Banded Greenhoods Bundled Together

Here in South Australia we often have only one or two species of a complex or a genus but this is not necessarily the case in the rest of the country. One such instance is Urochilus sanguineus (syn Pterostylis sanguinea) or Maroon Banded Greenhood. It is possible that we may have a subspecies or possibly the Mallee form but nothing like the occurrence of  this species in Western Australia where it is but one of many in a complex of several – the Pterostylis vittata complex or Banded Greenhoods*.

Below, with permission, is Andrew Brown’s post on Facebook with notes and images about the complex as it is understood in Western Australia.

The Banded Greenhood complex in Western Australia

Members of this complex grow 150 to 450 mm high and have up to 20 green, brown or reddish-brown white banded flowers characterised by their, short, broad lateral sepals which are joined at the base and a small, insect-like labellum which flicks up when touched. In all species, flowering plants lack a basal rosette of leaves while non-flowering plants have a flattened, ground hugging, rosette of leaves.

Banded greenhoods are found over a wide geographic range between Binnu north of Geraldton and Eyre on the Great Australia Bight, growing in shrublands, woodlands, forests and shallow soil pockets on granite outcrops.

There are ten Western Australian species in this complex, seven of which are formally named. However, as two were named as species of Urochilus, a genus not recognised in Western Australia, only five of these names are currently recognised here. In Western Australia, all members of the complex are considered to be in the genus Pterostylis.

All are winter flowering.

Pterostylis concava

Pterostylis concava AB

Distinguished from other members of the complex by its prominently cupped lateral sepals and the upturned projection near the base of the labellum. Found between Bindoon and Mt Barker.

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Pterostylis crebriflora

Pterostylis crebriflora AB.jpg

Distinguished from the similar Pterostylis sanguinea by its often shorter stature and slightly larger flowers which are crowded in a dense spike near the top of the stem. Found on the Darling Scarp near Perth.

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Pterostylis sanguinea

Pterostylis sanguinea AB.jpg

A very common species that is also found in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. It was named from specimens collected in South Australia. The species is similar to Pterostylis crebriflora but is usually taller with smaller, more widely spaced flowers. Flower colour is variable and it is not uncommon to find brown and green flowered forms growing alongside one another. Found over a wide area between Mullewa and Eyre on the Great Australian Bight.

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Pterostylis sanguinea (Mallee form)

Pterostylis sanguinea mallee form AB.jpg

An unnamed member of the complex distinguished from Pterostylis sanguinea by its short stature and few flowered inflorescence. Found over a wide range from the Stirling Range to the north of Esperance.

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Pterostylis sp. Coastal

Pterostylis sp coastal AB.jpg

Some consider this to be a form of Pterostylis sp. small bands but it is usually taller with more widely spaced flowers. The sepals are also narrower and often slightly cupped. Found mostly in near coastal areas between Dongara and Bunbury. Similar looking plants have also been found further inland between Brookton and Mt Barker.

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Pterostylis sanguinea (green flowered form)

Pterostylis sanguinea green flowered form AB.jpg

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Pterostylis sargentii

Pterostylis sargentii AB

A common, widespread species, distinguished from other members of the complex by its smaller flowers and fleshy, tri-lobed, frog-like labellum. Found over a huge geographic range between Northampton and Mt Ney, north of Esperance.

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Pterostylis sp. Crowded

Pterostylis sp crowded AB

 

A widespread species named Urochilus atrosanguineus in June 2017. Distinguished from the similar Pterostylis sanguinea by its more robust habit and larger dark reddish-brown flowers. It is also similar to Pterostylis crebriflora but generally flowers earlier and has more widely spaced flowers in a longer spike. Found between Wongan Hills and Katanning with rare, scattered populations on the Swan Coastal Plain.

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Pterostylis sp. Eyre

Pterostylis sp Eyre AB

A distinctive member of the complex distinguished from others by its pale coloured flowers. Like Pterostylis sanguinea (mallee form) it has a short stature and few flowered inflorescence. Found along the coast between Toolinna Cove and Eyre on the on the Great Australian Bight.

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Pterostylis sp. small bands

Pterostylis sp small bands AB

A northern species named Urochilus orbiculatus in June 2017. It is regarded by some researchers to be a form of Pterostylis sp. coastal but is usually shorter with a more densely crowded spike of flowers. Its sepals are also broader, more rounded and flattened rather than slightly cupped. Found north of Perth between Cataby and Binnu.

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Pterostylis vittata

Pterostylis vittata AB.jpg

A widespread species distinguished from other members of the complex by its less fleshy, paler coloured, predominantly green flowers and narrower, elongated, slightly cupped sepals. The flowers also have a more translucent appearance. The typical form is found between Bindoon and Balladonia. There is a northern form with a shorter spike of often fawn coloured flowers found between Cataby and Binnu.

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It should be noted that in South Australia and Victoria U. sanguineus was originally called P. vittata but that species is now recognised as being endemic to Western Australia.

*As an aside, the common name Banded Greenhoods is used in South Australia for the subgenus Bunochilus (previously Pterostylis longifolia which is now considered endemic to New South Wales).

 

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2017 February Winning Picture

1702 sm CC Cryptostylis subulata

The first competition for the year followed a wet orchid theme with three of the orchids being South Australian swamp orchids and the fourth from Western Australia; though not a swamp dweller, it grows in shallow moist soil.

The outstanding winner was Claire Chesson’s Cryptostylis subulata, followed by Robert Lawrence’s Spiranthes alticola, Rosalie Lawrence’s Pterostylis falcata and Pauline Meyer’s Thelymitra villosa.

Known to South Australian’s as the Moose Orchid, elsewhere it is either Large Tongue Orchid or Cow Orchid. This tall (40 to 110 cms) evergreen orchid is common in the eastern states where it is commonly found in damp areas as well as swamps. but in South Australia it is limited to swamps and is rated as endangered.

Leo Davis makes some interesting observations about the structure of this flower in his article Upside Upside Down which is well worth reading (https://nossa.org.au/2017/03/03/upside-upsisdedown/).

Whilst not an easy orchid to grow it has been cultivated although seed set has not always occurred. Helen Richards, an experienced Victorian terrestrial orchid grower, shared in an email how she grows them.

Cryptostylis species grow from brittle rhizomes which can be quite long and they resent frequent disturbance. Mine are potted into a pot therefore that is large enough for the long roots and which will accommodate further growth for several years. My mix is ANOS basic mix, the same as I use for Pterostylis and many other genera. They need to be kept moist all year round, especially in summer when they flower and new leaves appear, their active growing period. I grow them in an area of moderate light. Others have seen pollinators active on the flowers but I haven’t. However seed capsules frequently develop without my assistance with a toothpick. Richard Thomson says they haven’t had success germinating the seed.”

Reference

https://nossa.org.au/2017/03/03/upside-upsisdedown/

http://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/name/apni/89052

http://saseedbank.com.au/species_information.php?rid=1288

Personal communications Helen Richards (OAM), Chairman Australian Orchid Foundation

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

The other entries :

1702 sm RWL Spiranthes alticola

1702 sm RAL Pterostylis falcata

1702 sm PM Thelymitra villosa

June 2016 Winning Picture

1606 sm RM Caladenia cairnsiana

It is always good to see other members submitting images for the competition. This month Rob Soergel entered Urochilus sanguineus growing with Bunochilus viriosus and Ros Miller a Caladenia cairnsiana. Others were Rob and Jenny Pauley’s mass flowering of short Urochilus sanguineus, Pauline Meyers’ Arachnorchis cardiochila hybrid (possibly with A. strigosa) and Lorraine Badger’s Diuris corymbosa.

The winning picture taken by Ros Miller C. cairnsiana (Zebra Orchid) is one of Western Australia’s unique and interesting orchids. It was first collected by Baron Von Mueller (Victorian Government Botanist 1857–1873) from the Stirling Ranges and subsequently named in 1869 after the Rev Adam Cairns a Melbourne Presbyterian minister who promoted “various philanthropic studies”. In the 2000’s various synonyms were applied to the name, most notably Jonesiopsis cairnsiana (2003).

Many of the distinctive features of this species are readily seen in Ros’ picture – the non-clubbed, equidimensional short lateral sepals and petals which are hard pressed up against the ovary; the smooth, upswept labellum. What is not seen is the leaf which is erect large pale green with the bottom third usually irregularly blotched with red-purple.

Flowering from August to November, occasionally in clumps, these orchids are distributed over an extensive geographic area from Lancelin approximately 130 km north east of Perth, to Israelite Bay near Esperance some 775 km south east. They grow in a range of habitats from forests, woodlands, to mallee heathlands.

Interestingly for such a widespread and colourful flower, they are often missed being seen as they are ‘small and hard to see’.

References

Brown, A., et al,(2013) Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia. Perth, WA: Simon Neville Publications

Hanson, Kim (2016) WANOSCG Facebook conversation July 2016 https://www.facebook.com/groups/377740182396565/

http://www.orchidspecies.com/caladcairnsiana.htm accessed July 6 2016

http://members.iinet.net.au/~emntee/HISTORY_OF_ORCHID_COLLECTING.htm accessed July 6 2016

Archer, W http://esperancewildflowers.blogspot.com.au/2009/09/zebra-orchid-caladenia-cairnsiana.htm acc 12 July 2016

May 2016 Winning Picture

1605 sm PM Caladenia flava

There were four entries this month with two from Western Australia Pauline Meyers’s Caladenia flava and Ros Miller’s Caladenia longicauda sbsp. eminens; one local Greg Sara’s Pheladenia deformis; and one from the Australian Capital Territory, Lorraine Badger’s Cyanicula caerulea.  The winner was the Caladenia flava.

If I was to think of an orchid that represents Western Australia it would be hard to choose between the Queen of Sheba and this one.

With its long flowering season (July to December) it is Western Australia’s most common and widespread species; being found in the south west triangle of the state from Kalbarii to Israelite Bay; in habitat as variable as the coastal heathlands through to inland rocky outcrops; from forests to swamp margins.  Being so prevalent, it is not surprising that it was amongst one of the first Western Australian orchids collected in September to October, 1791 by the ship-surgeon and naturalist, Archibald Menzies. It was subsequently named in 1810 by Scottish botanist Robert Brown.

C. flava is one of the five species belonging to the subgenus Elevatae. The other four being C. marginata, C. nana, C. reptans (all WA endemics) and C. latifolia which is widespread across southern Australia. All five species have the same characteristic feature of the calli joined together on a raised plate near the base of the labellum. C. flava is distinctively and predominately yellow whereas the others are pink or white.

C. flava has two pollinators, native bees which are lured deceitfully to the non-existent nectar and scarab beetles (Neophyllotocus sp.). As they share the same pollinators, C. flava often hybridizes with C. reptans and C. latifolia, producing very colourful offspring.

Observations have led orchidologists to divide C. flava into 3 subspecies. These differences are based upon floral morphology. but curiously they each have their own separate distribution.

References:

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

Hopper, SD & Brown, AP 2001b Contributions to Western Australian Orchidology: 2, New taxa and circumscriptions in Caladenia (Spider, Fairy and Dragon Orchids of Western Australia), Nuytsia 14:27–314.

2015 May Winning Photograph

05 sm PM Diuris hazeliae

Western Australia produces a lovely array of orchids and so it is not surprising to find in NOSSA photograph competitions that when a Western Australian species is entered it can often be the winner. This month was no different with Pauline Myers beautiful picture of a mass of Diuris hazeliae which was kindly identified by Andrew Brown.

This species has only recently been named in 2013 and as a result finding information was a challenge. Obviously there was no information in Jones Native Orchids of Australia (2006); and surprisingly the definitive Field guide to the Orchids of Western Australia (2013) A Brown et al did not appear to have any information.

But

  • the Western Australian Herbarium’s FloraBase (Western Australian Flora), has a map of distribution which is roughly a diagonal line from east of Geraldton to the north of Esperance. It is not listed as threatened.

    Distribution of Diuris hazeliae.  Map taken from the Western Australian Flora Base

    Distribution of Diuris hazeliae. Map taken from the Western Australian Flora Base

  • the Western Australian Herbarium lists the species as one of 59 new taxa added to their plant census in 2014.
  • from the Atlas of Living Australia it can be deduced that the flowering time is mainly August and September and is likely to be found in various types of shrublands margins including Eucalypt and mallee woodlands and appears to be mainly associated with rocky or granite outcrops.
  • and the National Species List APNI/APC yields the information that it was named after Hazel King, plant collector and conservationist with a special interest in orchids and was previously known by the phrase name Diuris ‘northern granite’ with a common name of Rosy-cheeked Donkey Orchid. It was found in a granite outcrop on her property Tampu (north of Beacon).

Fortunately Andrew Brown was able to help with extra information. It is listed in his book (page 212) but under the phrase name Diuris sp. Eastern Wheatbelt (Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid). Diuris sp. Northern Granite was found to be the same species and so the use of that name was discontinued but it does remain a synonym for Diuris hazeliae.

The following description is information updated from his book “Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia”

Diuris hazeliae D.L. Jones & C.J. French (yellow granite donkey orchid)

Flowering: August to September.

Description:

A common, inland donkey orchid 100 to 300 mm high with two to three basal leaves 50 to 150 mm long by 5 to 10 mm wide and up to seven predominantly yellow, brown marked flowers 20 to 40 mm across. Flowers are characterised by their broad petals, very broad dorsal sepal, narrow, reflexed, usually crossed lateral sepals and tri-lobed labellum with broad, spreading lateral lobes and a broad, flattened to convex mid lobe.

Distribution and habitat:

Found between Mullewa, Salmon Gums and Balladonia, growing in shallow soil pockets on granite outcrops and along drainage lines below rocky breakaways.

Notes:

Named in 2013 from specimens collected at Tampu, north of Beacon in September 1997. The species often forms very large colonies on granite outcrops.

Distinctive features:

Inland granite and breakaway habitat.

Very broad dorsal sepal.

Diuris hazeliae is part of the Diuris corymbosa complex of which, in 2013, there were only 10 of the 26 Western Australian species formally named. This situation has now changed with 14 now formally named. As a final word, Diuris orientis is South Australia’s only member of this complex.

More images of this species can be seen on Retired Aussies website http://www.retiredaussies.com/ColinsHome%20Page/OrchidsWA/Diuris/Diuris%20sp%20northen%20granite/Diuris%20sp%20northern%20granite.htm

 

References – All websites accessed on 29th May 2015-06-04

https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/science/nuytsia/755.pdf

https://florabase.dpaw.wa.gov.au/browse/profile/44161

https://biodiversity.org.au/nsl/services/api/instance/apni/772000

Jones, Native Orchids of Australia and its Territories (2006)

Brown, Field Guide to the Orchids of Western Australia (2013)

The Role of Orchids

October is Orchid Month with the greatest number of species flowering throughout South Australia; so it is worth considering the role of orchids in the Australian bushland.  Hence this week’s blog is an article written by Belinda Newman, Western Australia.

Orchids: The Canary in the Coal Mine was published in the Friends of Kings Park magazine For Plants and People, Issue 70 p 22-24, 2010.  The article is both a good introduction to, and summary of, her 2009 thesis Orchids as Indicators of Ecosystem Health in Urban Bushland Fragments

Orchids: The Canary in the Coal Mine

Belinda Newman – Research Scientist BGPA

What could orchids and canaries possibly have in common?

Before occupational health and safety and ventilation systems were commonplace in the mining industry, a caged canary would be bought down to the coal seam by the miners.  Canaries are particularly sensitive to methane and carbon dioxide which made them excellent indicators for the build-up of dangerous gases.  A singing canary meant everything was fine, a dead canary spelt trouble and an immediate evacuation.

Although orchids can’t sing, they do possess a number of traits that make them sensitive ecological indicators.  The relationships that orchids have with their surroundings form part of a complex ecological web.  Orchids have specific relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, which they require both for germination of their dust-like seed and ongoing growth of plants in adulthood.  These fungi in turn rely on the appropriate soil moisture content and carbon sources.  Above ground, the majority of terrestrial orchids in the south west of Western Australia rely on pollinators for successful seed set.  For some orchids this plant-pollinator relationship has become so highly evolved that removal of the pollinator would spell the end of the orchid.  The pollinators also have specific requirements for habitat, appropriate food sources and nesting sites.  These above and below ground links to the ecosystem make orchids particularly sensitive to disturbances and changes in their surroundings.

The potential for orchids to be used as indicators of ecosystem health formed the basis of a study between Kings Park and Botanic Gardens and Murdoch University.  The coal seam was eleven urban reserves of varying condition on the Swan Coastal Plain.  The canaries were seven orchids common to Perth’s urban bushlands; the Carousel spider (Caladenia arenicola), Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava), Pink Fairy orchid (Caladenia laitfolia), Pansy orchid (Diuris magnifica), Dark Banded Greenhood (Pteryostylis sanguinea), Purple Enamel Orchid (Elythranthera brunonis) and the Mignonette orchid (Microtis media).  Before it was possible to see which orchids made the best canaries, it was important to determine the health of each of the bushland sites.  A number of environmental variables were chosen that best reflected the health of the ecosystems.  Extensive surveys and analysis of species composition, plant functional groups against these environmental variables revealed a range of site conditions from close to pristine to highly degraded.  This provided the backdrop against which to determine the effectiveness of orchids as indicators through the measured responses of the orchid species.

Firstly orchid presence and abundance was measured across sites to determine if particular orchid species showed a preference for particular site conditions.  Diuris magnifica and Microtis media showed strong correlations and were most abundant in poor condition sites and Pteryostylis sanguinea showed strong correlations to sites in good condition.  While the abundance and presence of orchids appeared to correlate with site condition, we wanted to know what other aspects of the orchid we could measure as a means of judging the health of an ecosystem.

Successful seed set in plants reflects a healthy ecosystem and the reproductive success of the seven orchid species was investigated to determine the effects of declining site condition on seed set.  Pollination trials were set up to measure natural and artificial pollination events across all sites.  Widespread depression in pollination across all species and sites was found to be occurring, rendering seed set a poor measure of ecosystem health.

Investigations into the below-ground links orchids have with the ecosystem were undertaken by determining the presence and abundance of orchid mycorrhizal for the seven orchid study species across all sites.  Mycorrhizal distribution was found to be patchy within urban reserves and also revealed unoccupied niches capable of supporting orchid germination.  A greater abundance of Microtis media mycorrhizal at sites of poor condition supported earlier correlations of plant abundance at sites of poor condition.  The higher abundance of mycorrhizal symbionts for Caladenia arenicola at sites of very good condition also suggests its potential as an indicator species.

The study also looked at seedling growth in urban reserves.  This was the first time that biomass allocation in orchids has been investigated in light of ecosystem health.  In poor condition sites, Diuris magnifica and Caladenia arenicola increased growth effort to the above ground leaf. In sites of very good condition, these two species increased growth to the tuber to take advantage of being able to store starch as a result of both fungal and photosynthetic activity taking place.  Most importantly this shows a measurable change over a short period time.  Although it is effort intensive, planting orchid seedlings of a standardised size into the field may provide a useful and rapid measure of ecosystem health, much like caged canaries were used in the past.

This research into using orchids as an indicator species is the first of its kind and suggests that orchids can be used as an indicator of ecosystem health.  Future research will need to focus on the thresholds of the species identified as potential indicators in this study.  What aspect of the orchid’s ecology will give clear and repeatable data linked to ecosystem health?  Following the canary analogy, how long can orchids hold their breath? Future studies would need to focus on testing these thresholds.  The results of this study suggest that orchid presence and abundance, orchid growth and orchid symbionts can be used as indicators of ecosystem health, although work needs to be undertaken to refine the understanding of their response to specific disturbances.  This study provides a baseline for investigating the utility of orchids as indicators of ecosystem health in highly fragmented systems.  Perhaps orchids and canaries have more in common than first thought.

 

April 2014 Winning Photo

Thelymitra crinita

With a common name of Queen Orchid, Thelymitra crinita is aptly named, for the flower has a quiet regal air of elegance and delicacy that would appeal to many people. Lorraine Badger who took this photograph was one of those people.

T crinita is a common Western Australian orchid that can be found from Perth around to Albany with a disjunct area near Esperance. Back in 1839, it was one of 60 orchids named by John Lindley in ‘Appendix to the first twenty-three volumes of Edwards’s Botanical Register together with A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony’ page xlix. Though the register is written in English the species description is in Latin, here reproduced for all those Latin buffs –

(214)  helymitra crinita; folio radicali oblongo apiculato glabro, raceme cylindraceo, floribus purpureis, cuculli laciniis lateralibus barbatis unguiculatis intermediâ fornicatâ emarginatâ dorso glanduloso-villosâ

On a recent visit to the South Australian State Herbarium, Michelle Waycott, Chief Botanist, explained that there is a strict botanical standard for describing a species. You may  be pleased to  know  that  at  the  18th  International  Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011, it was determined  that  from  the  1st January  2012  it  was  no longer mandatory for descriptions to be in Latin only. English can now be used.