What a wonderful time to be out enjoying our heathlands and forests. Everywhere there are masses of Waxlips, Glossodia major, shades of purple along the roadsides in burnt and unburnt areas alike.
Lots of Caladenias of all sorts are now flowering—Spider Orchids including Mantis Orchid, Caladenia tentaculata, with its distinctive green combs, Plain-lip Spider orchid, C. clavigera, and groups of the beautiful Large White Spider Orchid, C. venusta.
The smaller Caladenias in the Hooded and Fingers groups are worth exploring—Pink Fingers, White Fingers, Plain Fingers, Dusky Fingers and Cryptic Fingers (both newly recorded species for our area), Tiny Caladenia, Musky Caladenia and Angahook Fingers.
Pink Fingers, C. carnea, is possibly the most common in shades of pink, sometimes white, with red bars across the labellum and two to four rows of yellow calli.
Dusky Fingers, C. fuscata, is very similar to C. carnea but it is smaller with forward-projecting lobes on the column. It usually flowers two to three weeks before C. carnea and is always a single flower.
White Fingers, Caladenia catenata, that was documented in the area after the publication of the third edition of our orchid book, is now being found scattered throughout the district. It has relatively large white flowers.
Sometimes we come across a pink flower that seems to be the result of hybridisation with C. carnea. It could be confused with Pink Fingers, C. carnea, but C. catenata has white calli, and the hybrid seems to have this feature.
Our endemic Angahook Fingers, C. maritima, is very similar to C. catenata. It also has white calli but the sepals and petals are broader, the lateral sepals and petals are more spreading and it has maroon shading on the labellum.
Unfortunately, it is also showing hybridisation with C. carnea and many magnificent deep pink specimens, also with white calli, have been observed this season.
Angahook Fingers hybrid
C. maritima has done well with over 1000 flowers being counted this year.
We were pleased to find Musky Caladenia, C moschata (C. gracilis in our orchid book) on two sites this spring. They can vary in colour from strongly pink-tinged to white and green flowers lacking any pink colour at all. It is usually strongly scented in warm, humid weather.
Musky Caladenia white and green form
Tiny Fingers, C. pusilla, has popped up here and there throughout the area. It is just 10 cm tall and has rounded tips to the petals and sepals that are 7 mm long. It has a short, relatively thick stem for the height of the plant.
However, an exciting find was the discovery of Cryptic Fingers, C. mentiens, flowering on the roadside verge at Forest Rd. This is another new record for our orchid list. The orchid is similar to C. pusilla. The flower is slightly bigger—petals and sepals to 9 mm long and it is a taller plant to 15 cm with a tall thin stem. The petals and sepals are bluntly pointed. It is a self-pollinating species, as flowers only open for a day or two and not at all in cooler weather. We waited patiently for the sun to shine and the wind to drop to enable us to get a photo of this tiny orchid.
Plain Fingers, C. sp. aff. vulgaris, could also be flowering in the open forest or woodlands in the next few weeks.
There are still patches of beautiful Hare Orchids, Leptoceras menziesii, to admire and also Redbeaks, Pyrorchis nigricans, and the Tall Leek Orchid, Prasophyllum elatum, in the burnt areas on Forest Rd. The Donkey Orchids, Diruris orientis, are appearing now in different shades of yellow with some pure yellow forms. Some sun orchids have shown us a glimpse of their beauty on the few sunny days we have had so far—we will save their report until next month. Look out for the Beard Orchids, Calochilus sp. and the Flying Duck Orchids, Caleana major, and please let us know of any of your orchids finds. They are all documented and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District available from ANGAIR.
Alison Watson and Margaret MacDonald