2021 June Talk – Photostacking Australian Orchids

For the June Native Orchid Society of South Australia’s meeting we were privelaged to have June Niejalke speak to our members about how to use photostacking when photographing our beautiful orchids.

Photographing our exquisite orchids is a challenge due to their size and the need to use macro. Sharp focus seems to elude many of us and for many years, we have admired her sharp images that has enabled us to see the hidden details of these tiny bush gems.

It was a pleasure to listen to her share her photographic methods. I hope you too find this video as helpful as those who were at the meeting found it.

2020 September Talk – Orchids and Fire

The Native Orchid Society is involved in many different activities, one of them being to assist researchers. In 2020, Covid 19 struck bringing many university projects to a halt. But in South Australia, NOSSA members were able to help PhD candidate Alex Thomsen, University of New South Wales, set up her project titled Impacts of Changing Fire Seasons on Orchids. The following video is her brief presentation of her planned research that she gave to the general membership at the September meeting.

Terrestrial Culture – December & January

The following two articles are from the December 2019 NOSSA Journal. Written by Les Nesbitt, they cover the months of December and January.

Terrestrial Culture – December

A few late orchids such as Diuris drummondii may still have green leaves and flowers so will need watering every couple of days. Most terrestrials will have died down by now on the Adelaide Plain. Watering consists of a quick squirt with the hose once a week to moisten the top 1 cm to prevent tubers shrivelling. A small terrestrial collection of pots can be moved to a cooler place out of direct sun under a bench or to the south side of the house. A large collection must stay on the benches so extra shadecloth is added for the summer.

Repotting is in full swing now. Keep a stock of the required materials on hand including sand, soil, native potting mix, clay, blood & bone, chopped sheoak needles, smashed and sieved gum leaves pots labels, shadecloth squares for crocking, pencils to write on plastic, sieve and bowl, watering can & shadehouse benching. A system for washing and sterilizing pots before reuse is essential to control disease and virus.

Pots dry out quickly in hot windy weather. Water a day or two before repotting so that the potting mix is just moist. If too dry dust will be a problem and tubers can be damaged by hard lumps of mix. Too wet and the mix sticks to the tubers and clogs the sieve. The ideal is a mix that is easy to work when separating wet pots take tubers from mix. It helps to move some pots under cover in case of rain. Wet pots take several days to dry out which can hold up repotting. Alternatively, a sheet of plastic over the pots when rain is forecast will shed the water but remember to weigh it down with bricks or it will blow away.

Pick out the tubers and put them in a kitchen sieve sitting in a container of water. Use a jet of water to wash the tubers clean and spread them on a towel to dry. Discard any tubers that are soft or have turned black. If the tubers are healthy, firm and a pale colour the mix can be reused. Colony type tubers should have at least doubled in number since last year. Add half fresh mix to the old mix and add a big pinch of blood & bone fertilizer. Should the old mix be dark in colour, or the tubers not be healthy looking then throw out the old mix and pot up in new mix.

Select the pot size, place a shadecloth square in the pot to retain the mix when it dries out. Fill the pot with mix to about 2cm from the top. Select the largest tubers for a show pot and push them into the mix with the shoot on top. The small tubers can be potted in another pot to grow bigger next year. Cover the tubers with more mix and almost fill the pot. Firm the mix down with your hand or use the bottom of an empty pot. Cover the surface with chopped sheoak needles. Write out a label with the name of the orchid and the provenance,
if known. On the back of the label note the number of tubers and the date planted. Water the pot gently so as to not disturb the needles. This helps settle the soil around the tubers and makes subsequent watering easier. Put the finished pots back in the shadehouse to await the next growing season.

Send off your tuber bank order before Christmas or you might miss out on your choices. The tuber bank is a great way to increase your terrestrial collection.*

*Tubers are sold only to financial members

Terrestrial Culture – January

Start watering the blue tag pots in January. Pots of orchids from the East Coast of Australia where it rains in Summer are given a blue tag as the culture is different compared to local terrestrial orchids. This early shooting group includes most cauline greenhoods, Pterostylis baptistii and Corybas hispidus. Local South Australian tubers can be kept completely dry until at least mid-February if pots are shaded.

When your tuber bank order arrives, pot up the tubers straight away. Plant each species in a separate 125mm or 150mm pot. Don’t forget to record the provenance name (if known) on the label and in your recording system. The
provenance is the location of the original collection. Provenance is important because in 10 years the orchid will possibly be extinct in that area as suburbia expands or weeds take over the habitat.

Summer watering is important. Too little and tubers may dry up. Too much and they may rot or come up early before the heat of summer is over when they will be attacked by thrip and aphids. A light sprinkle on top of the pots once a
week works OK.

Try to finish repotting this month. If left until February there is more chance of breaking off the new shoots which can be well developed by late February.

Terrestrial Culture – November

Though a bit behind time, but for completeness, Les Nesbitt’s culture notes for November 2019 from the November 2019 NOSSA Journal are reproduced below.

After the first week in November, pots dry quickly and it is hard to keep pots moist. Water green leaves, let the others dry off as plants die down. Late species in flower this month are Diuris drummondii, rufa group Pterosylis & Microtis. Seed pods ripen quickly now, so check every couple of days.

Repotting can start at month’s end although Dec – Jan is the ideal time if there are only a few pots needing to be done. Repot orchids with large tubers first as they are more prone to rotting if there is prolonged hot wet weather this month. We usually get at least one thunderstorm before Xmas. Until the old tuber has completely dried up it can go mouldy and infect the new tuber alongside. This especially applies to the slow multipliers such as Diuris and Thelymitra that have large tubers.

Gather potting mix materials and pots ready for the summer activities as this growing season comes to an end.

TYPES OF POTTING MIXES

Terrestrial growers all have their favourite mix that works for them. Some recipes are:

~ Half premium native potting mix and half sand.
~ Sand, buzzer chips, mountain soil (see ANOS cultivation booklet).
~ 50% sand, 20% Hills soil, 30% organic matter ( seed & cutting mix, native potting mix, smashed gum leaves).
~ Eco terrestrial mix (fine composted pine bark) and perlite.

Some species require adjustments to the mix for optiumum results. Caladenia like more sand, Diuris & Pt nutans 30% clay, Acianthus pusillus more organic matter. The mix must be free draining in Winter yet retain moisture in Autumn and Spring. Most growers reuse some of the old mix, (up to 50%) to which new ingredients are added at repotting time. The reason for this is to carry over any fungus in the old mix. Add a little blood & bone fertilizer and native slow release pellets. Most of the orchids in cultivation prefer a slightly acid soil mix.

Locate a source of Casuarina trees in your area and collect the fallen needles. These trees grow all over Adelaide. Chop the needles into lengths of 1 – 5 cms and store in a dry place.

POTS

The ideal size pots for terrestrials seem to be 125mm & 150mm standard pots that are about 150mm deep. Smaller diameter pots dry out quickly and it is difficult to keep the mix moist in Spring. Shallow clay pans can be used for specimen show pots.

November is a good month to flask seed of Diuris for planting out next autumn. Terrestrial seed can be sown in flasks at any time of year but some months are better than others to match tuber development in flask with optimal deflasking in April.

Terrestrial Culture – October

Les Nesbitt’s Culture Notes from the October 2019 Journal

The days get gradually longer, hotter and drier this month. In a dry year there may be no useful rain in October. Keep up the watering while leaves remain green. Aphids can infest flower spikes so be on guard. Break off the tops of old flower spikes to discourage these pests. Microtis species flower this month.

Complete tuber removal by the middle of the month. These pots will have to be kept watered as long as the leaves stay green, hopefully well into November, to give time for additional tubers to form. Group these pots together to make watering easier. Diuris punctata plants may not die down until December.

Some seed pods will be ready to harvest usually on a warm day. Pick them as the ribs start to change colour from green to biscuit and before they split open and release the seed. Place the pods in paper envelopes & store inside in a dry place until sowing time next autumn. The cauline autumn flowering greenhoods will go dormant so once the leaves go yellow let these pots gradually dry out completely.

Sort out which pots to repot in summer. Stand small pots in a larger pot to denote those to make a show pot for next year. This applies to colony forming species which are expected to multiply.

September Terrestrial Orchid Culture Notes

Continuing Les Nesbitt’s notes from the NOSSA Journal, this month he reminds us that not only is it a busy month but it is the month of the NOSSA Spring Show.

September is the busiest month of the year in the terrestrial house. apart from orchid shows every weekend there are numerous tasks to perform. The days are getting longer at a rapid rate. Day length increases by 2 hours in the 6 weeks from the 1st Deptember. Equinox is about the 21st September.

Early Spring weather is changeable from cold, windy & wet to warm & sunny. Give plants as much sun as possible as new tubers are developing rapidly. Hand watering may be necessary if there is no rain so get the hose out of winter storage. Do not let the post dry out this month. There are lots of flowers everywehere. Take photos as some flowers are fleeting and may only last one day. Different pollinators are about for the more colourful terrestrials that start flowering in spring.

Prepare your flowering plants for the NOSSA Spring Show. It is fun to put in a display even if you only have one or two plants. You learn a lot from other growers. We certainly need new exhibitors each year. Seek new species to add to your collection at the NOSSA Spring Show. Be there at 10am Saturday morning for the hard to get species which are always in short supply.

Spring is an ideal deflasking period but get it done in the first 2 weeks to give sufficient growing time to harden the plants and for tiny seedling tubers to form before the summer dormancy.

Notes on Tuber Removal

Start tuber removal after the middle of the month. In a wet year you may have to move pots under cover a week earlier to dry out a bit before knocking them out. working with mud is a real pain and not recommended. Use this method to propagate the slow multiplying terrestrials that are amenable. those recommended for slow multiplying are Diuris (punctata & behrii), and rufa group Pterostylis (cycnocephala & biseta).

Knock out the pot and carefully remove most of the soil from the plant. Find the new tuber which is usually whiter smoother than the old tuber. Hold the junction of the old tuber and plant stem firmly with one hand and grasp the new tuber with thumb & finger of the other hand. Twist & pull the new tuber which will separate from the plant. If the old tuber and leaves break apart you have stuffed up. Repot the plant & old tuber and water the pot. The new tuber can be buried in the same pot or potted up separately in another pot. Keep the plant watered for at least six weeks or as long as the leaves stay green. The plant may form one or two small new tubers before going dormant. In January you can repot and see how well the method worked.

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – August

With Spring on the way, things are starting to change in the Orchid House. Here are Les Nesbitt’ notes from the August Journal 2019 Vol 43 No 7

Terrestrial Culture – August

The days are getting longer now, noticeably so after the middle of the month. When the clouds clear, the sun is stronger & higher in the sky. Temperatures increase and growth speeds up. Lots of buds are developing so there is plenty to see in the orchid house. The greenhoods are a feature with Pterostylis curta, nutans, pedunculata and their hybrids are all flowering.

Pests become more active. Look out for aphids on flower stems. Depending on the season deflasking can start after the middle of the month if a sunny and dry Spring is forecast, otherwise wait until September.

The NOSSA Spring show is only a month away. Start preparing your specimen pots for the display. Any spare pots can be sold on the trading table. There are never enough terrestrials on the trading table at the show to meet the demand.

Photograph your orchids when the flowers are at peak condition. Then hand pollinate a flower or two to get seed for the NOSSA Propagation Workshop or for sowing around mother plants next autumn. Prepare two pots of each species, one for showing and one for seed.

 

How to hand pollinate.

Look closely at the flower column to see the positions of the pollen and the stigmatic surface. Flowers can be self-pollinated if there is only one. Fatter pods with more viable seeds result if two plants of the same species are cross pollinated. That is transfer the pollen from one flower to a flower on another plant. Cross pollination mixes the gene pool to prevent inbreeding. Use a toothpick or a she-oak needle to touch the pollen which will stick to the wood. Wipe the pollen across the stigmatic surface of the other flower and the job is done.

If pollination is successful, the flower will collapse in a few days and the ovary will start to swell. For greenhoods the stigmatic surface is halfway up the front of the column. Remove the front of the flower and the lip so you can see what you are doing. Greenhoods have yellow pollen. For Diuris and Thelymitra the white pollen is hidden behind the sticky stigma. Caladenia have yellow pollen under flaps at the top of the column. Stroke upwards to open the flaps as would an insect backing out of the flower. The stigma is a hollow sticky depression just below the pollen. You will have to tip the flower right back to see it.

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – July

Continuing Les Nesbitt’s articles from the NOSSA Journal, this month’s (Vol 43 No 6 July 2019) is a relaxing time.

Midwinter is cold and cloudy most days. July is often the wettest month as well. A good time to sit by the heater and read orchid books or search the internet as you plan future activities. Tidy up your records and draw up a wanted list of terrestrials to purchase or swap. Activity in the lab continues with seed sowing and replating. Deflasking should wait until spring as tiny seedlings rot away if planted out in winter. Pots showing any signs of rot should be moved out of the
rain to dry off.

Not a lot to do in the orchid house except observe your orchids and watch for pests that are always looking for a feed. Growth will be slow. Give plants as much sunlight as possible. The very first seedling leaves may appear this month around mother plants. Give yourself a pat on the back if you see any seedlings. More may show in August & September.

Corybas flower this month and do not mind being cold and wet. Corybas flowers will shrivel up if the surrounding air is dry. Mist them daily or place a clear cover over the pot & the flowers will last for weeks. A tall plastic sleeve around the pot or an upturned glass bowl can be used.

Orchid clubs hold their Winter shows this month. Check them out for additions to your collection.

Caladenia plicata – April Winning Photograph

Shane Grave’s winning photograph for April was the spring flowering Caladenia plicata which is endemic to the South West of Western Australia.

Caladenia is a very large genus with over 330 species, 39 of these currently unnamed. In addition, there are 58 named subspecies and varieties. Caladenia plicata would belong under the subgenus Calonema or the segregate genus Arachnorchis which, although not generally recognised by State herbaria is commonly accepted by many amateur enthusiasts. Yet even this subdivision is still large with 192 species. As a result, some authors have created further groups/complexes, for example C. dilatata complex, C. longicauda complex, etc. However, according to Andrew Brown, C. plicata doesn’t seem to fit neatly into any of these categories, although David Jones does include it within the clubbed spider orchids.

Various authors consistently refer to the labellum as being unusual. In Fitzgerald’s formal description (1882) he states that the labellum tip is “recurved so as to become plicate and touch the under surface of the disc”. Plicate means to fold. The labellum tip of many other Arachnorchis species are known to curl under but none fold under in the way that this species does. The sharp fold with the spreading horizontal fringed margins (edges) combined with a central band of tall dense calli (wart-like structures) gives a distinctive shape reminiscence of a crab, hence the common name Crab Lipped Spider Orchid. The effect of this is best seen from a front, rather than a side, view.

The very mobile labellum is sufficient to identify this species, but it is also possible to identify when in bud “due to the prominent short osmophores (clubs) on the sepals”. The sepals narrow halfway along to form thick brown clubs and when the flower is open both the lateral sepals and petals are downswept. This is clearly seen in Shane’s photograph.

Finally, for those interested in pollination, it is pollinated by an undescribed male thynnine wasp of the genus Zeleboria. This has been captured on video https://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1-s2.0-S0960982217306310-mmc6.mp4

 

Thank you to Andrew Brown for assisting me with this article.

References:

Brown A, et al, Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia 2013

Brown A, personal communication

Caladenia accessed 24 May 2019

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caladenia

Caladenia plicata Wikipedia accessed 24 May 2019

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caladenia_plicata

Haiyang Xu et al Complex Sexual Deception in an Orchid Is Achieved by Co-opting Two Independent Biosynthetic Pathways for Pollinator Attraction 2017

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982217306310

Jones DL, A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia including the Island Territories 2006

Jones DL, et al, Australian Orchid Genera CD-ROM 2008 CSIRO accessed 24 May 2019

https://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/cd-keys/orchidkey/html/genera/Arachnorchis.htm

Pelloe, EH, West Australian Orchids 1930

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400681h.html#page50

Orchids of South-West Australia website

http://chookman.id.au/wp_orchids/?page_id=2424

 

 

Monthly Terrestrial Orchid Culture – April

The following article by Les Nesbitt is taken from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal, April 2019, Volume 43 No 3

Terrestrial Culture – April
Les Nesbitt

The days and nights are cooling down, evaporation rates are dropping and pots take longer to dry out so decrease the watering. If in doubt wait another day before watering. Regular rain usually begins around Anzac Day. There is nothing like a good rain to make terrestrial leaves pop up almost overnight. A few early flowers are out this month – Eriochilus species and possibly Pterostylis truncata. Keep up the pest control and pull out weeds while they are still small.

Sow seed on pots around mother plants of fungus dependent orchids this month. Mix seed & fine sand together to avoid wasting precious seed. A pepper shaker helps spread the seed evenly. Water gently to wash the seed into the mulch.

April is a good month to deflask terrestrials. Seedlings need to establish & harden up before winter so get deflasking completed by the end of April. Check out flask suppliers for that special species. The next deflasking opportunity is early spring.

Deflasking Terrestrial orchids

Prepare a suitable soil mix for the orchid to be deflasked along with labels & sheoak topping. Use the same mix as for adult plants.

Select a flask with strongly growing seedlings, preferably with small tubers but plants without tubers are OK. Remove the flask lid and tip the mass of plants and agar into a fine sieve. If you are nervous remove clumps of plants from the flask with tongs. Try to minimize breakages. The junction of leaf & tuber is very weak. Over a sink or lawn, use a jet of water to wash away the agar leaving clean seedlings behind.

Fill a pot with mix to within 2 cm of the rim and tamp down. Select small clumps of seedlings and stand them around the edge of the pot. Insert a label with the appropriate info as this pot will not be repotted for 2 years. Pour a handful of mix into the centre of the pot and gently squeeze mix out around the seedlings just covering the bases but not burying the leaves. Add more mix if necessary. Tamp down the mix in the centre of the pot. Add a layer of chopped sheoak needles. Water gently to settle the mix around the seedlings.

The pot can go into the shadehouse with other terrestrial pots although it helps to keep all the seedling pots together in a sunny place with good air movement. Ensure the pot does not dry out. If kept too wet the seedlings may rot. If the seedlings establish and grow strongly they can remain in the shadehouse over winter. At any sign of rot move the pots out of the rain under cover and water by standing the pot in a saucer of water.

Next dormant season as soon as the leaves have died down, add more mix to completely fill the pot. This helps to protect the tiny seedling tubers from drying up in the heat of summer. After the second growing season the tubers should all be large enough to find easily at repotting time.