This month’s entries of Oligochaetochilus arenicola, Caladenia flava, Calochilus robertsonii , Diuris palustris and Caladenia procera illustrated the variety of shapes to be found in orchids.
All but one are reasonably common; all but one were photographed in situ and that one was the winning picture by Kris Kopicki – Caladenia procera. Its common name, Carbunup King Spider Orchid, reflects its location near Busselton Western Australia. This species has a severely limited distribution with a small population and is threatened by land clearing for development. Consequently it is rated as critically endangered.
The other aspect of this plant is that it is a photograph of a plant in a pot not the bush. Kris benched the original plant at the September Tuesday meeting when it was still in bud. By Saturday it was in glorious flower.
This picture exemplifies the two objects of NOSSA which “are to promote and engage in activities for the promotion and furtherance of:
the culture, propagation, conservation, knowledge and scientific study of the native orchids of Southern Australia and the Australasian region;
the preservation of orchids as a species and their preservation within their native habitat.”
Some terrestrial orchids are relatively easy to grow but not this one. It takes time patience and skill to grow them. C procera is one of the fungi dependent species and though capable of living many years, it can take up to six years before flowering, although under ideal condition it could mature in as little as two years.
Being able to grow the different terrestrial orchids is one of the ways NOSSA can help in their conservation. NOSSA has a Growers’ Forum each meeting night where members can attend and learn from experienced growers how to grow both epiphytes and, importantly, the terrestrials.
Native Orchid Society of South Australia Inc. (NOSSA) Rules of Association 2007
The theme for the November Photograph Competition will be Orchids and Insects (spiders and other similar small critters will be honorary insects). The April Journal of the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Vol 38 No3 had an article on how to photograph pollinators which is reprinted here below along with some pictures of orchid pollinators.
For most of us trying to photograph a pollinator is a hit or miss event.
Back in 2007 when Robert and I were still fairly new members, Bob Bates suggested we visit Talisker to photograph Dipodium – “and while you are there, photograph a bee pollinator” and “It has to be this weekend, or you will miss it” – from me “What is a bee pollinator?” So on a hot January day, the family spent the morning at Talisker. Robert busily photographing every Dipodium he saw. By early afternoon, the children were hot and tired but Robert wanted another half an hour. After more than a hundred photographs and in that last half hour Robert spotted a bee on one of the flowers only to have it disappear when it heard the shutter sound of the camera. Fortunately when we looked at the picture it showed the pollinia of the D. pardalinum on the head of a native bee – we had our bee pollinator!
The lesson we learnt from that day was to turn the shutter sound off.
Talking to Rudie Kuiter and reading his book Orchid Pollinators of Victoria 2nd edition 2013, the other factors contributing to our success were:
a hot day,
flowers in the sun
This is when the bee pollinator is most likely to be active, see page 110. Although, Rudie’s book is a compilation of his observations for specific Victorian species, there are many clues to help us successfully photograph pollinators; of which follows (direct quotes from his book are in quotation marks):
His most important point is observation.
“Working out how and when to catch the insects in the act of pollination is a question of finding the right flowers and figuring out about the insect’s likely visiting times. To observe the action means watching the plants for many hours and have some idea when the creatures are flying.” (Page 110)
“Temperature and air movement play a major role in the pollination processes. On windy days the pollinator is usually not active, whilst temperatures effect (sic) the flying ability of the insects and controls the scent produced by the orchids.” (Page 110)
His notes infer searching before 10 am. (Page 2)
Most species become active when temperatures rise above 16⁰ C. Look for freshly opened flowers or visible pollinia. Check either the day before or in the morning. Several cool days preceding a warm day are more likely to aid success. (Page 10)
Green combed spider orchid
The best time seems to be a short period of not more than 30 minutes in the early morning between 10 and 11 am. In summer, the temperature can be a few degrees higher than the 16⁰ C of spring before the wasps are active. Also see note above for wasps. (Page 17)
“pollinators are rarely seen or photographed ….” (Page 54)
As temperature rises, the labellum develops a glossy surface which attracts the pollinator. Whilst still warm after dark, the pollinator remains active, suggesting at nocturnal pollination. See also Page 59. (Page 110)
“The fungus gnats were usually seen during late mornings when temperatures rose above 11⁰ C.” (Page 64)
“The smell becomes strongest above about 25⁰ C.” (Page 76)
“seems the wasp is only seen on the orchids when temperatures reach about 27⁰ or more.” (Page 79)
“I watched a large number of Thelymitra peniculata on a very hot day in early November. It was coolish early in the morning and warming quickly. Flowers were still closed at 10 am, and by 11 am most were open. As a flower was about to open, one could wait for a small bee to arrive. It seemed every flower was visited within a few minutes.” (Page 80)
“One has to be very patient to wait for bees on these flowers. I’ve found a very hot day was best to see bees showing an interest.” (Page 84)
Pollinators are seen in the early afternoon when mid-day temperatures are 12⁰ C or more and the flowers are in the sun. (Page 94)
Pollinators are attracted to the fresh flowers and pollination takes place within half an hour of insects flying. Once inside the flower it may take 6 – 12 minutes before they are ready to leave. (Page 110)
Requires temperatures of about 29⁰ C but need to be photographed from a distance as pollinators may be easily disturbed. (Page 106)
When looking for pollinators and wanting to get close, insect repellents should not be used and also strong perfumes may be a problem as most insects are touchy to approach.
In summary, the most likely time to photograph pollinators is when they are most active, when:
There is a warm day following a few cooler days.
Day time temperature has risen (relative to the season), ie late morning to early afternoon but there are exceptions.
Flowers are freshly opened.
Flowers are in sun, not shade.
There is no wind.
Photographing pollinators takes planning, observation and patience but it is well worth the effort.
Rudie Kuiter’s book is available for loan from the NOSSA library.
Special thanks to Rudie for taking the time to read through and respond to this article.
Thank you to Rudie for allowing us to use two of his photographs showing pollinators.
NB The genus Genoplesium has also been known as Corunastylis.
The winning picture was a single flower of Thelymitra epipactoides (Metallic Sun Orchid) taken by Rosalie Lawrence. This picture was cropped from a photograph taken on a mobile phone. Phones have come a long way since the days of Alexander Graham Bell!
T. epipactoides is a special orchid both in its beautiful colourings and that it is one of our rarest orchids. This endangered species has been well studied in an effort to prevent its demise with the result that there is an abundance of information about it. Recently, with the knowledge gained, Dr Nouska Reiter of the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC) and her team have managed to cultivate 3,000 plants with the plan to re-introduce them back into the bush in the Wimmera area.
Following are some interesting points from two good sources, which are the
(2)……can remain dormant as a tuber in the soil for up to nine years ……….
(But once a plant has flowered)
(2)…….Plants can produce flowers from their second year of growth onwards for up to four consecutive years, but no more. Individual plants can remain dormant for up to two years then grow to produce flowers, but if dormant for four years or more, plants generally do not reappear. …..
(2)…… Detailed monitoring suggests that mature plants only live for about 10 years before dying (Cropper 1993). ……..
(2)……..flowers open when the relative humidity is lower than 52%, air temperature is above 15 °C, and there are clear skies ………….
(2)……..Flowers remain for up to four weeks but wither a week after pollination ……
(2)……. fungus is required to initiate successful seed germination (Calder et al. 1989) and seeds cannot survive more than two weeks without associating with the fungus ………
(1)…….Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. …….
(2)….The leaf is loosely sheathing ………
(2)…Mature non-flowering plants have slightly narrower leaves to 51 cm long and not sheathing …
(1)………Flower colour is highly variable, brown, copper, blue and green being the main colour groups which are determined by the proportion of red, blue and green epidermal cells, some of which are reflective giving a metallic appearance. ………
(2)…. is undulating plains, crests of hills, gentle slopes of low broad ridges and at the bottom of broad, shallow swales (Obst 2005). It grows in sandy soils over a clay subsoil, with these soils having a tendency to become waterlogged in winter and spring, and drying out in summer and autumn ……
(2)…..This species is a post-disturbance coloniser, utilising early successional stages after disturbance events such as human activities, fire, animal activities such as scratching of the soil, or associated vegetation disturbance. ……
(2)……..requires open sites for flowering and seedling recruitment (Calder et al. 1989). ………
(1)……Population estimates vary from about 1050 plants in Australia (DEH 2006), to less than 3,000 plants (Coats et al 2002). More recent assessments suggest the population could be less than 1500 plants in the wild …….
(2)……In the Murray Darling Basin and South East Regions of South Australia there were ten populations of the Metallic Sun-orchid recorded in 2004 by Obst ……..
Reminder – November theme is Orchids and Insects (Spiders and other such critters are honorary insects)
Claire Chesson’s Arachnorchis valida (common name Robust Spider Orchid) was the winning photograph for August.
The name Arachnorchis valida was not validated until 2002; synonym Caladenia valida. Previously it had been included under Caladenia huegelii (a Western Australian species) and Caladenia reticulata.
A. valida grows in sandy or sand over red clay soil, in sheltered clearings within heathy woodland or mallee but within a very restricted and disjunct distribution on Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in South Australia; and Otway Plain, Victoria. Rated Endangered in South Australia, it is not listed nationally.
Although A. valida shares some similar features with A. reticulata (ie 1 to 2 flowers, clubbed sepals, calli on the labellum) it also has quite distinctive features (see chart below) that help to differentiate between the two as they can sometimes be found growing together.
Comparison of A. valida and A. reticulata
Felted Leaf – dense, short hairsSemi erect
Very long silky hairs; purplish at the baseErect
Taller – 40 cm, hairy
30 cm, green & purplish red with long silky hairs
Though variable, larger – 7 cm
Greenish when first opened fading to white or cream as the flower matures
Stiffly spreading – broad based sepals; backswept petalsNo stripes
“So fair, so sweet withal so sensitive, Would that the little flowers were born to live, Conscious of half the pleasure which they give”
I found this quote of Samuel Taylor Coleridge in A Collection of Australian Wildflower Illustrations by Patricia Weare 1984. The only text for the painting’s section were for identification but at the end of the Orchid section there was this one poem. It was appropriately placed as one could easily substitute the word orchids for flowers.
“So fair, so sweet withal so sensitive, Would that the little orchids were born to live, Conscious of half the pleasure which they give”
The exquisite paintings of Patricia Weare combined with this quote do homage to these dainty plants of our Australian bush. It is a reminder that though at times it can be seen as harsh, there is in these jewels a hidden delicateness and gentleness of the bushland.
There were many more entries than usual this month but the winner was a photograph by David Mangelsdorf.
Looking back over the last three winners, a royal theme emerges. In April it was the elegant Queen Orchid, in May the flamboyant Queen of Sheba and this month it is the dignified Queen Spider Orchid (a statelier name than the more usual common name of Narrow Lipped Spider Orchid).
The botanical name for this species is Arachnorchis leptochila spp letptochila (syn. Caladenia leptochila). An endemic species of South Australia, it is mainly found in the Mount Lofty Ranges where it favours leached stony soils. Flowering in spring, it is easily recognised by the upswept segments and narrow labellum.
Usually these orchids are characterised by dark clubs which can be seen even in bud, but in this picture they are light coloured. This could be due to variation with the species, as occasionally pale coloured flowers have been found. Interestingly in doing an image search on the web I found none with light coloured clubs.
Confucius was an admirer of orchids and in this quote he captures the quality of the epiphytes in this eloquent translation*:
The orchid grows where others cannot enduring the hardships of hunger and thirst, and is loosely tied to the things that support it. And, even with all the difficulty of its life, the orchid graces the world with beautiful colour and rare fragrance. This is like the life of the true gentleman, who sets himself to learn self-discipline, and whose character shines no matter where he is or what he experiences.
Though he never saw an Australian epiphytic orchid, the description holds true as can be seen in these three pictures from among the many species found on the eastern seaboard.