Tracking Down the elusive Prasophyllum suttonii

Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper 2 Taxonomic Status of the Mauve Leek-orchid Prasophyllum suttonii Rogers & Rees, 1912 (Orchidaceae) published in May 2017 documents how he used original source material to determine the identification of a species that was considered extinct.  Prasophyllum suttonii belongs to the Prasophyllum odoratum/diversiflorum complex and is very similar to the later named Prasophyllum alpestre. It was considered to be extinct but Rudie’s view was not that it was extinct but that it had been “lost in taxonomy, and its status need to be restored”. His article documents how he used original material to help determine identification of the species he had photographed.

In his summary Rudie has some good advice about how to effectively use the material available –

  • Use original descriptions and illustrations
    • Original descriptions are preferred over type specimens
    • later descriptions may be based upon second hand information which may or may not be accurate.
  • Drawings have some value but depend
    • upon the skill of the artist to show the crucial details
    • upon whether they were drawings from fresh or preserved specimens
  • A good photograph will be better than a drawing
  • Type material is useful but may deteriorate over time

Images from Rudie Kuiter's article on Prasophyllum suttonii

 

Click here to read the complete article

 

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Orchids in the Snow?

It’s Christmas and usually, despite Australia’s hot climate, we associate Christmas with snow and cold but we don’t tend to associate them with orchids. And yet, for Australia we do have not one but two Christmas flowering orchids in snow country, that is, on the isolated sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, an island where “[r]ain and snow are frequent, with only a few days each year with no precipitation”. Admittedly at this time of the year, being summer it is warmer with an average temperature of 7.9degrees Celsius.

The first species was only discovered in 1978 and not recognised as an unique species until 1993 when it was named Corybas dienemus (syn. Nematoceras diemenum). Previously it had been linked with Corybas macranthus.

The second orchid species is  Corybas sulcatus (syn. Nematoceras sulcatum) and this species, possibly the world’s rarest orchid, has gone travelling. Staff from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens have manage to collect and amazingly propagate the seed.  Amazingly because orchids, particularly the terrestrial orchids, are difficult to grow. It is now flowering, this Christmas season, but under very carefully controlled conditions in Hobart.

Click here and here to see images and read about this amazing journey.

So Christmas, orchids and snow do go together in Australia, albeit in the far flung island of the south.

Corybas sulcatus (Grooved helmet-orchid) is one of two endemic orchids which occur on Macquarie Island (Photo: Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens) Image Source

Reference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nematoceras_dienemum accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/macquarie-island/location/climate-weather-tides accessed 23 December 2017

http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2017/sub-antarctic-orchid-shows-true-colours-far-from-home accessed  23 December 2017

 

Corybas Pollinators

Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper 5, October 2017, is about he and his team’s observations on the pollination strategies of fungus-gnats with Corybas. A small section from the introduction is quoted below:

Certain flowers in large colonies were most popular over several days and both sexes were observed feeding on the boss, which suggests a food-related attraction. Virtually nothing was known about the Corybas pollinators and primary literature to date only offered hypotheses. Based on our findings, the persisting statement in literature that ‘Corybas species attract fungus-gnats as putative brood-sites’ is incorrect for the taxa in Victoria. No evidence of ovipositing in flowers was found. Females feeding looked gravid and were presumed to be unfertilised. All individuals looked fresh with undamaged wings and it was apparent they had recently hatched.

Is this a hypotheses that needs revising? Rudie definitely demonstrates the importance of careful and meticulous observations.

Click here to read the full article

Corysanthes diemenica 077

Corysanthes diemenica (Veined Helmet Orchid)

2017 August Winning Picture

The following article  appeared in the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal September 2017 Volume 41 Number 8. It is a longer and expanded version of the article as  George Bentham was one of most influential botanists of the 19th century making it difficult to summarize his life. Even this article barely scratches the surface of this most interesting man.

The theme for the August competition was Striped or Blotched orchids.

1708 JF Thelymitra benthamiana cr

Blotches or stripes, which one? An interesting collection was entered. Representing the stripes were John Fennell’s Dipodium pardalinum, Shane Grave’s Cyrtostylis robusta labellum, Helen Lawrence’s Thelymitra cyanea, Robert Lawrence’s Diplodium dolichochilum and Lorraine Badger’s T. campanulata. There were less blotches; Ricky Egel’s Diuris pardina and John Fennell’s T. benthamiana.

T. benthamiana (Leopard Sun Orchid) is a popular orchid to photograph and it is not surprising that it is again (see April 2016) a winner in our competition. It was named after the Englishman George Bentham (1800 – 1884) one of the foremost and influential systemic botanists of the 19th century. At about the age of 16 or 17 years he was introduced to botany, and despite training as a lawyer, he devoted his life to the study of botany.

Though never visiting Australia, he produced the world’s first completed continental flora, Flora Australiensis, a seven volume work produced over 15 years (1863 – 1878). As monumental as this was, at the same time he was working on his greatest work, co-authored with Joseph Dalton Hooker, Genera Plantarum (1862 – 1883) in which is introduced the Bentham & Hooker system of plant classification. This system is still in use by many herbaria around the world. It involved the study of actual plant specimens, a practice which Bentham used himself. For instance, in the production Flora Australiensis, he would examine, critique and describe over a 1,000 species each year.

This practice harkens back to his early days when in his Flora of the French Pyrenees (1826) he adopted the practice of citing nothing second-hand. He never deviated from this. It did help that he was able to read in fourteen modern European languages plus having a good command of Latin, the language used for many botanical writings. This enabled him to access original material which he did by visiting every European herbarium when preparing for his first major work Labiatarum Genera et Species (1832 – 1836).

A shy and unassuming man, Bentham had the respect of the botanical world as was reflected in the various awards he received. Described as a genius, [a man of] indefatigable industry, the premier systematic botanist, he considered himself an amateur botanist, never a professional, even though he donated his extensive collection of more than 1,000 specimens to Kew Gardens in 1854 where he worked full time until his death in 1884. Bentham lived in, and contributed to, the transitional period from the dominance of the gentleman botanist to the government being responsible for collections of national and scientific significance.

He was responsible for introducing into orchid taxonomy (1881) a new classification recognising Subtribes, which precedes Genus in the classification system; introduced the word ‘orchidologist’ to the world in his Notes on Orchideae, 1881. Although there is only one Australian orchid named after Bentham, he has a whole genus of 29 species named after him: Benthamia which is endemic to Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. Worldwide, Bentham was directly involved in naming over 200 orchid taxa.

Thanks to Greg Steenbeeke for critiquing this article.

Reference

N. T. Burbidge, ‘Bentham, George (1800–1884)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bentham-george-2979/text4345 , published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 29 August 2017.

George Bentham Retrieved August 31, 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bentham

The Taxonomy of the Orchidaceae Retrieved 31 August 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy_of_the_Orchidaceae

Bentham, George (DNB00). (2012, December 29). In Wikisource. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Bentham,_George_(DNB00)&oldid=4211195

Bentham and Hooker system of Classification. Accessed August 31, 2017 from http://vle.du.ac.in/mod/book/print.php?id=13270&chapterid=29150

Notes on Orchidaea (Journal of the Linnean Society)

English Oxford Living Dictionary. Accessed 31 August, 2017 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/orchidologist

 

2017 July Winning Picture

July Winning Photograph

Corybas demenicus

July is Helmet Orchid Season; and the theme for the July Picture Competition.

In Australia, the genus Corybas in the broad sense (sensu lato) has four segregate genera; three on the Australian mainland (Corybas, Corysanthes & Anzybas) and one (Nematoceras) on Macquarie Island. All three mainland segregate genera were represented this month. Robert Lawrence’s, Anzybas unguiculatus; Margaret Lee, Corybas aconitiflorus with Jane Higgs, Lorraine Badger and John Fennell all entering Corysanthes diemenica. Lorraine also entered Corysanthes despectans; and John an image of Corysanthes incurva. The clear winner was Jane Higgs’ Corysanthes diemenica (synonym Corybas diemenicus).

The flower of Corybas sensu lato is characterised by a large dominant dorsal sepal and an equally dominant labellum. The other features associated with an orchid are not so obvious. The column is short and not visible. Even the ovary is barely visible whilst the other petals and sepals are but short thin filaments near the ovary. The base of the labellum wraps around to form a tube which hides the column; and the upper portion of the labellum folds back on itself and flares out. With this structure, two new features are introduced, the boss in the centre of the labellum and the auricles, two earlike openings formed from folding at the base of the labellum. Two growth features that are different from many other orchids are that the bud and leaf grow concurrently and once pollination has occurred the stem elongates so that the ovary can be raised up to 20 to 30 cms, thus allowing for seed dispersal.

Jane’s picture clearly shows these features as in the labelled image below.

Corybas demenicus

Thank you to Greg Steenbeeke for reviewing this article.

Reference

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

Jones, D. L., A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland

Jones, D. L.; Hopely, T; Duffy, S. M.; Richards, K. J.; Clements, M. A and Zhang X, Australian Orchid Genera an information and identification system. Electronic version, 2006, CSIRO

Rules of entry:

The subject matter must have something to do with Australian orchids.  Any format is acceptable including Photo shopped images, artwork, etc

Orchid Basics – Labellums and Columns

Orchids are unique in the floral world. Two distinctive characteristics that set orchids apart from other plants are the labellum and the column.

The labellum is a modified petal.  It is extremely varied in appearance; “often lobed, spurred, adorned with glands, appendages of calli (callus, a hardened swelling or thickening of the skin), sometimes mobile and highly irritable and often brightly coloured”. * The labellum is important for pollination.

The column (as described by Bates and Weber) “is a distinctive feature of all orchids and a unique structure in the plant kingdom. It is formed by fusion of the male parts ‘stamens’ and female organ ‘pistil’.”*

Below are examples of the various types of labellums and columns in some South Australian terrestrial orchids. Each genus has its own characteristic labellum and column.

Sun Orchid

Thelymitra – though the labellum is almost indistinguishable from the other petals and sepals, the column is quite complex.

Hyacinth Orchid

Dipodium or Hyacinth Orchid

Greenhood

Pterostylis or Greenhoods – generally a simple labellum with the column hidden well back into the hood.

Spider Orchid

Arachnorchis (syn Caladenia) can have quite varied and complex, mobile labellums

Helmet Orchid

Corybas or Helmet Orchid – the labellum dominates and the column is hidden deep inside the flower.

Donkey Orchid

Diuris or Donkey Orchid – the labellum is divided giving the appearance of more than one structure.

*Bates and Weber Orchids of South Australia 1990

 

2017 August Cultural Notes

Steve Howard writes cultural notes for Adelaide conditions. These are his notes for August; for both epiphytes and terrestrials.

WATERING

Mounts daily.

Pots weekly. Small pots twice weekly depending on weather. Drier conditions for hot cold types. Terrestrial pots can dry out faster on warmer days so keep a watch on conditions.

FEEDING

Epiphytes: Recommending feeding towards months end as days lengthen. Many plants in strong spike growth and flowering now.

Terrestrials generally don’t need to be fed although weak organics like Seasol and Powerfeed applied in low doses can benefit colony type greenhoods.

PESTS AND DISEASES

Epiphytes: Botrytis will rot new buds in cold damp weather as fast as it attacks new growths from now. Aphids will increase sharply this month and favour new growth and spikes.  Pyrethrum sprays eco friendly and work well, so does a hose but dry spike straight after.

Some terrestrials will rot this month if conditions have been too wet or stagnant over winter. Note this for next season and add more drainage if this has been an issue.

 

GENERAL

Epiphytes: Keep flowering plants under cover  to enjoy. Soon will be the time to start thinking about re-potting and division as spring nears.

Keep flowering terrestrials out of strong winds and heavy rains as flower stems on some varieties are quite weak when grown in cultivation

Additional:

Later August will produce some warmer drying days as spring nears. Ensure small pots and plants don’t dry out at this time. Good time to check out seedling lists and prepare orders to ensure your plants arrive at the commencement of a new growing season.

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2017 June Winning Picture

1706 sm RWL Thelymitra grandiflora 10

This month’s theme for the photo competition was blue and white. White flowers can occur as a result of lack of colour such as Rosalie Lawrence’s Caladenia latifolia (Pink Fairies) which is normally pink. White orchids can also occur naturally such as the Arachnorchis argocalla (White Beauty Spider Orchid) and Arachnorchis intuta (Ghost Spider Orchid) both photographed by John Fennel, or as a dominant colour such as Lorraine Badger’s Eriochilus collinius (syn Eriochilus sp Hills Woodland).

Of the blue orchids, both Ricky Egel and John Badger entered pictures of Thelymitra x truncata (Blue Spotted Hybrid Sun Orchid) whilst Robert Lawrence entered a Thelymitra grandiflora (Giant Sun Orchid) which was the outstanding winning picture.

Blue in the floral world is unusual colour in the floral world for it is not a naturally occurring colour. In fact, “[t}he key ingredient for making blue flowers are the red anthocyanin pigments. Less than 10 percent of the 280,000 species of flowering plants produce blue flowers.” (Lee, 2010 as cited in Oder 2014).

Whilst blue orchids occur outside of Australia, their “colour cannot rival” … “the intensely blue flowers” … “especially [are] unique in the orchid world” … “of their Australian counterparts. The sun orchids (Thelymitra) in particular are famous for their sky blue flowers.” (Ronse 2008: 103)

Based upon Jones 2006 tome, the following genera have true blue orchid species – Cyanicula (9 species), Pheladenia (1 species), Epiblema (1 species) and the largest group Thelymitra (about 65 out of potentially 118 species) plus one hybrid, XGlossodenia tutelata. Of the epiphytes, blue is almost non-existent except for three which Jones lists that rarely might be bluish and they are Vappodes bigibba, V. lithocola and V. phalaenopsis*.

With such rarity, is it any wonder then that the Chinese attached special significance to it as a plant that could cure lung disease and the Aztecs saw it as a symbol of strength.

*Names used as they appear in Jones 2006 tome

Reference

Jones, D. L., A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland

Lee, David (2010), Nature’s Palette: The Science of Plant Color< Chicago, University of Chicago Press

Oder, T, The Science of Blue Flowers https://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/the-science-of-blue-flowers accessed 6 July 2017

Pretty Zesty All About Blue Orchids http://www.prettyzesty.com/2012/11/all-about-blue-orchids.html accessed 6 July 2017

Pterostylis Pollinators

Rudie Kuiter et al have been observing orchid pollinators over many seasons spending hours watching and becoming familiar with pollinator interaction with the orchid, learning when to anticipate pollination activity.

Their observations of various Pterostylis species has been documented in Overview of Pterostylis Pollination (Orchidaceae) in Victoria. In all, they observed 53 Pterostylis species and 40 species of pollinators from several different genera. They noted that some pollinators species were active most of the day but others were only active in the late afternoon whilst others were “only seen on dusk and possibly are nocturnal as well”.

 

 

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).