Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Little Tongue Orchid (the last of the local Tongue Orchids)

I have recently shown you the first three of the Tongue Orchids which occur in NSW - the "Large"; the "Furred (or Leafless)" Tongue Orchids; and the Bonnet (or Tartan) Orchid. This species is the "Little Tongue Orchid", Cryptostylis leptochila.Tonight I am able to complete the set - for according to the RBG Sydney PlantNET, these are the only 4 species of Tongue Orchid to occur in NSW. This is probably my favourite of the Tongue Orchids, because it frankly, such an "outrageous" flower, in design. It is common in the local (Kangaloon) area, underneath the tall Eucalypts.

Here is a photo from two years ago, which I used for a talk I gave about Local Orchids. The image has been labelled with the names of the various parts of the flower. This plant's leaf is distinctive, and nearly permanent (many Ground Orchids disappear shortly after flowering). So even when it is not in flower, you can still find this plant, and make a mental note to come back over the summer and look for the flowers. As you can see theleaf is quite dramatic in its shape, and colour. The front side is dark green, but the most obvious (and diagnostic) feature, is the bright maroon coloured reverse side of the leaf. C. hunteriana has no leaves, C. erecta has a mottled maroon reverse, and C. subulata is green on both sides. These leaves resemble a fallen Gum-tree leaf, except they are nearly always positioned vertically. But one can quickly check the reverse to confirm what Tongue Orchid species leaf you are looking at.
I would have to say, that, in contradiction of its name, the Small Tongue Orchid is not particularly small. I have seen one particularly large specimen which grew as high as my pocket - but that was a big one, I admit. The flower or should I say, the Labellum is slightly less bulky than the other species. Certainly its Labellum is narrower than any of the other species I have written about.

The most obvious feature of the flower is the outrageously shaped Labellum. It is narrow, with revolute margins (rolled back on the sides). It is not simply an erect Labellum, it is also recurved at the top. I have tried to show this in this next photo (thanks to a fortuitously located gum leaf on the ground), but the RBG botanical illustration (above) does that best of all. The Labellum is covered with dense, fine hairs. It almost appears to be velvety. The next feature to note is the dark dots along the labellum, which are the scent glands ("osmophores"). They are in two rows of about 9 dots. Interestingly, from the front, the column is quite similar to the Leafless Tongue Orchid (C. hunteriana).

In fact the low end of the Labellum is not at all "flat" - it is indeed quite a deep flower, as you can see in this next diagonal-angled view.
Here is a view of the full flower, more or less from the side.
And once again, the full flower, from front on.


Duncan said...

leptochila is the one I haven't caught up with Denis, I know where it grows some distance away so I'll get it one day. Nice photos and description.

Anni said...

I'm speechless. It will be a miracle if the government's proposed net nanny won't find this display of nature's fantastic rudeness too much to stomach.

Denis Wilson said...

OH, good.
I have just re-read this and I didn't use any rude words, but Obviously I didn't have to.
These plants are just so un-subtle that the images speak for themselves. I didn't even mention the thing with the Wasps (pseudo-copulation). I had done that previously in the series on Tongue Orchids.

I have in fact, discussed the proposed Net Nanny issue previously, as I recall having to spell c*o*c*k*a*t*o*o when I was in hospital in Canberra, to get my photo captions publishable, via Net Nanny. So stupid and futile. Parrot fanciers, and people who show their special breeds of Chickens will be in difficulty too.