse, G, et al (2016) Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria Electronic version
Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA
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
A photograph of a yellow sun orchid is July’s winning photograph and was taken by John Badger.
It is not difficult to identify a yellow sun orchid because amongst all of the Australian Thelymitras there are only two true yellow sun orchids. These are Thelymitra antennifera and the less common and very different, smaller T. flexuosa.
T. antennifera has a distinctive column with two reddish brown appendages resembling rabbit’s ears henc the connom name of Rabbit Ears Sun Orchid. Another common name Lemon Sun Orchid refers to the faint but recognisable lemon scent produced by the flower but as to why it should ever have been singled out from the other sun orchids to be called Women’s Caps1, I cannot tell.
Prior to flowering, the leaf distinguishes this sun orchid from others. Though having a red base like some of the other sun orchid, it is thin and rounded ie filiform and terete. Further, the closed buds are dark pink with lemon yellow margins of the sepals.
It should be noted that both T. carnea and T. rubra can on rare occasions produce a pale yellow variety but they will have all the features of their respective species. Also a T antennifera hybrid, T. x macmillanii, can on occasions produce yellow flowers.
R. Bates (2011) South Australia’s Native Orchids DVD
David L. Jones (2006) A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia