Orchid flowers are extremely variable in appearance, ranging from mimicking spiders, flying ducks, helmets, ants, etc. This variety also can cause some confusion. People have mistaken a different type of flower for an orchid and vis a versa.
This raises the question of what makes an orchid an orchid? With so much variety, how can they possibly belong to the same family?
Using orchids found in the Adelaide Hills, the following video shows three key features that helps identify a flower as an orchid. These three features are found in all orchids worldwide.
Every month, NOSSA holds a photograph competition. The entries were varied and beautiful but they were only being seen by the members at the meetings, so it was decided to showcase these lovely orchid images in a calendar.
The overall winner from 2018 would be on the front cover and we would select twelve from the fifty-one 2018 entries. The challenge was to select the twelve. This was done by having an on-line vote for the twelve most popular pictures. And I would like to thank all who entered and all who voted.
Having collated the votes to find out what was the most popular orchids, the next task was to design an informative calendar giving information about the South Australian orchids featured as well as significant NOSSA event dates and a very rough guide indicating when the orchids are likely to be flowering.
If you are interested in ordering a calendar, contact NOSSA as per the details on the flyer above.
Every year, NOSSA holds monthly photograph competitions. This year, NOSSA decided to give the entrants an opportunity for their photographs to appear on a calendar. There have been 51 entries this year, so we are asking people to vote for the twelve images that they would like to see in a calendar.
Select the numbers corresponding to the twelve images that you would most like to see in your calendar
Indicate if you are interested in purchasing a calendar
At this time of the year there are not many orchids flowering in South Australia but one that is just finishing is Spiranthes alticola. The genus Spiranthes, commonly known as Ladies Tresses, is found throughout Australia, Eurasisa and the Americas.The following description is an extract from South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011 DVD which is available from the Native Orchid Society of South Australi.
Spiranthes alticola D.L.Jones
Swamp Spiral Orchid
Etymology: The name alticola means high dweller, referring to its distribution in Eastern Australia, in west Victoria and South Australia’s South East. It also grows near sea level.
Synonyms: Previously included in Neottia australis R. Br., S. sinensis (Pers.) Ames and S. australis R.Br.
(These two pictures show the variation in colour.)
Description:Leaves 3-5, narrow lanceolate, shiny, erect at the base, to 15 cm long. Flowerstem to 45 cm tall, slender, flexible, with several sheathing bracts. The flowers are numerous in a dense spiral, pink with a white labellum, rarely all white. Segments are 6-10 mm long, sepals somewhat triangular, petals lanceolate, together forming a short tube, the tips free and recurved, and the lateral sepals divergent. Labellum with a broad, decurved crisped, pellucid mid-lobe, side-lobes erect small. The flowers are faintly fragrant.
(Leaves of Spiranthes alticola)
Flowering: Dec – Jan – Feb.
Similar Species:S. australis, S. sp. Late selfing-white.
Distribution:SL, KIx, SE; NSW, Vic, Tas.
Confined in South Australia to a few high rainfall, near coastal, often mountain locations, southward from the Adelaide Hills in the Southern Lofty region, extinct on Kangaroo Island, (one record only), and South East; also in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
Habitat: Restricted to peaty bogs and swampy creek-sides, often in locations that are inundated throughout winter; in some areas surviving in paddocks grazed by stock.
Distinguishing Features: S. australis, which is from the eastern states and is not strictly a swamp plant, has smaller darker pink flowers with a narrow labellum.
The two South Australian forms treated here are regarded as distinct species as where they are sympatric they begin flowering at different times and do not intergrade. S.alticola is the more delicate of the two.
Notes: The best specimens are found on mowed firebreaks adjacent to swamps.When vegetative reproduction produces two clonal plants next to each other the spiral arrangement of one is often a mirror image of the other. See Gallery.
Native bee pollinators work the spikes from the bottom upward but as the stigma becomes receptive well after the pollinia have matured this mechanism helps ensure outcrossing.
Plants do well in cultivation if kept moist over summer.
Status in Legislation: Not listed nationally, rare in South Australia.
Suggested Status: Rare in South Australia but more common in the Eastern States
The Native Orchid Society of SA has been involved with the Threatened Orchid Project which is attempting to propagate some of our most threatened orchids. There has been some success such as Thelymitra epicaptoides (Metallic Sun Orchids) but others are proving elusive. Marc Freestone, from the Orchid Conservation Project, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, is a PhD student who is researching one such difficult to grow orchid genus, the Prasophyllum.
To assist with his research Marc has the sent the following request.
CAN ANYONE GROW LEEK ORCHIDS?
South Australia has about 40 species and Victoria about 74 species of the native Leek Orchids, Prasophyllum. Some are on the brink of extinction.
A major problem hampering efforts to prevent our Leek Orchids from going extinct is that they have proven next to impossible to grow in cultivation. They have proved extremely difficult, usually not germinating at all, or germinating but then dying soon after. Occasionally some success has been had (particularly with symbiotic germination) but successful germination trials to our knowledge have so far proved un-repeatable. Working out how to grow Prasophyllum is critical for the survival of many species at risk of extinction across southern Australia.
To try and change this, I will be studying Prasophyllum and their relationships with symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi.
But I need your help!
I am wanting to hear from as many people as possible who
have tried (either successfully or unsuccessfully) to grow Leek Orchids or the closely related Midge Orchids (Corunastylis).
have observed Leek Orchids (or Midge Orchids) recruiting from seed in the wild.
For the novice or beginner, orchid names can be a bit overwhelming. To add to their confusion, the more knowledgeable people tend to use abbreviated terms often switching between common and botanical names & their synonyms.
This week’s post will be a brief introduction to the most common names used for the South Australian orchids and how they relate to each other. It will not be comprehensive and it will not be a detailed discussion of orchid nomenclature but hopefully it might help the novice learn some of the names in current use.
In the past attempts have been made to split some genera. Not everyone has agreed with the splits but there are many who find it more convenient to use the alternate genus when working in the field. This tends to be the case with the larger genera such as Caladenia, Corybas and Pterostylis. Unfortunately, this has contributed to the confusion.
The names in this list are compiled from South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011 DVD. Even with this list the use of the names varies quite a bit with some being used rarely. Rather than considering each individual species, the list is centred around the genus name.
A detailed list of SA orchid species names and their synonyms can be found here .
The following are all Pterostylis but not all of them are Greenhoods. This first image is a Pterostylis Greenhood.
This one is a Shell Orchid or alternately Diplodium
Whilst this Pterostylis is a Bearded Greenhood or Plumatochilos
The final Pterostylis example is a Rufoushood, or Oligochaetochilus
So they could all be referred to Pterostylis or any of the other possible names whether the common name or a synonym.
The short answer is that in South Australia there will be potentially an orchid flowering somewhere in any month of the year but the caveat is that in certain months specifically December, January, February, and March it is very difficult to find any as there are only a few flowering species and most of them are restricted to localised/sensitive sites. The flowering times for the highest number of species occur in winter and spring with October being the most prolific month for flowering.
To see how this varies across the state for the individual regions see the charts below.
Another is question “Will I find orchids when I visit a particular park on a particular day?” is not such an easy question to answer because it DEPENDS on so many different factors.
The timing of the rains affects the flowering time, for instance, Autumn orchids appear about 6 – 8 weeks after the first autumn rains. Normally the South East is the best place but this year the lower South East did not have a good flowering due to the storms and associated cold with the wet conditions.
Pollination affects the likelihood of finding flowers. Flowers remain open until pollination occurs. If the pollination is delayed the flower will be on display for a longer time until it runs out of energy and naturally shrivels up. To illustrate this NOSSA visited Scott Creek Conservation Park one day and there was a beautiful display of sun orchids along with several spider orchids but on a visit to the same site one week later, there were hardly any flowers left. Many had been pollinated as was evidenced by the swollen capsules.
So as a rough guide click here for the species flowering times of South Australian Orchids and herefor month by month information. This data is based upon information found in the 2011 South Australia’s Native Orchids disk.
For detailed information, it is necessary to consult with someone who knows the orchids in the area but it may not always be easy to find such a person. In which case, contact NOSSA and we may be able to, through our network, find someone to help.
Pauline Myer’s Caladenia falcata and Caladenia carinsiana;
Margaret Lee’s Diuris orientis and Nemacianthus caudatus;
Judy Sara’s Arachnorchis tensa;
Greg Sara’s Arachnorchis stricta which had an unusual green coloured flower;
and Helen Lawrence’s Arachnorchis argocalla.
Helen’s picture of the nationally endangered A. argocalla was the outstanding winner. Now known as the White Beauty Spider Orchid^, it was featured last year as a winner with Pauline Meyer’s June 2015 entry*.
This is one of our largest spider orchids. For size, beauty and delicacy it rivals the Western Australian Caladenia longicauda ssp. eminens (White Stark Spider Orchid) and A. venusta, syn. Caladenia venusta (Graceful Spider Orchid) from Victoria and the South East.
It shares many similarities with these two species in that they are reasonably good size white flowers with a stiffly hinged labellum that has long, thin teeth and the segments have threadlike tips without clubs. It is separated both geographically and in the type of habitat from these two species. A. argocalla is a plant of the inland hills and valleys.
Though primarily a white flower and part of the A. patersonii complex, A. argocalla has red colouring in the labellum which according to Backhouse may possibly indicate genetic introgression (that is long term mixing of the gene pool) with either the A. reticulata or A. leptochila complexes. Certainly, the colour of the labellum was quite variable ranging from white through to a deep red.
^Previously known as Common White Spider Orchid because of its abundance but now only known to a limited number of locations.
*NOSSA Journal, July 2015
Department of the Environment (2016). Caladenia argocalla in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 3 Nov 2016 16:31:39 +1100
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