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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Some Christmas orchids

Not a lot of orchids flower in our part of the world in mid-summer, but those that do are worth admiring. I'm just back, as I flagged last time, from lower elevation climes near the coast, where one of the stars, in my opinion at least, is the small genus Cryptostylis, known generally as tongue orchids for the usually long and extended labellum. They don't occur here on the highlands, but are reasonably common further east. 

I enjoy three species down there most Christmases, and this wasn't an exception. 
Tartan Tongue, or Bonnet, Orchid, Cryptostylis erecta.
Like other Cryptostylis, the flower is 'upside down', in that the labellum - the petal that acts as a landing platform
for pollinating insects - is at the top of the flower rather than the bottom as is more usual in orchids.
More on that as a topic in its own right one day!
Cow Orchid, Cryptostylis subulata.Perhaps not very romantic, but you couldn't really call it anything else...
Spotted Tongue Orchid, Cryptostylis leptochila, Fitzroy Falls, Morton National Park.
Less common than the other two, in my experience.
Another genus we associate with mid-summer are the leafless saprophytes (ie taking nutrients from roots of other plants via a fungal association) the hyacinth orchids, Dipodium.

They are found from the coast to the mountains; they can stand a metre tall on a leafless often red-black stem (no need for leaves or chlorophyll if you don't do your own photosynthesising) with up to 50 flowers, so are hard to miss!
Slender Hyacinth Orchid, Dipodium variegatum, Nowra.
Blotched Hyacinth Orchid, Dipodium puntatum, Nowra.
Rosy Hyacinth Orchid, Dipodium roseum, Namadgi National Park, Australian Capital Territory.
Another that I was particularly pleased to see - the first time I've seen it in flower - is the delightful tiny epiphyte known as Myrtle Bells, because in this part of the world it is pretty much limited to the trunks of Grey Myrtle, Backhousia mytrifolia, along creek lines in drier rainforest. These flowers were barely 5mm across (which I hope partly excuses the ordinary photos!) though it had been dry and I gather they can be twice that size.
Sarcochilus hillii,  near Nowra;
whole plant (above) to give some idea of it, and a single flower (below).

Of course there are other orchids around at this time of year (and I'll be going up into the local mountains this summer in the hope of finding more to share with you) but this was pretty much what I saw this time; they made me happy though, and I hope they can do the same for you. 

Back Sunday.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Oooooh! These are lovely. I am so envious!