Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Belmore Falls rare plants

In the Belmore Falls district, just 5Km south from Robertson, there are some rare and unusual plants.

Today I re-visited a damp, swampy patch of forest where I had previously found some Greenhood orchids. Today I could not see any Greenhoods, but I did find some Corybas species ("Helmet Orchids"). I had previously observed the leaves of these plants, but today was the first time I found them flowering.

The flowers are tiny - a mere 5.5 mm from front to back, and 8 mm high (stem and "hood"). They are particularly narrow, being just 2mm wide. My fingernail dwarfs the flower. These plants do not match any species described in David Jones's "A complete guide to the Native Orchids of Australia". He had other larger species described, but none as small as these plants, with the predominant green colour of these flowers. Most of the members of this genus are reddish purple, but some have a greenish tinge. These flowers are green, with a silvery tinge, but with reddish-purple venation.

I shall speak with David Jones on Monday (hopefully) and ask him if he has this group of plants as an as yet undescribed species. This is not an unusual situation with native Orchids, as it applies to at least two other species which I have found in the local area - a Leek Orchid, and a rust and brown coloured "Tiny Greenhood" which I found last week.

The second Orchid I found today is the Waterfall (or Escarpment) Greenhood, which was growing in the Belmore Falls district too. Its name has been revised, from the more familiar Pterostylis to the unfamiliar Diplodium pulchellum. The specific name is very appropriate (it means "beautiful").

It is classed as "Vulnerable" on the NSW Threatened Species list (under its old name as Pterostylis pulchella). It is said to occur only at Belmore Falls, Fitzroy Falls, Minnamurra Falls, and Bundanoon Creek (Meryla). From memory, it was on a list I have seen of plants at the Barren Grounds, and I have seen non-flowering Greenhoods at a suitable habitat at Carrington Falls, which would make sense (if it is the same species). Pterostylis pulchella is also listed as "vulnerable" under the Federal EPBC Act listings.

I also found Epacris calvertiana var versicolor flowering at Belmore Falls today. This is a pink and white form of the species, which has white flowers. I have seen this form growing at the Barren Grounds. Interestingly, according to the book "Seldom Seen - rare plants of Greater Sydney", the "type" specimen was collected by Forsyth at Belmore Falls, in September 1900. So, it is good to find this plant growing at the same place, some 100 years after it was first collected there.

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