Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, February 22, 2008

Not the last, but certainly the "least" of the Greenhoods

Well, hopefully this will not be the last, but it is certainly the "least" of the local Greenhoods. Speculantha sp. aff parviflora would be the most precise way in which to write the name of this plant.*** That Latin shorthand means a plant in the "Speculantha genus, which has affinities with Spec. parviflora". In other words it is close to, but not identical with Spec. parviflora.

It is one of a group of "Tiny Greenhoods". of which the nominal species is "Speculantha parviflora". It used be known as "Pterostylis parviflora" The name "parviflora" means small-flowered. The flowers of this species of Greenhood are very small. This plant was no more than 4 inches (100mm) high. The flowers are carried in multiples, on a single stem (not just a single flower per stem, as in some Greenhoods). In this case, it has four flowers. They are described as "inward facing", as the flowers do not face outwards away from eachother, nor are they all facing the one direction. They all seem to point towards eachother.
Just to confuse you, this stem was half-flattened, and then the flowers each tried to reach up vertically, so they have ended up facing away from eachother. No rules are ever "perfect" in botany. The lower flower is growing from the same main stem, but its own flower stem being lower down the system, has straightened up behind the top flower. If the main stem was vertical, this lower flower would be on the right of the stem, facing back towards the top flower.

The reddish colour of these flowers seems to indicate that they are slightly more mature than the other flowers in the top photo. If you look at the top photo again, you will see that the higher flowers are darker in colour, and they are the newest flowers. The lower flowers are fading and are reddish. So that seems to be a pattern - they open dark chocolate brown, and fade to reddish-brown. That colour-change seems to be a characteristic they share with the "Scarlet Greenhood" which I showed you yesterday.

These plants are growing in poor sandy loam soil, in an open, sunny situation along Tourist Road, Kangaloon. There is sparse grass cover where they are growing. These plants flower on a stem growing directly out of the ground, with no basal rosette leaves. The tiny rosettes form some weeks after the flowers have finished. The entire rosette of leaves is about the size of an Aussie 5c coin. Tiny.

*** When I first found these plants, two years ago, I discussed them with David Jones, in the Australian National Herbarium in Canberra. He told me that the Orchid taxonomists "knew about these plants, but had not got around to naming them yet". This is a not uncommon situation in the world of Orchids, and much less so in the world of insects, where as many as 50% of species might not yet have been accurately described. So many species, so little time....
David Jones has since retired from CSIRO. One hopes that, after taking a well-earned rest, he might resume labouring (part-time) over his microscope and drawing board, amongst lots of dried specimens. Australia has not enough good taxonomists like him. And our plants deserve proper specific names.

No comments: