2018 July Winning Photograph

1807 sm JF thelymitra azurea

Thelymitra azurea (common name Azure Sun Orchid)

With two sun orchids entered this month it is not surprising that one of them should be the winner which was John Fennell’s Thelymitra azurea a lovely blue flower with hints of pink. The other sun orchid taken by Pauline Meyers was one of the lovely pinks, T. rubra. She also entered a picture of Pyrorchis nigricans with a spider quietly waiting for its next meal! The final entry from Trevor Williams was that of a double headed Diplodium robustum which he found at Spring Gully Conservation Park.

 

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June 2018 Winning Photograph

1806 sm JB T epipactoides1

 

An advantage of entering a photograph is that it does not need to be in season. This month John Fennell entered an autumn flowering Corunastylis fuscoviride and a late spring/early summer flowering Diuris sulpherea, Robert and Rosalie Lawrence both entered the winter flowering Diplodium robustum and the winning picture, John Badger’s Thelymitra epipactoides is an early spring flowering orchid.

Sun Orchids are another popular winner of the competitions and as there was a comprehensive article written on Thelymitra epipactiodes and as some have asked “what, actually, is a sun orchid?”, it is time to answer the general question about Sun Orchids.

Of all the Australian terrestrial orchids Thelymitra or Sun Orchid is the one that looks the least like an orchid as all the segments – the sepals and petals including the labellum – are very similar in appearance. They mimic the flowers of the Lilliaceae and Goodeniaceae families.

Nevertheless, it is an orchid as evidenced by the column. Columns are a unique feature of orchids. They are the combination of the reproductive organs into one structure. Between the different Thelymitra species, it is the column that is often the main distinguishing feature used in identification. Because, the column is quite detailed and so important in identification, we plan to feature this in future Journals.

Other general features of Thelymitra are single, non-hairy, mainly linear leaf (of course, there are always exceptions) with a single flower stem. Flowers range from being singular to having multiple flowers which come in a range of colours from yellow to pinks to blues. Despite the lack of nectar, most Thelymitra are bee pollinated but there are some that are self-pollinated. The pollinia instead of being yellow are white and it is not unusual to see the white pollen on the self-pollinating flowers.

Reference

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

Thelymitra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelymitra Accessed 4 July 2018

May 2018 Winning Photograph

One never knows what species will be entered each month – this month’s entries included Andrew Primer’s Eriochilus collinus, John Fennell’s Prasophyllum elatum, Marg Paech’s Pterostylis nutans and the winning picture, Pauline Meyer’s Arachnorchis sp. (which has subsequently been identified as Arachnorchis sp.)

 

1805 sm PM Arachnorchis sp

In the last six years there have been over a dozen photo competition articles (the most recent April 2018) written on some aspects related to Spider Orchids. So, with another Spider Orchid winning the competition it is about time to answer the question – What Is A Spider Orchid?

 

Around the world, the common name Spider Orchid has been bestowed upon a number of orchids in different genera. In Australia, they have principally been applied to a large group within the genus Caladenia, a highly diverse cumbersome genus.

Caladenia in the broad sense is distinguished by erect flower stem and single linear, ovate to lanceolate leaf, (both hairy), labellum distinctly different from the other segments, generally fringed, curved and decorative calli. But within this genus it has been recognised for a long time that there are several distinct but varied groups, which has been reflected in the common names – Dragon, Pink Fingers, Hare, Spider, Wispy Spider, etc.

Consequently in 2001, several segregate genera were published including Arachnorchis for the common named Spider Orchids. This was not widely accepted, as reflected by the Herbaria of Australia. Indeed the original authors are no longer using the segregate names.

Yet despite all that, the segregate names have proved to be very practical for fieldwork. By using the segregate name when species is unknown, extra information is communicated. This was the case with Pauline’s picture. Yes she photographed a Caladenia but which one? It was an Arachnorchis species.

With that in mind, it is time to consider the features that make up a Spider Orchid or Arachnorchis.

In following through a dichotomous key Arachnorchis is immediately separated out from the rest of the Caladenia by the presence of two yellow waxy glands at the base of the column. As this is not the immediate feature seen, the following chart comparing it with the very similar looking Joneseopsis should assist with recognising some of the main distinguishing features.

  SPIDER ORCHIDS
(ARACHNORCHIS)
WISPY SPIDER OR DADDY LONG LEGS
(JONESIOPSIS)
Leaf Sparse to densely hairy
Narrow to broad lanceolate
Red base
Sparsely hairy
Slender
Red base
Stem Wiry densely hairy Hairy wiry
Flower    
Dorsal sepal Erect Erect
Tepals

(Petals & Sepals)

Long & slender with long slender glandular tails or thickened short to long clubs*

Petals and sepals similar size

Narrow, end in very long thin threadlike glandular tails*
Labellum Trilobed
obliquely erect lateral lobes
Midlobe often differently coloured to the base
Small indistinctly lobed

Narrow

  Hinged Hinged
Apex Rolled under at the apex Rolls under*
Margins Fringed with short to long teeth* Short, blunt teeth to smooth
Calli Vary from short rounded crowded to long curved and widely spaced Short blunt congested lamina calli*
  2 or more rows 2 rows*
Basal Gland 2 yellow at  base of the column None
Growth Habit Loose groups* Clumping

 

*Exceptions in all these descriptions

1805 PM Arachnorchis sp Labelled wm

Labelled Features of a Spider Orchid

Reference

Backhouse, G, (2018) Spider Orchids: The Genus Caladenia and Its Relatives in Australia ISBN: 978-0-9946489 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

 

April 2018 Winning Photograph

1804 sm JF oligochaetochilus excelsus koongawa 2

Oligochaetochilus excelsus, an impressive name for the winning photo, taken by John Fennell. It was originally formally described and named Pterostylis excelsa by Mark Clement in 1986 from a specimen cultivated from a tuber taken from Eyre Peninsula. This was subsequently published in the fourth edition of Black’s Flora of South Australia. In the early 2000s, the genus Pterostylis was split into several different genera of which Oligochaetochilus was one.

Although not everyone accepted this change, it is helpful for understanding the characteristics of this group. They are found only in Australia and are primarily a semi-arid inland group, sometimes the only orchids to occur in a locality.

Bob Bates has documented some of the drought tolerant and drought avoidance features found in this group as follows.

Drought tolerance:

  • Large moisture-storing tubers, shallowly buried to take advantage of light rain.
  • Waxy leaves pressed flat to the soil thus avoiding water loss.
  • Fast growth, some species are able to flower on just two good rainfalls.
  • Leaves senesce (die off) before or soon after flowering begins; moisture and food from the leaves is then stored in the tuber and scape. Leaves are able to absorb moisture from dew.
  • Leaves also contain an anti-freeze and can tolerate black frosts.
  • Just one month after rain a replacement storage tuber is produced as large as the old.

Drought avoidance:

  • Plants favour damper microhabitats, growing at the base of larger rocks and in seepage zones or on the cooler damper south side of bushes.
  • Tubers of desert species do not usually germinate in drought years.
  • Leaf senesces (dies off) before hot weather meaning plants avoid moisture loss during flowering.
  • Plants cease respiration in long dry periods and resume after rain even up to three months later, staying green even in bone dry soil.
  • Leaves are pressed to the soil.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pterostylis accessed 10 May 2018

Jessop, J. P. and Toelken, H. R. (eds) (1986). Flora of South Australia. 4th ed. Adelaide: Government Printers Adelaide.

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

March 2018 Winning Photograph

1803 A4 sm JF Arachnorchis formosa

Four very different species were entered this month. Ricky Egel’s autumn flowering Coryunastylis fuscoviridis (see February Journal for name usage), Rosalie Lawrence’s winter flowering Diplodium bryophilum and John Fennell’s spring flowering Stegostyla cucullata and Arachnorchis formosa.

It was no surprise that John’s A. formosa (syn. Caladenia formosa) was the winning photograph. Words such as stunning, spectacular, wonderful and attractive are used in the description of this rare orchid and is reflected in its common names – Scarlet Spider Orchid, Elegant Red Spider Orchid, Elegant Spider Orchid and Blood-red Spider Orchid. It is truly a stunning red flower with its drooping petals and sepals (tepals).

A. formosa is part of the large patersonii alliance which is characterised by white to reddish flowers with (mainly) drooping tepals ending in long, slender (sometimes thickened) sparsely to densely glandular (hairy) tails, labellum with short to long marginal teeth. The features that separate A. formosa from others in the complex are the large (~60 mm across) deep red flowers with long (~80mm) tapering, drooping tepals. Similar species to A. formosa is the smaller once common but now extremely rare Caladenia ‘Fleurieu Peninsula’ In Victoria there are some other similar species.

A. formosa is confined mainly to the South East and into south western Victoria.

References:

Backhouse, G., (2011). Spider-orchids – the Genus Caladenia and its Relatives in Australia, Melbourne, Electronic version.

Backhouse, G., et al, (2016). Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria, Australia, Electronic version.

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

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

 

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