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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. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Thinking Pinkly #5 - orchids in the pink

To conclude this series on pink in nature, and just in time for Christmas, I can't think of a better way than to indulge myself - and hopefully you - by revelling in some pink orchids. If you've just come in you might want to go back to number 3 in the series for a little background on pink in flowers, or you could just dive in here and relax! All these Australian orchids are insect-pollinated, though I'm not so sure about the big Peruvian ones, which could well be serviced by hummingbirds.

We'll start with some Australian ones though.
Hyacinth Orchid Dipodium variegatum, Nowra.
This is a group of striking orchids in every way; they flower at the height of summer when few others are out,
the flowering stems are up to 60cm high, and they bear up to 50 big colourful flowers.
Moreover (other than a couple of tropical species) they are leafless, relying entirely on
mycorrhizal fungi to tap into nearby plant roots.
Pink Spiral Orchid Spiranthes australis, Mongarlowe New South Wales southern tablelands.
In great contrast to the Hyacinth Orchids, these delicate little plants have flowers only 5mm long,
tightly wound around the stem. A genus widespread in Africa, Asia and the Americas, with an uncertain number of Australian species which are still being sorted out.
Esperance King Spider Orchid Caladenia (or Arachnorchis) decora, Esperance, south-west Western Australia.
The debate about whether to divide the huge and apparently disparate genus Caladenia is slowly dying down,
with the forces of conservatism seemingly prevailing.
This is not the time of year in Australia to fan flames however!

Pink Candy Orchid Caladenia (or Arachnorchis) hirta Paynes Find, inland Western Australia.
Little Pink Fairies Caladenia reptans (at least everyone agrees that this is still Caladenia!),
Boyagin Rock, south-west Western Australia.
Purple-heart Fingers Caladenia (or Petalochilus) hillmanii, near Nowra, New South Wales.
The members of this (sub-)genus are notoriously variable in colour.
Pink (or Rosy) Caps Caladenia (or Stegostyla) congesta, Canberra.
The beautiful black 'tongue' makes this a favourite of mine.
Pink (or Purple!) Donkey Orchid Diuris punctata, Tallong, southern tablelands New South Wales.
Striking in a genus of mostly yellow flowers; the flower purportedly resembles a donkey's face.
Parson's Bands Eriochilus cuculatus, south of Canberra.
A delicate little group of orchids, dominated by a pair of lateral sepals far larger than the other flower parts.
Flowers in summer, unusually around here.
Pink Sun Orchid Thelymitra carnea, Canberra.
Opens fully only on hot sunny days.
Epidendrum syringothingus, near Machu Picchu, Peru.
At least some members of both this genus and the next are known to be pollinated by hummingbirds.
Sobralia dichotoma, near Machu Picchu, Peru.
And on that delightful note I will leave you for 2014; my very sincere thanks for reading this far, and I can hope we can explore further together next year.



Susan said...

Spiranthes is the only genus I get here in France that also occurs in Australia. There are two species, both with white flowers -- one is rare but I am lucky to have a single specimen in my orchard and a friend has a whole colony of 40 in his lawn; the other has gone extinct in the Loire Valley as far as I know.

Anyway, the pink orchids are just gorgeous and a real treat. I especially love the Caladenia spp.

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks Susan and good to hear from you. I hadn't realised that Spiranthes was that far-flung. Glad you enjoyed them; have a happy and peaceful Christmas and I trust we'll talk next year.

Flabmeister said...

Welcome back!

One quiet question is what is the conservative view on spider orchids, finger orchids etc?

Is it the lumpers: their view, as I understand it, includes switching Glossodia into Caladenia. I see that as radical!


Ian Fraser said...

Strewth Martin, you're up early - at least I've got jet lag as an excuse! The 'conservative view', as represented by the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, is that all former Caladenias remain as such. I hadn't heard of the proposal re Glossodia, and so far at least the establishment has retained the genus.

Flabmeister said...

My excuse is old age!

The proposal about Glossodia comes from the DNA sequencing work which led to the re-establishment of Caladenia. Perhaps that was a step too far for CHAH?

David McDonald said...

Thank you Ian for a year of fascinating, beautiful and informative posts.

Looking forward to 2015's offerings!

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks for those kind words David, and for your ongoing support; that means a lot to me. May 2015 bring you both many natural joys (and as many others as you want!).