Another Summer Orchid

Just on Christmas, NOSSA received an enquiry from Tim in the South East about an orchid he had photographed.  He knew about Dipodium roseum but in 20 years he had not seen one like this one.

From the photograph that he’d sent, it was obvious that it was a Gastrodia.  In South Australia there are three species ranging in size from the smaller G. vescula (Limp Potato Orchid) through to G. sesamoides (Cinnamon Bells or Common Potato Orchid) to the larger G. procera (Tall Potato Orchid).  Whilst G. vescula and G. procera are limited in South Australia to the South East, G. sesamoides is also found in the Southern Lofty and Kangaroo Island regions.

Tim’s orchid was G. procera.  The features that set it apart from the other two were the time of year – late December whereas both G. sesamoides and G. procera would have finished flowering (and for 2014 most orchids finished flowering earlier than usual); the spike was crowded and the plant was upright but G. sesamoides has a bent or droopy spike when in bud and G. vescula is small with very few flowers.

Though Tim considered the photographs to not be very good, he’d photographed the necessary features to help with identification. Another feature seen in his picture is the warty appearance of the plant compared with the photograph of the G. sesamoides.

Gastrodia procera or Tall Potato Orchid
Gastrodia procera (Tall Potato Orchid) Note the upright spike and the ‘wartiness’
Gastrodia sesamoides (Cinnamon Bells or Common Potato Orchid)
Gastrodia sesamoides (Cinnamon Bells or Common Potato Orchid)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it is has no conservation rating federally and may even be considered secure in the Eastern States, in South Australia it is rated endangered, so well done to Tim for spotting it!

 It was possible to identify this orchid from the information found in South Australia’s Native Orchids, an electronic book produced and sold by the Native Orchid Society of South Australia.  Identification was confirmed by one of our most knowledgeable members.

‘Tis the Season … for Dipodium

For many with Christmas and New Year holidays it is a busy time but not so with the orchids here in the Adelaide region.  The vast majority of orchids have finished flowering for the year except for a few including one of our most showy orchids, the Hyacinth Orchids (Dipodium species).  Of the four species found in South Australia, two are found in Adelaide Hills –  D. roseum or Common Hyacinth Orchid and D. pardalinum or Small-spotted Hyacinth Orchid and these will be flowering across the whole of the summer period.

Both of these Dipodium species are leafless plants that are dependent upon mycorrhizal fungi associated with stringy bark trees, either Eucalyptus obliqua or E. baxteri.  This growth requirement makes it impossible to grow in cultivation.  (Stringy bark trees can’t be grown in pots!)  The emerging stem and buds resemble an asparagus shoot.  The stems can range from a light green through to a deep dark red.  At this stage it is difficult to tell the two species apart although if there are yellowing tips on white buds it may be a clue that the plant could be D. pardalinum.

Once in flower D. roseum has a surprising range of variation  from carmine (a lightly purplish deep red) through to pink to white, with suffused rather than clearly defined spots.  On paler or white flowers these blotches may appear pale mauve-pink rather than candy-pink.   It always has a distinctive striped labellum.

Dipodium roseum composite

This feature sets it apart from D. pardalinum which has a clearly spotted labellum and in contrast to D. roseum, the flowers lack variation of colour but are consistently white with small well-defined candy spots.  (There are other Dipodium species with larger spots.)

Note the yellow staining on the bud and no stripes on the labellum
Note the yellow staining on the bud and no stripes on the labellum

And the final word, D. roseum is common but D. pardalinum is rated vulnerable in South Australia.

 

Reference: South Australia’s Native Orchids Bates 2011

NOSSA and the Lofty Block Threatened Orchid Recovery Project

In the NOSSA Constitution (2007) the aims of NOSSA “are to promote and engage in activities for the promotion and furtherance of :
  1. the culture, propagation, conservation, knowledge and scientific study of the native orchids of southern Australia and the Australasian region;
  2. the preservation of orchids as a species and their preservation within their native habitat.”

The article following is about one of the ongoing conservation activities with which NOSSA members were and are currently involved.  Quoted verbatim from SA Veg on the Edge, Vol 7, No. 1, 2007

Recovery Plan for 12 Threatened Orchids in the Lofty Block Region released
Since 1998, the Lofty Block Threatened Orchid Recovery Project (LBTORP) has been implementing recovery actions for threatened orchids in the Lofty Block region of SA. In late 2006, a draft recovery plan was completed for the following twelve species:
  • Caladenia argocalla (White Beauty Spider-orchid) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. behrii (Pink-lipped Spider-orchid) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. gladiolata (Bayonet Spider-orchid) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. sp. ‘Brentwood’ (Ghost Spider-orchid) – Nominated as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. macroclavia (Large-club Spider-orchid) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. rigida (White Spider-orchid) – EPBC Act – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • C. woolcockiorum (Woolcock’s Spider-orchid) – VULNERABLE (EPBC Act)
  • C. xantholeuca (Flinders Ranges Spider-orchid) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • Pterostylis bryophila (Hindmarsh Valley Greenhood) – CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
  • P. cucullata (Leafy Greenhood) – VULNERABLE (EPBC Act)
  • P. despectans (Lowly Greenhood) – ENDANGERED  (EPBC Act)
  • P. sp. ‘Halbury’ (Halbury Greenhood) – ENDANGERED (EPBC Act)
The recovery plan describes each of these twelve species in detail including their morphology, distribution, population size, habitat, and ecology.  Importantly, it also outlines the threats to each species and prescribes recovery objectives, targets, and actions for the next five years.
  • Determine population size and trends
  • Determine current extent of occurrence and number of sub-populations
  • Mitigate threats to sub-populations.
Recovery actions will be implemented for each of the twelve species in accordance with the recovery plan over the next five years by the LBTORP.  Community involvement is recognised as a key factor in the successful delivery of on-ground recovery actions.
Fact sheets and a webpage that provide up to date information on the program were recently completed … Joe Quarmby, Lofty Block Threatened Orchid Recovery Project Officer , SA DEH
(NB Joe Quramby now is the Threatened Flora Ecologist Natural Resources, Adelaide & Mount Lofty Ranges Partnerships and Stewardship and DEH is now Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, 2014)

The article may be seven years old but it is a good overview of some of the conservation work that NOSSA members have done with Joe Quarmby.

The full 176 page report can be found here.

 

Arachnorchis behrii (Pink Lipped Spider Orchid)
Arachnorchis behrii (Pink Lipped Spider Orchid)

 

Orchid Season

South Australia has some very interesting and unique orchids but it is not always possible see them  either because one cannot get out to see them or the season has been poor with inadequate rain at the right time.  So, one of NOSSA’s member has produced a video.  It starts in autumn and goes through to summer.

So sit back and enjoy ……

2014 September Winning Photograph

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!

Thelymitral epipactoides or Metallic Sun Orchid

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

  1. Biodiversity Information Resources Data page  (quotes in blue)
  2. Species Profile and Threats Database page  (quotes in brown)

 

Life Cycle

  • (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 ………

Plant Information

  • (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. ………

Topography:

  • (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). ………

Population Size

  • (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)

Why can’t I buy that pretty blue orchid? . . . or Purchasing Aussie terrestrial Orchids on the International Market

When noticed, Australian orchids capture people’s imagination and many want to be able to grow them.  As a result we often receive request for where to purchase them, particularly from overseas.  For people overseas we are unable to help them.  Recently I came across some comments from Philip Shin and he has kindly written about his experience with trying to purchase orchids from Australia.  I trust that his experience will help our overseas people understand some of the issues involved.

So let’s hear what he has to say …..

 

It has been brought to my attention that there have been many requests from international buyers who wish to purchase Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids from Australia. To give you all a basic idea of who I am and why I’m writing this brief article, I will tell you a few things about me.

Firstly, I am an orchid hobbyist just like you all. I live in the United States of America. My love for orchids stemmed from repeated failures of growing bromeliads, (which I eventually learned how to grow), after which my parents had suggested I try growing orchids instead, as they might be easier to cultivate. I took them up on it and for the most part, when it came to many of the more commonly available orchid hybrids, they were right. After a few tries, I managed to not only grow some orchids, but I also was able to bloom them as well! From here, my appreciation for the hobby grew to include species orchids. Then I learned about terrestrial orchids and how people were attempting to cultivate them in their gardens/greenhouses, and that lead to me wanting to grow them too.

Some of the terrestrial orchids that caught my eyes were those pretty little blue flowered orchids in the genus Thelymitra. I was always told that there were “no such things as orchids that were true blue”, but seeing photos of them contradicted that notion, and thus I was intrigued. Then, I started hearing about how some people were attempting to grow them. I thought to myself, “I must have some!” And that was when reality hit hard.

You see, I eventually learned that acquiring Thelymitras through legal channels was quite an endeavour here in America. I had to acquire a permit through our APHIS/USDA (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/ United States Department of Agriculture) to import plants from other countries, (specifically, Australia and Europe in the case of Thelymitras and a few other Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids). Of course, there was also paying for the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) permit and phytosanitary certificate in order to have them make it through our US Customs. The difficult part wasn’t necessarily with the USDA permit, but rather paying for the CITES permit and phytosanitary certificate. When Australia was open for export, the fees for CITES permits and phytosanitary certificates were rather high in price, running at about $250 USD per shipment. But shortly after making two orders to be shipped out from Australia, the exportation laws had changed radically! During this time, CITES and phytosanitary paperwork now cost somewhere in the order of $1,000 USD. It was now clear that Australia was no longer in the business of exporting goods from small companies. Which then brings us to the next option, Europe…

Europe had somehow also managed to get a hold of Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids much earlier than America did, but they were still not very prevalent in the hobby.

It then bears the question, “if Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids are already on the market, why aren’t they more prevalent or more popular?” The answer to this question would be, although people have attempted to grow these orchids, they are not necessarily the easiest orchids to grow long term. Some may be easier than others, but they are still a novelty in the hobby, partially because of this. The difficulty lies in that they are plants that have a tight symbiotic relationship with fungi. I’m not sure whether or not the orchids started to develop smaller and smaller root systems because of the symbiosis, but these orchids do tend to have rather negligible amount of roots. This often makes it difficult to cultivate these orchids, because once the roots get damaged for any reason, they pretty much die. Hence, why these orchids are not more prevalent in numbers despite the demand.

In short, this article is an explanation of the difficulties of obtaining Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids. And this is also some insight on how it is trying to obtain these plants here in America. For anyone coming across this article, I appreciate the time and effort it took for you to read through an American hobbyist’s perspective on Native Australian Terrestrial Orchids. Thank you.

 

Philip Shin

Pots of Thelymitra nuda cultivated by Les Nesbitt
Pots of Thelymitra nuda cultivated by Les Nesbitt in South Australia

Just as a postscript, Philip mentioned that he could grow Diuris or Donkey Orchid “but that it takes quite a bit of trial and error before you can see anything that resembles success.”

 
 

Spotted Pink Sun Orchid – Beautiful, but Only a Hybrid

This week, a local radio station introduced a segment with the phrase “our rarest sun orchid” and that it was called Thelymitra irregularis or Spotted Pink Sun Orchid.  However it certainly is not our rarest sun orchid.

Thelymitra x irregularis is typically a hybrid pink spotted sun orchid
Thelymitra x irregularis,  Peter Watton, 2009

True, it is not common, but that is partly because it is a hybrid and, correctly speaking, the name should be written as Thelymitra x irregularis (the “x” indicates that it is a hybrid).

For a hybrid to occur, the two parent species need to grow in close proximity, the flowers need to open at the same time that the pollinator is visiting flowers, either to collect or to deposit the pollen and, in the case of self pollinating species, before the individual flower has pollinated itself.

The majority of hybrids are sterile, but occasionally some are fertile.  When hybrids occur the majority will only last a few years before disappearing although sometimes colonies are formed which may last for decades.  Hence, it is not usual to name hybrids, but the more common and recurring ones have been named formally.  T. x irregularis is one of them.

Several species of Thelymitra have been proposed as parent species of Thelymitra x irregularis.  Jeanes & Backhouse (2006) give T. ixioides and T. carnea as parents; Weber & Entwisle (1996) and Jones (2006) suggest T. ixioides and T. carnea and/or T. rubra; Bates & Weber (1990) state that in South Australia the parents are T. ixioides and T. rubra, but T. ixioides and T. carnea in the Eastern states; in contrast, Bates (2011) states that in South Australia it is a hybrid between T. juncifolia and T. rubra.  However, without detailed genetic studies or breeding experiments these all remain suggestions.

Due to the transient nature of hybrids and the conditions needed to produce them, the named hybrids are not common, but since the 1890s specimens of Thelymitra x irregularis have been collected in every decade, which suggest that this hybrid readily occurs.  The 71 specimens held in the Australian herbaria have been collected from four states – which gives a good indication of the distribution but not necessarily the frequency of occurrence.  See Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH) for details.  The AVH lists 12 herbarium records for South Australia with specimens collected from the Adelaide Hills, the Barossa Valley, Kangaroo Island and near Naracoorte.

Thelymitra x irregularis
This Thelymitra x irregularis or Pink Spotted Sun Orchid was photographed by Peter Watton in 2009 near Macclesfield, South Australia

The botanical name “irregularis” refers to the description of the column.  With many sun orchids, it is often necessary to observe the column to distinguish one species from another.  In this instance the top of the column is irregularly toothed.  Retired Aussie has some very good photographs with one in particular showing the column detail.

 

Thanks to Juergan Kellermann, State Herbarium of South Australia for his help with this post.

References

Bates (2011). South Australia’s Native Orchids. DVD-ROM

Bates & Weber (1990). Orchids of South Australia.

Jeanes & Backhouse. Wild Orchids of Victoria, Australia

Jones (2006), Native Orchids of Australia, 2nd edn.

Weber & Entwisle (1996). Thelymitra. In: Flora of Victoria, Vol 3.

Australia’s Virtual Herbarium accessed 24th September 2014

 

August 2014 Winning Photograph

08 sm CC Caladenia valida

Claire Chesson’s Arachnorchis valida (common name Robust Spider Orchid) was the winning photograph for August.

The name Arachnorchis valida was not validated until 2002; synonym Caladenia valida. Previously it had been included under Caladenia huegelii (a Western Australian species) and Caladenia reticulata.

A. valida grows in sandy or sand over red clay soil, in sheltered clearings within heathy woodland or mallee but within a very restricted and disjunct distribution on Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in South Australia; and Otway Plain, Victoria. Rated Endangered in South Australia, it is not listed nationally.

Although A. valida shares some similar features with A. reticulata (ie 1 to 2 flowers, clubbed sepals, calli on the labellum) it also has quite distinctive features (see chart below) that help to differentiate between the two as they can sometimes be found growing together.

Comparison of A. valida and A. reticulata

Features

A. valida

A. reticulata

Pollinating wasp Phymatothynnus pygidialis Phymatothynnus victor
Leaf Felted Leaf – dense, short hairsSemi erect Very long silky hairs; purplish at the baseErect
Flower Stem Taller – 40 cm, hairy 30 cm, green & purplish red with long silky hairs
Flower Size Though variable, larger – 7 cm 5 cm
Flower Greenish when first opened fading to white or cream as the flower matures Red-brown
Perianth Stiffly spreading – broad based sepals; backswept petalsNo stripes Dorsal sepal erect; perianth spreading downwardRed stripes
Labellum Can be red but without veining Red with veining

 

NB: November Picture Competition Theme – Orchids and Insects

See the 2014 April Journal for hints of photographing orchid pollinators.

References:

http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/dbpages/dev/vicflora/index.php/viclist/name/4677 accessed 4th September 2014

Threatened Species Profile Fact Sheet Caladenia valida Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia

International Plant Name Index – http://www.ipni.org/

Personal communications with Claire Chesson

South Australia’s Native Orchids DVD 2011 Bates

Spider-orchids the Genus Caladenia and it Relatives in Australia CD 2011 Gary Backhouse