It has been a very quiet start to the orchid year. The Rosy Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium roseum, that are usually so spectacular at this time of the year, were coming into bud nicely in December, but very few survived the high temperatures and lack of rain in this year’s Victorian summer.
Those that managed to flower were very small and withered quickly.
A stressed Rosy Hyacinth orchid
The White Hyacinth Orchid, Dipodium pardalinum, has not been seen at all.
A few Elbow Orchids, Thynninorchis huntianus, were sighted in the district. These tiny leafless orchids are about 15cm high with insect-like flowers of about 20mm. You have to look closely to see the detail of the hinged labellum mimicking the female wasp attracting the male which gets caught briefly, allowing pollen to be transferred to its back and then to other plants.
The Large Tongue Orchid, Cryptostylis subulata, that usually grows in seasonally damp to wet ground, is only recorded from one site in our district. A visit in early December revealed many of the dark green leathery leaves, which are usually present throughout the year, but only one flower bud. A return visit in early January revealed that the leaves had shrivelled to dried crisps while there were signs that five orchids had produced flowers—mostly finished and wilting.
The Large Tongue Orchid did put on a good display in the Carlisle River area where it was growing in water alongside a bush track. It is an attractive flower with the prominent red and yellow labellum dominating. The column is tiny and underneath the labellum; the flowers are entirely dependent on the Ichneumon wasp for pollination. The leaves are elliptical and quite large making them easy to locate.
Large Tongue Orchid (Carlisle)
Only a single Horned Orchid, Orthoceras strictum, was observed in flower. This species has grass-like leaves and greenish-brown flowers with spreading lateral sepals. There is one Caladenia which comes out between December and January in our district, the Black-tongue Caladenia, Caladenia congesta. It has been found in January in the Eastern View area flowering after fires. We decided to search the recently burnt areas in the district just in case, but were unsuccessful.
Further afield in the Brisbane Ranges, the Austral Ladies Tresses, Spiranthes australis, have again put on a wonderful display. Perhaps someone will discover them in our area one day.
Austral Ladies Tresses
Please let us know of your finds. Recently a new site for the Flying Duck Orchids was discovered and surprisingly it wasn’t on gravelly soil but in an open woodland area. All species are documented and photographed in Orchids of the Anglesea District, available from ANGAIR.
Alison Watson and Margaret MacDonald