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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.

Monday, 10 December 2012

When Orchids Duck

Hello again! Just back from our Ecuador adventures. More of that in weeks to come, especially as I get my photos organised. For now though, I'll limit my comments on that topic to the irony of my last posting - the only thing we wanted to do and weren't able to was enjoy the Sacha Rainforest tower, which was closed due to storm damage!

I was probably a bit ambitious in promising to get back on line today, given that we only got home last night, my brain is still somewhere over the Pacific, and there is a lot to catch up on here... So, just a brief one today, with a bit more substance tomorrow.

One late flowerer in Canberra (and elsewhere) at the moment is the delightful and improbable Small Duck Orchid Caleana minor; until recently it was given its own genus, Paracaleana. Caleana is for George Caley, an intriguing English plant collector in early 19th century Sydney, working for the great Joseph Banks; more on him in due course.
Small Duck Orchid, Black Mountain, Canberra
Perhaps you need a bit of imagination, but I reckon it's a bit ducky, though the 'original' Flying Duck Orchid, Caleana major, which doesn't occur in Canberra, is a bit more convincing.
Flying Duck Orchid, Bundanoon, New South Wales.
OK, maybe you need to think more along the lines of Daffy Duck... This is an 'upside down' orchid, in that the labellum, the petal which acts as a landing platform for pollinating insects, is at the top of the flower rather than at the bottom as is more usual - here it forms the duck's head. (That whole concept needs exploring too, but again that's one for another day.) The flower is pollinated by a male sawfly (a wasp relative); the strap holding the labellum is flexible, so the 'head' nods, mimicking a female sawfly, swinging the unrequited male onto the pollen below; the 'upside down' column in this picture is hidden between broad column wings.
Triggered Flying Duck Orchid.
After a few minutes the labellum resets and the duck pulls its head out!

It's a great story, but no more so than you'd expect from the fabulous orchids...

2 comments:

Flabmeister said...

Duffy Duck rather than Daffy Duck?

Ian Fraser said...

Damn, I wish I'd thought of that....