Orchids In Remnant Roadside Vegetation

This week’s post written by Leo Davis is an article (slightly edited) from The South Australian Naturalist 91 (1): 34 – 37 January – June 2017. In this article, Leo highlights the importance of  the role of roadside vegetation in preserving the native orchids and flora.

All photographs are by Leo Davis.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 OrcFig 1: Thelymitra antennifera hybrid

One of my rules of thumb is ‘If I am in a Conservation Park, I’m on ground that nobody could make a living from.’ One, usually more, of nutrient poor soils, excess salinity, extreme rockiness, steepness, poor moisture retention, low rainfall or even being waterlogged, will be a feature of the location. There are a few odd spots that have survived partly intact, that have good soil, sufficient rainfall, etc. These include cemeteries (The Nationally Critically Endangered ghost spider orchid (Caladenia (syn. Arachnorchis) intuta) holds on in a cemetery on Yorke Peninsula) or exclusion zones around water storages (including a reservoir reserve in Lobethal that the public can now access) or abandoned railway yards (including Sherlock, where so far I have found 21 species of orchids and part of a reserve in Halbury.)

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 2: Little Yellow Club Mallee Spider Orchid Caladenia (syn Arachnorchisverrucosa

When I go in search of plants with the Botany Group of the FNSSA (Field Naturalist Society of South Australia), or for orchids with NOSSA (Native Orchid Society of South Australia), or when I do surveys of threatened orchid species with DEWNR (Department Environment, Water and Natural Resources), or orchid seed collection with the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, or go on weeding parties to protect endangered species, the destination is always one of these deprived, rejected sites. The orchids I see are those adapted to or just hanging on in such sites. We never see orchids that lived on better soils, say on the Adelaide Plains. How many have become extinct?

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 3: Common Mallee Shell Orchid Pterostylis dolichochila

Wherever the land was suitable for agriculture it was clear felled. Almost nothing of the original flora and little of its associated fauna, were left. But there is a tiny flimsy exception. Crossing these highly productive agricultural zones are roads and sometimes these have remnant vegetation. For a person interested in orchids, these narrow strips are normally areas of slim pickings but occasionally finds are made. Near Halbury, the Nationally Endangered Halbury rufoushood (Pterostylis sp. Halbury or Oligochaetochilus lepidus) can be found in some roadside spots.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 4: Mallee Bearded Greenhood Pterostylis (syn Plumatichilos) sp. Mallee Bearded Greenhood

The most remarkable piece of roadside vegetation that I have come upon was discovered by and shown to me by Glenn Dean, the Environment Officer with the City of Murray Bridge. He found a section of predominantly broombush (Melaleuca uncinata) vegetation, only about 200 m. long, on the verges of a single car sandy track, east of Murray Bridge. It is so close to the vegetation that cars can be scratched. I have found 24 species of orchid (Glenn has found more) blooming there sometime between March and October each year. All images shown here (Figs 1–11) were made at this site. If the little used road was not there the land would have been under crop, being equal in quality to regularly cropped fields to either side, and is of much higher quality than any normally allocated to Conservation Park status. Most of the orchids found can indeed be found in some of the poor sites dedicated as Conservation Parks, including species similar to those found at Ferries McDonald and Monarto Conservation Parks with their poor sandy soils. But this spot, which for some reason supports species that do not grow just 100 metres east or west along the road, has such species as the Nationally Critically Endangered Mallee Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum constrictum) (Fig. 8), that requires soils as good as those demanded by wheat, so it is essentially doomed.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 5: Rusty Rufoushood Pterostylis biseta (syn Oligochaetochilus bisetus)

Its single plant sighting here is regarded as a ‘rediscovery’ of a species not seen for years. In the longer term I guess this tiny site of orchid species richness is in a transitory state and most species will disappear. The surrounding cropping land is neither a source of seed nor a suitable landing site for it and it provides damaging wind blown nutrients and other chemicals. So I will cherish it while it lasts and hope others appear, if only briefly. Here is a reminder, that most of you do not need, of the value of roadside vegetation (with the understanding that it can contribute to native animal mortality) and that we should manage, extend and guard its presence.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 6: Rufoushood Pterostylis (syn Oligochaetochilus) boormanii complex sp.

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 7: Cinnamon Donkey Orchid Diuris palustris

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 8: Mallee Leek Orchid Prasophyllum constrictum

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 9: Limestone Tiny Shell Orchid Pterostylis cycnocephala
(syn Hymenochilus calcicolus)

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig. 10: Caladenia (syn Jonesiopsis) capillata x Pheladenia deformis hybrid

Microsoft Word - SAN Vol. 91, No. 1, Jan-Jun 2017  pp. 34-37 Orc

Fig 11: Small Rustyhood Pterostylis pusilla (syn Oligochaetochilus pusillus)


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Returning the Water

Each month the Native Orchid Society of South Australia has a special speaker. April’s speaker was Mark Bachmann from Glenelg Nature Trust. He spoke on the The Hydrological Restoration of Glenshera Swamp, Stipiturus Conservation Park.

At time of settlement swamps were common on the Fleurieu Peninsula but now they have almost all but disappeared. This has come about because of the clearing of land for farming beginning in the 1940s. There are now very few swamps left in the area. As a result in this region, the swamp orchids potentially face extinction.

BUT Mark’s talk was a good news story. In April, the Glenelg Nature Trust with the help of the Conservation Volunteers Australia (a Green Army program) began the work of reinstating the original creek by the judicious placing of regulating structures along the principal drain.

The good news is that the water returned as they were building the structures.

It was also a good news story because of the cooperation of different groups including a local land owner who was willing to have some of their land returned to swamp and no longer be available for their horses to graze.

We look forward to seeing the swamp refill and learning how the orchids respond.

Below are some of the orchids found at Stipiturus. Click on the images to go to the three articles documenting the work at Glenshera Swamp.

Thelymitra cyanea
Thelymitra cyanea
Cryptostylis subulata 008
Cryptostylis subulata (Moose Orchid)
Prasophyllum murfettii sm
Prasophyllum murfettii (Denzel’s Leek Orchid)

Spiranthes alticola

At this time of the year there are not many orchids flowering in South Australia but one that is just finishing is Spiranthes alticola. The genus Spiranthes, commonly known as Ladies Tresses, is found throughout Australia, Eurasisa and the Americas.The following description is an extract from South Australia’s Native Orchids 2011 DVD which is available from the Native Orchid Society of South Australi. 

Spiranthes alticola D.L.Jones

Swamp Spiral Orchid

Etymology: The name alticola means high dweller, referring to its distribution in Eastern Australia, in west Victoria and South Australia’s South East.  It also grows near sea level.

Synonyms: Previously included in Neottia australis R. Br., S. sinensis (Pers.) Ames and S. australis R.Br.

 

 

(These two pictures show the variation in colour.)

Description: Leaves 3-5, narrow lanceolate, shiny, erect at the base, to 15 cm long. Flower stem to 45 cm tall, slender, flexible, with several sheathing bracts.  The flowers are numerous in a dense spiral, pink with a white labellum, rarely all white.  Segments are 6-10 mm long, sepals somewhat triangular, petals lanceolate, together forming a short tube, the tips free and recurved, and the lateral sepals divergent.  Labellum with a broad, decurved crisped, pellucid mid-lobe, side-lobes erect small.  The flowers are faintly fragrant.

spiranthes-alticola-leavesrwl-92

(Leaves of Spiranthes alticola)

Flowering: Dec – Jan – Feb.

Similar Species: S. australis, S. sp. Late selfing-white.

Distribution: SL, KIx, SE; NSW, Vic, Tas.

Confined in South Australia to a few high rainfall, near coastal, often mountain locations, southward from the Adelaide Hills in the Southern Lofty region, extinct on Kangaroo Island, (one record only), and South East; also in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Habitat: Restricted to peaty bogs and swampy creek-sides, often in locations that are inundated throughout winter; in some areas surviving in paddocks grazed by stock.

Distinguishing Features:  S. australis, which is from the eastern states and is not strictly a swamp plant, has smaller darker pink flowers with a narrow labellum.

  • The two South Australian forms treated here are regarded as distinct species as where they are sympatric they begin flowering at different times and do not intergrade. S. alticola is the more delicate of the two.

Notes:  The best specimens are found on mowed firebreaks adjacent to swamps.  When vegetative reproduction produces two clonal plants next to each other the spiral arrangement of one is often a mirror image of the other.  See Gallery.

Native bee pollinators work the spikes from the bottom upward but as the stigma becomes receptive well after the pollinia have matured this mechanism helps ensure outcrossing.

Plants do well in cultivation if kept moist over summer.

Conservation Status:

Status in Legislation: Not listed nationally, rare in South Australia.

Suggested Status: Rare in South Australia but more common in the Eastern States

 

Names, Names, Names, …

Orchid names are contentious.  The reasons appear to be complex but whatever the reasons the situation exists whereby some orchidologists are naming species that may or may not be accepted by others.  The result is that there are publications using different names for the same species.  And of course, in the midst of it all, are those names that have been accepted for previous species with phrase names or manuscript names.

Whatever the name, it is helpful then to be able to match them up.  Last week’s blog covered South Australian names but in the same week Andrew Brown published on the Western Australian Native Orchid Conservation Study Group Facebook an updated list of WA orchids whereby he has linked them with significant WA Orchid field guide books.

Andrew has kindly given permission for this list to be published.  Other lists are also included and these are available on the NOSSA’s  Orchid eBook page.

It is worth reading Andrew’s introduction in ALIGNMENT of WESTERN AUSTRALIAN DIURIS AND PTEROSTYLIS NAMES.

The object of this exercise is to align the phrase names in these three publications with names published in recent taxonomic papers. Please note that most, but not all, currently recognized (described and undescribed) Western Australian Diuris and Pterostylis are included. There are other taxa that may be considered worthy of recognition but have not been included at this time as we feel further research is required.

In the case of phrase names, these are added and removed for taxa as new information comes to hand and should not be thought of as the final view. Rather, these should be thought of as current thinking that may change in the future. Taxa are only formally recognized as being distinct once their scientific names are published. Even then, later thinking may result in further changes.

Given that phrase names are a work in progress, some may think that we should not be promoting their use and that they should not be included in popular books. However, I think it is worthwhile putting them out to the wider audience so that their distinctiveness can be debated. Having a large group of people looking for (and at) these taxa provides us with a great deal of information and opinion based on firsthand experience in the field, that we may not otherwise have obtained. Then, if and when the taxon is formally described, it will be done on a much more informed basis.

As I am sure you are aware, the naming plants is an evolving process and there will be further changes as new information comes to light.

Andrew Brown

1605 sm PM Caladenia flava
Caladenia flava

2016 Orchid Picture of the Year

For the final meeting of the year we chose the best of the 2016 monthly winners of the picture competition.

Here in Australia we are fortunate to have such a variety of orchids. They may not be as big and showy as some of the overseas orchids but the diversity of shapes fires the imagination as reflected in this year’s monthly winners, when put together. The common names of the winners – spider, leopard, flying duck, cowslip, zebra, helmet, bluebeard and greenhood – reinforce this theme of diversity.

Patterns and colours contribute to the variety of our orchids. Australian orchid colours run the gamut of the rainbow and more, with Australia being home to most of the naturally occurring blue orchids in the world. This colour fascinates and allures people around the world so much so that nurseries will dye a white orchid blue because it will sell. There is even a website devoted to the colour called, not surprisingly, Blue Orchid  and the popular band master Glenn Miller wrote a song titled Blue Orchids (1944).

Could this be why the very clear winner for the year was Claire Chesson’s Pheladenia deformis common name Bluebeard or Blue Fairy?

  congratulations-clipart-k15686507

  Claire Chesson on your most beautiful picture.

1608-sm-cc-pheladenia-deformis
Pheladenia deformis

Claire won the August competition.

As a reminder, below are the other winners for the year.  Click on the image to see the related articles.

February 2016 Photographer: Pauline Meyers

1602 sm PM Caleana major
Caleana major

March 2016 Photographer: Judy Sara

1603 sm JS Arachnorchis sp
Arachnorchis sp. (Green Combed Spider Orchid

April 2016 Photographer: Claire Chesson

1604 sm CC T benthamaniana
Thelymitra benthamiana

May 2016 Photographer: Pauline Meyers

1605 sm PM Caladenia flava
Caladenia flava

2016 June Photographer: Ros Miller

1606 sm RM Caladenia cairnsiana
Caladenia cairnsiana

2016 July Photographer: Robert Lawrence

1607 sm RWL Corysanthes diemenicus
Corysanthes diemenica (mutation)

2016 September Photographer: Bevin Scholz

1609-sm-bs-pterostylis-cucullata
Pterostylis cucullata

2016 October Photographer: Helen Lawrence

1610-hl-sm-arachnorchis-argocalla

 

NOSSA 2012 – 2016

The Native Orchid Society of South Australia (NOSSA) is affiliated with the national body of native orchid society, Australian Native Orchid Society (ANOS).  NOSSA regularly sends reports of its to ANOS.  This year’s report covered four years of the society’s activities and is reproduced here to give readers an idea of the many things that we do.  This report was produced by Robert Lawrence (currently Vice President).

NOSSA REPORT 2012 to 2016

I believe that the last annual report from the Native Orchid Society of South Australia was in 2011 when we were just commencing a three-year plan with the establishment of a series of subcommittees. All of the committees have since ceased to exist, but not without significant accomplishments.

The Website Subcommittee had established a website, but a Webmaster has since been appointed. The website now uses WordPress and is maintained so that its management could easily be transferred to another person. The website provides a weekly educational post about Australian orchids. It has also provided a point of contact from those outside of the Society. It is linked to a Facebook page that increases the profile of NOSSA among those interested in orchids throughout Australia and beyond.

The Education Subcommittee had established a picture competition at the monthly general meetings. There is still only a small number of contributors, but many excellent pictures are shared. The winning picture from each meeting is used as a basis of one of the weekly posts on the website.

Advertising v1

The Education Subcommittee had a vision to produce a brochure of 20 common orchids of the Adelaide region for free distribution to the general public. The NRM (Natural Resources Management) Education ran with the idea and produced a poster of Common native orchids of the Adelaide Hills. This provided brief, but comprehensive, profiles of 29 native orchids and the weedy species. This has been printed as a double-sided poster and is available from the website of Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges. NOSSA members worked with NRM staff on the details of the poster and NOSSA members contributed many of the photographs. This poster was completed and launched in April 2015.

NOSSA also provided monetary assistance as a loan with the publication of the field guide entitled, Start with the leaves. A field guide to common orchids and lilies of the Adelaide Hills. This guide covered 50 orchid species as well as native lilies and some weeds in the Iridaceae family that are sometimes mistaken as orchids. The contribution of $8,000 was recovered only 8 months after publication.

The Disc Publication Sub-editing Subcommittee saw the publication of South Australia’s Native Orchids on DVD discs in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both the DVD and the book were published in time for the Spring Show in September 2011. Both continue to sell.

Title Page

A new subcommittee has been established in February 2016 to oversee the publication of a field guide, expected to be called Wild Orchids of South Australia.  It is proving to be a challenge to be brief enough to reduce the information to a size suitable for a field guide. (Editor’s note: it has since been decided to defer this until after the development of the interactive website, see below.)

NOSSA members have being working since 2014 to establish an interactive website and database modelled on the Go Botany website run by the New England Wild Flower Society in the USA. This was supported by a grant from the Australian Orchid Foundation.  The project is called Wild Orchid Watch. It is hoped to produce an interactive, web-based orchid identification tool. Recording sightings through such means as apps on mobile telephones are also being investigated.

In 2014 NOSSA made a donation to help establish the Orchid Conservation Program. This was led by Dr Noushka Reiter. Once established, staff in the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources began to organise a trial with four threatened orchid species from South Australia. Noushka visited South Australia during 2015 and collected samples from each of these species and isolated fungi from these. Seed was also collected and work on propagation commenced in 2015. During 2016 NOSSA sponsored the propagation of one of the four species through the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Caladenia gladiolata, an endemic species, was selected.

20150922_210750

Paul Beltrame, a secondary teacher at Kildare College, contacted and joined NOSSA during 2014 with the interest in getting girls at this school involved in the propagation of native orchids. A program was organised modelled in the Orchids in Schools program run by the Orchid Club of South Australia with Les Nesbitt’s involvement.

A delegation from Kildare College, ably assisted by their enthusiastic laboratory assistant Nenah McKenzie, visited Noushka in Melbourne and learnt the technique for separating and growing fungi. They have since separated fungi from two of our more common greenhood species and supplied this for seed kits that were made available to members as a trial at the start of the 2016 growing season.

The trial of seed kits was done for Pterostylis nana and Pterostylis sanguinea. A trial was conducted in this growing season of seed kits for members. Kits included a pot, growing media, seed, fungus, mulch and instructions. There seems to be limited success with the current round, but improvements are planned from the lessons learnt. One particular growing mix proved successful with a small number of seedlings appearing. The contribution of the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College has been necessary for the isolation and production of fungi for the kits.

In October 2012 Cathy Houston and Robert Lawrence collected seed of Pterostylis arenicola from the only population on the Adelaide plains after monitoring in September indicated a good year for seed production. The seed was germinated in 2013 and was deflasked at a working bee at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens in early August 2016. The students from the Orchids in Schools program at Kildare College participated. Latest reports are that 40 plants look like surviving. These will be used for seed production and for reintroduction.

Oligochaetochilus arenicolaHL
Typical of the rufus hood this Oligochaetochilus arenicola shows the sencesing leaves, pendent petals and hairs on the labellum. Photographer: H Lawrence

In 2012 NOSSA was asked to care for and propagate rescued Diuris behrii plants from Hillgrove Resources Mining Lease near Kanmantoo in the Mt. Lofty Ranges. The plan was to maintain the rescued orchid clones in cultivation for several years and to produce additional plants for reintroduction within the mining lease area each Autumn. A comprehensive recording and auditing system has been put in place to track each clone and any seed/daughter tubers/plants. By August 2015 there were 609 plants with 75 original mother plants. There were 95 daughter plants returned to the site for revegetation in each of the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, a total of 285 plants.

Funding from Hillgrove Resources has assisted NOSSA financially and has made it possible to consider funding conservation work. NOSSA is planning to apply for charity status so that donations can be used for tax deductions. Donations will then be feasible through our website. We are also starting an orchid seed bank. Seed will be available only to members and it is hoped that this will increase our membership. There is a demand for Australian orchids overseas and it is hoped that this will become a means for raising funds for conservation. Other means of fund-raising such as sausage sizzles and selling kits for craftwork are also being considered.

NOSSA members still continue to be involved in surveys and monitoring threatened orchids.  Members have been involved in the planning of monitoring.

montage-weeding
Weeding and Monitoring, two of NOSSA’s conservation activities

The management committee of NOSSA is currently working on a revision to the Rules of Association. In the current version there is a two-year limit on the term of the President of two years. In the first 16 years from 1977 there were there were eight different presidents before one had a second term. Bill Dear was president in alternate terms until he retired and moved to Western Australia in 2012. Robert Lawrence was elected president in March 2014, but for the first time in 2016 there were no nominations for president and he was nominated to the role of vice president with no other nominations. The management committee has appointed a subcommittee to review the Rules in relation to the terms of the president. Another change planned is change from having monthly general meetings to having less formal monthly meetings at which no decisions are made or minutes kept. All resolutions will require calling a formal special meeting. This idea is adapted from the approach used by ANOS Victoria.

Over the last two years NOSSA has asked new and renewing members to complete a survey of their interests. This has proved to be an effective way of getting information on the interests of our members with 79 responses, this being about half of the number of memberships. This is an overall summary of the results ranked according to number of responses:

 Area of interest

Responses Percentage
General Orchid Knowledge 53 67%
Field Trips 48 61%
Photography 47 59%
Conservation 46 58%
Growing Terrestrials 35 44%
Surveys 30 38%
Growing Epiphytes 28 35%
Citizen Science 20 26%

At its establishment NOSSA was primarily a Society of orchid growers. These figures reflect a decline in interest in growing orchids. The figures are somewhat surprising in that the numbers interested in growing orchids are much larger than the number of growers. Presumably some of these are interested in learning with a view to getting involved with growing later.  At least we hope this is the case.

We are certainly noticing a decline both in our numbers of growers and in members involved in surveys due to age and health.

The greatest number expressed an interest in general knowledge and we are relying on the Journal and the Website help to keep people interested and informed. Next was field trips, but we haven’t had that many that have attended field trips in in the last few years. Only 11 of those who expressed an interested in field trips are not interested in photography, the next item of interest, and only 10 people interested in photography were not interested in field trips. Not many of these share their photographs at monthly meetings. We are hoping to get members to make their photographs available for the identification guides.

Bearded Orchid
Bearded Orchid Photo: Helen Lawrence

It is pleasing that 58% are interested in conservation, thus supporting the efforts of our Conservation Officer.

Growing terrestrial orchids was next on the list; we hope that the tuber bank and the NOSSA Seed Kits are meeting the demand from members. Twenty-two of the 41 interested in growing orchids are interested in growing both terrestrial and epiphytic orchids. Only 8 of the respondents are bringing plants to meetings and a couple of others have not completed the survey. Of those interested in growing terrestrial orchids, one is a former grower and another is interested in growing them in situ at revegetation sites.

Thirty members expressed an interest in doing orchid surveys and three of these are interested in participating in the future, presumably when more time is available.

Citizen science is a new concept to many and came last in our list of interests. One who did not indicate an interest said he was monitoring orchids at a particular site; this has been taken as an interest. Surveys are certainly one form of citizen science and only 2 of those who indicated an interest in citizen science did not indicate an interest in being involved in surveys now or in the future. Thirteen of the 30 interested in surveys did not express an interest in citizen science. If these were included, interest in citizen science would be 43%.

Only seven members indicated an interest in all of the categories and one of these wants to keep in touch with the club and with old friends.

The Annual Spring Show in September 2015 was a particular success, largely due to the efforts of one our new members in promoting the show through local media and by other means. We also benefited from the donation of collections of growers who had decided not to continue with their collections.

Garden display
Annual NOSSA Spring Show

NOSSA has continued to maintain a tuber bank that is available for members. A small number of our members are also members of ANOS Victoria, and have obtained tubers from their collection. This is hopefully contributing to the variety of terrestrial orchids grown by our members.

Working bees continued to be conducted in association with the Threatened Plant Action Group at Belair National Park for improving habitat for the nationally endangered Pterostylis cucullata (Leafy Greenhood), at Grange Golf Club to protect and monitor Pterostylis arenicola (Sandhill Greenhood) this being nationally vulnerable and locally endangered and on York Peninsula in conjunction with a local Friends group for the nationally endangered Caladenia intuta.

NOSSA has for many years used Australian Orchid Club (AOC) judges and knowledgeable members, who have all studied the ANOS judging rules, to judge orchids at NOSSA monthly meetings and shows. As the number of judges has fallen in recent years, judging training sessions have had to been discontinued. We wait in anticipation for a proposed ANOS judges correspondence course, as we have for more than 10 years. There are at least three AOC judges interested in the ANOS judging correspondence course. It is disappointing that ANOS Awards are still limited to Queensland, New South Wates and Victoria.

In summary, NOSSA continues to be active in many ways and these activities are working together to support each other.

Interested in these activities, why not join up and get involved.  Click here for Membership details.

10 sm RAL Diuris brevifolia
Diuris brevifolia (Late Donkey Orchid)

 

 

Half Hiding, Half Peeping the Orchids Appear, …

Spring has come and the bush is bursting with colour and many people are out enjoying it.  One of the gems that provide some of this colour are the orchids but as is highlighted in the following poem they are often overlooked yet without them and the other delicate herbaceous flowers the bush will look grey and gloomy.  So slow down, take a closer look and enjoy the hidden many coloured jewels of the bush.

 

Stay on the Path

Do they say that the bush is all greyness and gloom

Why, the rainbow has lent every thread from his loom

To weave into flower and shrub!

Diuris x palachila
Diuris x palachila (Hybrid Doubletails or Broad Lip Orchid)

There are star-flowers blue as the deep winter sky,

Here are “Grandmothers Honeycups”, humble and shy;

And the purple of hovea bloom.

Leptoceras menziesii in patch
Leptoceras menziesii, Hare Orchid or Rabbit Ears

Half hiding, half peeping, the orchids appear,

The friendly and cheerful red runner creeps near –

Say, where are the greyness and glooom.

Which is which
Thelymitra or Sun Orchids

Lilian Wooster Greaves

from West Australian Orchids by Emily H Pelloe, 1930

April 2016 Winning Picture Competition

1604 sm CC T benthamaniana
Thelymitra benthamiana; Photographer: Claire Chesson

Five entries were received, again spanning the country from east to west. John Badger entered a Chiloglottis reflexa recently photographed in Tasmania, Pauline Meyers an unidentified Western Australian Spider orchid, Judy Sara had two entries from the latest field trip, Eriochilus collinus (previously phrase name Adelaide Hills) and Leporella fimbriata and Claire Chesson’s Thelymitra benthamiana.

T. benthamiana, the winning picture, is a beautiful sun orchid that is found across the southern Australia from Western Australia through South Australia to Victoria and Flinders Island. More common in west than elsewhere it is the only one of the seven species in the T. fuscolutea complex to be found in the east.

It would appear that this complex has been a problematic as indicated by Jeanes (2006) in his article Resolution of the Thelymitra fuscolutea (Orchidaceae) complex of southern Australia published Muelleria; the Royal Botanic Gardens of Victoria research journal.

Since the early days confusion, which persisted into this millennium, has occurred. In 1871 Reichenbach recognised 3 species one of which was T benthamiana but Bentham after whom the orchid was named disagreed and consider it but a synonym of T. fuscolutea. There were many twists and turns in the names but in effect, for over a hundred years, most authors followed Bentham’s taxonomy rather than Reichenbach’s until 1989 when Mark Clements after studying the drawings, literature and orchid type material came to the same conclusion as Reichenbach that T. benthamiana was a distinct species from T. fuscolutea. Since then, authors have followed Reichenbach/Clements taxonomy.

Over the decades, the number of species in this complex varied considerably. By 1938 three separate species were recognised, but between then and 1989 it fluctuated between recognizing one, three and four species and in 1998 the orchidologist were considering a possible seven species.  These were all confirmed and named in Jeans’ 2006 paper. Today, according to Orchids of Western Australia there is potentially an eighth member in this group.

Jeanes highlights some of the issues involved in determining which species is which. Some of the issues are lack of accurate/detailed information such as location, type of terrain, habitat, surrounding plants, date of collection, etc. Dried specimens by themselves are inadequate as important features may be lost in the drying process.

This complex is but an example of a widespread problem across many of our Australian orchids indicating not only the need for careful observations in the field but meticulous record keeping that others can access.

References

Jeans J A, Resolution of the Thelymitra fuscolutea R. Br. (Orchidaceae) complex of southern Australia. Muelleria 24: 3-24 (2006)

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

Thank you to Juergen Kellermann, (senior botanist for the State Herbarium) for critiquing this article.

Are there any orchids growing in the desert?

Think of deserts and the image is that of a bleak barren landscape with little to see but this is not so.  The conditions are harsh but there is a myriad, though not an abundance, of hardy fauna and flora if one but looks closely.

But concerning orchids – No orchids have been found in true deserts…..  They also appear to be absent from the arid mountains of the far north-west, or at least no-one has ever found orchids there.

Orchids need moisture and so they do not grow on unstable soils such as dry sand-hills, gibber plains or the many saline areas of the far north but on the desert fringes there are micro-climates where the moisture, humidity and soil structure is  just right (to quote Goldilocks) for orchids.  This micro-climate is created by [s]hrubland  [which] is … [an] … important dryland orchid habitat. Besides providing shade and shelter for the orchids, shrubs like the many species of wattles, Acacia and hop-bush Dodonea drop fine leaves which help to hold the soil together and slowly break down into humus rich with nutrient and water storing capability. These shrublands usually form in soils too dry or shallow for trees. Orchids of course have no need for deep soils as they are shallow rooted. 

Robert Bates Semi-arid Shrubland.jpg
Semi-arid Shrublands, Flinders Ranges

Of the five desert botanical regions, the Eastern region contains the most number of species with over a dozen species.

Botanical Regions Map
Colour added to indicate the desert regions (in red)

Orchids of the Eastern Region – this region is from the east of the Flinders Ranges to the New South Wales border and includes the Olary Spur and Lake Frome.

Arachnorchis toxochila – Dry Land Spider Orchid or Bow Lip Spider Orchid.
Corunastylis tepperi – Mallee Midge Orchid
Diplodium robustum – Common green shell-orchid.
Hymenochilus pagophilus – Mountain Shell-orchid
Microtis eremaea – Desert onion orchid
Microtis frutetorum – Common woodland onion orchid.
Oligochaetochilus bisetus species complex, Rusty rufous-hoods

Oligochaetochilus sp. Blue-bush Plain – Blue Bush rufous-hood (O. bisetus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Outback – Outback rufous-hood (O. bisetus complex)

Oligochaetochilus cobarensis – Little desert rufous-hood
Oligochaetochilus sp. Crossed Sepals Bibliando rufous-hood. (O. hamatus complex)
Oligochaetochilus sp. Bimbowrie Bimbowrie Rufoushood (O boormanii complex)
Oligochaetochilus linguus – Swept-back Rufoushood

Oligochaetochilus sp. Old Boolcoomatta Large-lip rufous-hood (O. linguus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Quartz – Quartz hill rufous-hood (O. linguus complex)

Oligochaetochilus sp. Slender desert – Slender Desert rufous-hood (O excelusus complex)
Undescribed not within any other Oligochaetochilus complex

Oligochaetochilus sp. Canegrass – Desert Sand-hill Orchid.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Oratan Rock – Diminutive rufous-hood

Oligochaetochilus sp. ‘Mt Victoria Uranium Mine’ – Uranium rufous-hood

Prasophyllum odoratum – Scented Leek-orchid

Prasophyllum sp. Desert Desert Leek-orchid (P. odoratum complex)

The Gairdner-Torrens region includes, besides the salt lakes it is named after, the Gawler Ranges and the southern part of the Great Victoria Desert.  Though not as many species as the Eastern region, it contains some different species including a Sun Orchid.

Thelymitra megcalyptra
Thelymitra megcalyptra
Arachnorchis interanea – Inland Green-comb Spider Orchid
Arachnorchis toxochila – Dry Land Spider Orchid or Bow Lip Spider Orchid.
Hymenochilus pagophilus – Mountain Shell-orchid
Hymenochilus pisinnus – Tiny Shell-orchid
Jonesiopsis capillata – Pale Wispy Spider Orchid
Linguella sp. Hills nana – White haired little-greenhood.
Microtis eremaea – Desert onion orchid
Oligochaetochilus ovatus – Ovate Lip Rufoushood
Oligochaetochilus xerophilus – Desert rufous-hood
Prasophyllum sp. Desert Desert Leek-orchid (P. odoratum complex)
Thelymitra megcalyptra – Scented or Dryland Sun Orchid

Third of this group is the Nullabor region.  Consisting of flat treeless limestone plains, this area, surprisingly, has two species both of which have been found close to the coast.

Urochilus sanguineus – Maroon banded greenhood
Corunastylis sp. Intermediate – Halbury Midge Orchid (C. rufa complex)
Urochilus sanguineus
Urochilus sanguineus

The final two regions Lake Eyre and North-Western contain the vast expanses of desert of the far north of South Australia.  Definitely not a place to find orchids yet one specimen has been collected from each of these two regions.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Everard Range (L. Scott 173), Mimili Orchid (possibly O. woollsii complex) from North-Western Region.

Oligochaetochilus sp. Gammon Range (O excelusus complex) from the Lake Eyre region.

It is unusual to find orchids in the desert because they only grow when there have been good winter rains which isn’t very often.  But nevertheless, here in South Australia we have over 20 possible species – an astonishingly high number for such a harsh area!

Reference:

Bates R J ed, South Australia’s Native Orchids, 2011 Native Orchid Society of South Australia

Map adapted from Flora of South Australia, Fourth Edition, 1986

 

 

Gleanings from the Journals #2 – Harold Goldsack (27/6/1908 – 25/4/1989)

 

[Primary source material is the NOSSA Journals. Direct quotes from the Journal in blue and additional information in black.]

Sometimes gleanings take much time and effort to locate but other times there is an abundance of information just waiting to be picked up. This was the case when searching the Journal for information on Harold Goldsack.

Upon the death of Dr R S Rogers, Harold Goldsack became the leading authority of South Australian orchids. To quote Peter Hornsby (1977), NOSSA’s first editor, “Harold is undoubtedly the most experienced of our native orchid botanists and knows more of the history of our orchids than anyone alive.”

Though not a foundational member, Harold was one of NOSSA’s early members, joining at the end of 1977. He was both a grower of epiphytes – winning the Champion epiphyte for 1982 (Dendrobium x gracillimum) and terrestrials – producing the first greenhood hybrid, Pterostylis Cutie (baptistii x cucullata) which was registered on 5th March, 1982. At the meetings he gave talks, plant commentaries and judged the orchids. Outside of the meetings he was active in advancing the cause of Australian orchids. His enthusiasm influenced many people, one person being a young Mark Clements, current Research Scientist, Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, CSIRO, Canberra.

It is not surprising than that in 1984 he was made NOSSA’s second life member.

 

Bob Bates wrote an informative biography in Harold’s obituary.

Journal 1989 Volume 13 No 4 May

Vale Harold Goldsack.

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of life member Harold Goldsack on April 25th. Our sympathies to his family.

Harold was born in East Bengal, India on 27th June 1908. He once told how he could remember epiphytic orchids blooming outside the bedroom window of his childhood home.

His family moved to Adelaide in 1916 and he attended Princes College as a boarding student.

He was introduced to South Australian orchids in bushland adjacent his family’s orchard at Coromandel Valley using Rogers “Introduction to the Study of South Australian Orchids” to identify these. Harold in 1924 introduced himself to Dr Rogers and they became good friends. Harold soon began to find orchids that were new to Dr Rogers and this fired his enthusiasm so that he began a serious study of our orchid flora.

One day in 1928 on a visit to Dr Rogers, Harold was shown the very first collection of the underground orchid Rhizanthella gardeneri. This was to be the subject of the last article Harold wrote over 50 years later.

With the passing of Dr Rogers in 1942 Harold became the foremost authority on South Australian orchids corresponding regularly with H M R Rupp, W H Nicholls and A W Dockrill. His extensive collection of pressed orchids was donated to the State Herbarium in 1978.

Harold wrote many articles on orchids his best known being “Common Orchids of South Australia” which appeared in the S Aust Naturalist in June 1944 and was used in “National Parks and Wild Life Reserves” book from 1965-1970. Harold also revised the orchid section of Black’s “Flora S Australia” in 1943.

Besides drawing and photographing the S Aust orchids Harold developed a large personal Orchid Library and cultivated many Australian orchids which he displayed at shows including our NOSSA shows. The first registered Pterostylis hybrid Ptst. Cutie was made by Harold and the name given to the original clone now grown by hundreds of orchid lovers is “Harolds Pride!”

His main interest was to enthuse others to see the beauty and value of our native orchids through his articles and the many illustrated talks he gave to natural history groups.

Harold was a member of the Royal Society of S Australia.

He was a Foundation Member of the Australian Native Orchid Society. (ANOS)

Ever ready for a challenge Harold at age 64 began studying for his Engineering and Surveying Certificate gaining distinctions in Maths, then working on the surveying of the S E Freeway.

Harold Goldsack’s name is commemorated in the South Australian endemic orchid Prasophyllum goldsackii, a fitting tribute to a true orchid lover.

R Bates

53KB Prasaphyllum goldsackii
Prasophyllum goldsackii – Photographer Ken Bayley

Bibliography of Papers by Harold Goldsack

Orchids of Coromandel Valley – SA Naturalist XIV, Nov 1932 PP 12 – 15

Notes on Caladenia Catifolia – R Br SA Naturalist XV, March 1934, pp 59 – 63

National Park of South Australia – Field Naturalists Sect. of Royal Soc of SA 1936, Being Vol XVII, Nos 1 to 4 of SA Naturalist pp 52 – 54 Orchids

Common Orchids of South Australia – SA Naturalist XXII June 1944 PP 1 – 12 with line drawings of 52 species

New Orchid Records for South Australia – SA Naturalist XXII June 1944, p 13

National Park and Reserves – Commissioners of the National Park, Sept 1956 pp 59 – 79 with line drawings of 52 species of Orchids, p 195 Distribution and flowering times of orchids in the National Park and Reserves

SA National Parks and Wild Life Reserves – Commissioners of the National Park and Wild Life Reserves, March 1964, pp 46 – 64 Orchids with line drawings of 52 species, pp 189 – 199. Distribution and Flowering times of Orchids in the National Park and Reserves

Orchids of the National Park and Wild Life Reserves – Reprinted 1965 by Field Naturalists Society, if (sic) SA from “SA National Parks and Wild Life Reserves” with permission of the Commissioners of the National Park and Wild Life Reserves

Blacks’ Flora of South Australia – Revised edition of p1, 1946 Assisted Rev H M R Rupp and W H Nicholls with the revision of the Orchidacea

Pollination of Caladenia deformis R Br – R S Rogers transactions of Royal Society of SA Volume LV Oct 1931 The pollination of Caladenia deformis as observed by H G was written up by Dr R S Rogers in an article for the Royal Society of SA

Rhizanthella gardnerii R S Rogers – The Orchadian p 113 Sept 1979 A note about the discovery of this orchid

Following is the article by Harold Goldsack referred to by Bob Bates in Harold’s obituary. Though he wrote for other publications, this was appears to be the only one in the NOSSA Journals.

Journal 1979 Volume 3 No 8 August

RHIZANTHELLA GARDNERI Rogers                              Harold Goldsack

Corrigin, Shackleton, Goomalling, Munglingup. Western Australia.

A new locality where the subterranean orchid Rhizanthelle gardneri Rogers has been found, as noted by Don Voigt in his letter to Roy Hargreaves to brings with it hope that after 50 years the secret life of the remarkable orchid may be unveiled. It also brings back memories of my first encounter with this plant.

As a young orchid enthusiast I had been collecting for, and writing to, Dr R.S. Rogers of Adelaide, who, at that time, was an extremely busy public personality. To my surprise, one day in 1928 I received a note from Dr Rogers inviting me to call at his house in Hutt Street after surgery hours as he had something to show me which he was sure would be of interest.

Naturally, I took the first opportunity to visit the Doctor, whereon he brought into the room a large jar with some white vegetable pickled in it. With a smile he said “Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

Well, there it was – this unique subterranean orchid from Corrigin, Western Australia, sent over by Mr C A Gardiner, the Government Botanist of Perth, who had realised the importance of this discovery.

The first plants were found in an area of virgin lane that had been rolled, burnt and then ploughed, which operation uncovered the white underground rhizomes. Mr John Trott, the discoverer, was puzzled by this strange plant growing around the stumps of Melaleuca uncinata R Br, common in the area, and sent it to Mr C A Gardiner. He, realizing the orchidaceous nature of the plant, visited the area, made personal observations and then sent a specimen to Dr Rogers for study, which led to the description of a now sub-tribe, genus and species of orchid – Rhizanthella gardneri Rogers.

Soon after this the Field Naturalists Society were to hold their Wild Flower Show in the Adelaide Town hall and attempted to have this unique specimen displayed there. However, the plant was too valuable to risk and an artist – Mr Lyall Lush – made a black and white drawings which was exhibited instead.

Within three years, on the east coast of Australia at Bulahdelah, another subterranean orchid Cryptanthemis slateri Rupp was unearthed. Unearthed is the word, for this one was unearthed by Mr Slater who was digging up rhizomes of Dipodium punctatum, the “Wild Hyacinth”, to attempt to grow them. All plants of the new orchid were found growing in association Dipodium. The importance of this find was such that Rev H I R Rupp was given a grant to travel to Bulahdelah to make further studies. This second find aroused worldwide interest and a German botanist suggested that the flowers of Cryptanthemis slateri were underground spikes of Dipodium. The morphology of the flowers soon disproved that theory.

Regarding this orchid, which Rupp named in 1932, Dr Rogers commented to me that he was sure that Rev Rupp’s parishioners must have had a very brief sermon the week Rupp received the first specimen of Cryptanthemis!

Dr Rogers then lamented that the orchid hunter has to add a plough and a pick to his orchid collecting equipment!!