Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Variable Midge Orchid located (maybe)

I wrote about the so-called Variable Midge Orchid (Corunastylis fimbriata) several days ago. Today, I know more than I did then, and I know less. Confused? Welcome to the world of tiny Australian Native Ground Orchids.

I now believe*** I have found the true species - with fringed labellum and fringes on the dorsal sepal and petals as well (as it should have, according to the books).
*** I no longer believe that to be correct. This species is too dark to match the descriptions. Yet it has a fringed labellum and fringed dorsal sepal, but the purple colour is not right. I am still working on identifying this plant. DJW 6/3/08

Corunastylis simulans
A species formerly not known to occur
south from the Blue Mountains.
Now known to occur here (Kangaloon) and
in the Shoalhaven region (Cambewarra Mountain)
Incidentally, the "experts" do not agree on a name for this genus of plants. Some who have made a special study of these plants, consider they should be called Corunastylis. The traditionalists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, prefer to stick with the name Genoplesium. The international Orchid community seems to have accepted Jones and Clements revision of these plants into Corunastylis.Here is David Young's image of the critical detail of the flower - the fringed edge of the boat-shaped Dorsal Sepal. The hairs are clearly visible in silhouette on the right hand side of that organ. It has a green exterior, as the tip narrows to a fine point. The edges are all fimbriated (fringed with fine hairs).This is my own photo, which is nice and clear from direct on, but the labellum, which is pointing directly in front of and above the dorsal sepal, is out of focus, and almost invisible, unfortunately. These tiny flower really are hard to photograph well. The yellow pollinia (sticky grains of pollen) are really clearly visible. The photo below has also been provided by David Young. Thanks. (Click on the image to enlarge it). David has captured the flower cluster on the stem, nicely. The crooked and hairy labellum is visible, waving in the breeze to the left of the main flower (centre left), while the dorsal sepal is clearly visible underneath the labellum, shaped like a little boat, with the yellow pollinia clearly evident in the centre.
Contrast David's photo of today's plant (above)
Corunastylis sagittifera
(Identified since this was first located here).
with my photo of the first plant, from two days ago (below) .OK, so what is this plant? I honestly do not know (yet).

It definitely is in the same genus. But the plants are green with red stripes, not mostly purple as today's plants were. The individual flowers are even smaller (only 8mm across) than the one found today, which itself is tiny 9.5mm across (smaller than my fingernail on my little finger). Most significantly, it lack the hairy edges of the Dorsal Sepal - see below.

Today's flower is on the left. And the other plant, lacking the obvious hairs, is on the right.I like this image, for it looks like the horns of a Billy Goat about to charge me. It is in fact the wide-spread petals which open up when the weather is right for these flowers to open their labellum out, to allow pollination to occur. The flower is still curved over The curved "labellum" is not yet fully open, (we are looking at the top of the labellum here). When the time is right, the labellum can be lifted (reflexed) right back out of the way. But it only does that for a very short period of time, it seems, and perhaps only on a single day. Today was warm and humid, and that seemed to suit these plants.

My friend David helped me photograph the minute distinguishing features of this plant. I promised him I would put up a link to an amazing photograph he took a few days ago, of the green eyes of a Robber Fly. The reason this subject came up is because while I was out in the field tracking down various specimens of these Orchids, today, I saw A Robber Fly carrying a relatively large insect. I tried to photograph it, but it would not let me get close enough. Then while I had a special macro-lens-adapter on the camera (for ultra-close-up work on these Orchids) I suddenly realised I had come across the Robber Fly again - still with its precious "Take-Away" meal of a Bee, firmly in its grasp, while sitting on the leaf of a narrow sedge-like plant. I managed to get a photo of it on my second encounter with it. Unfortunately, owing to depth of field problems caused by having the specialist lens adapters fitted, and my urgent desire to complete the shot before the Fly took off again, the photograph is poorly composed. Only the legs of the Robber Fly are in sharp focus (Click to enlarge the photo and check out the complex claws or pads on its feet).

I decided to publish the photo for the interesting event it records - a Robber Fly which is eating (sucking dry) a Bee. They fly with the victim held firmly (and safely) from above, where the Bee cannot sting the Fly. Still, a photograph to document what I saw is better than nothing. Although this is a poor photograph technically, it is a perfect companion to the story David published the other day, about how these Flies hunt, and carry their prey.

You ought to visit David's blog site to see his stunning photos of his Robber Fly. The details of the Fly's eyes, and hairy face and mouth are amazing.

These powerful insects remind me of the design of the Sikorsky "SkyCrane" Helicopter which was designed to lift and carry huge loads. If you are not familiar with the image of these helicopters, click here. You probably have heard of the Water-bombing Helicopter called "Elvis", used in Australia every summer to help fight bushfires. It is a variant of these planes.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

Denis, you and David have had some interesting excursions into the bush and come up with some fabulous orchids and creatures. Your articles are going to be of great use to me when I get out to discover some of these wonderful ground orchids. Well done!


David said...

Hi Denis,
I posted a comment previously for this entry...though my computer froze..I'll give it another
Firstly... thanks for the mention for the photography :)
Secondly, and most importantly, you canny *******! Nice Robber fly shot!
Yes, depth of field problems, though the shot is otherwise technically perfect in positioning and colour..... a wonderful moment captured (perhaps not for the bee).
Well done.