Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, February 11, 2008

A new Orchid for me - the Horned Orchid

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a reader from Canyonleigh, approx 70 Km west from Robertson, but still in the Southern Highlands of NSW. This lady asked me to identify an Orchid she had seen at a neighbouring property. I managed to identify the plant for her, from a photograph, as likely to be the Horned Orchid (Orthoceras strictum). But I suggested she contact Alan Stephenson of the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society. Alan confirmed my suggested identification, but came up with some more information.I was invited to go over to see these plants, but since then, we have had rain, rain and more rain. Today I managed to go over there and was shown around by the property-holders Ian and Margaret. These plants are growing around the edge of their dam.

Horned Orchid - Orthoceras strictum
They are relatively tall Orchids - about 600 mm. They grow amongst sedges and rushes around the edge of the dam - on moist ground, mostly (but not in water), but there are some growing further afield from the dam, on the higher and drier sides of the dam. The soil in this local area district is gravelly, not a sandstone base, nor basalt, although both those soil types occur in the Canyonleigh area. It is an area of complex geology, with soil-type changes every few kilometres along the away into this district.As you can see these Orchids produce long stems, with a series of individual flowers in a loose spiral around the stem. The green ovaries at the base of each flower are very prominent, although they are partially shrouded by a colourful purplish bract.This group photograph shows how these plants grow in clusters amongst clumps of strong-growing rushes and sedges. I was very pleased to be able to see these plants, which I have never seen before. Thanks to Ian and Margaret for their hospitality.

In return, I was also able to show Ian and Margaret the seedpods of some Onion Orchids (Microtis sp) and Sun Orchids (Thelymitra sp) also growing in the same habitat. Obviously those plants flower earlier, but I have tipped the owners off to look in the same area for these other Orchids from October onwards - on warm sunny days in the case of the Sun Orchids. If you live near a dam with a naturally vegetated edge, like this, check out what is growing there.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

Another orchid that I have not seen, and pleased to have the opportunity to know something of it and its habitat in the event that I might be in likely environment at the right time of year.

The Southern Highlands certainly is a fabulous place for our beautiful and odd ground orchids.

Thank you indeed for posting this orchid information along with your photos.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Gaye.
I would never have found this Orchid, except that one of my readers tipped me off. I was able to identify it from photos she sent me.
It is late for a summer Orchid. Too early for an autumn Orchid. Likes wet feet, but will grow in dry gravelly places. Is said to be not common, but not rare. Found in large numbers when you do find it.

In other words, it grows where it likes to grow, and few other places.

Its one which is hard to make the "rules" fit, obviously. I am grateful to Jenny for finding them and to Ian and Margaret for showing them to me.