Christmas Bells

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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bird Orchids - September 2009

Unbelievable as it seems (to me) I nearly missed the flowering of the Bird Orchids, this year. Goodness. How could I be so careless?

For some reason I had not recorded their normal flowering period in my calendar. So I found these particular plants (which I had not ever found before) as part of a general search for other Orchids.

I mean to say, I know that Bird Orchids live in this area, but I have clearly fixed in my mind the best spots to look for them - and this spot was not on my mental list.

I was checking for possible Greenhood flowers (of which there were none). So I was quite disappointed, and tired and despondent (as one gets at the end of a long and futile search). Suddenly, just before I was about to go back to the car, I found this.
It is a Bird Orchid, in flower, on the ground, beside a dead stick.
Better check around further, Denis.
OK - I now see more Orchids - all around me.Lets have a closer look at them.
This one has a bud, about to open.
Here is an open flower - which had clearly been open when the big dust storm blew through the entire region, on Wednesday 23 September 2009. I saw the flower on the Sunday.
You can clearly see the coating of fine red dust - even inside the flower..
Here is the same flower - shot from a very low angle. You can see the pollinia in position still, in the column.
Looking down into the flower.
You can see the large glands on the labellum.
Some are green, others red.
Their shapes are different, too.
The front one is oval and quite flow in profile.
The rear (lower) ones are narrow and upright.

This next plant is closing its flower.
Presumably it has been pollinated.
This is the normal position for the flowers of this family of Orchids to adopt, after pollination.
It serves to protect the flower, as it starts to develop the seeds.
Once pollination has been achieved, the stem of this flower will grow much higher than it currently is.
It will do this, in order to help spread the
fine dust-like seeds as far as possible, on the wind.

There will be an observation test regarding this image.

Did you see it?


The Frog spawn.

Look in in the junction of the leaves and the stem of the Orchid.

When I was out there, the country was so dry that the moss on the shallow rocks was crunching under my feet. I could hear it happen as I walked around. So, an enterprising frog (well a pair of them as you will realise) have deposited their "spawn" in this situation, in order to prevent their spawn from being dried out on the dry rocks, or loose sandy soil. This is a strategy reminiscent of those tiny frogs in the tall tropical rainforest which live within those cup-shaped Bromeliad plants.

It has been raining in Robertson for two days now, so the puddles on the Budderoo Plateau will be full again, now. But, last week, while it was still dry, this pair of frogs avoided laying their "spawn" on dry materials (dry moss and lichen, or sandy soil). Those frogs have given their offspring just a chance of surviving that crucial first week after being laid.

Interesting. I have never seen this adaptive behaviour before.


Junior Lepid said...

Hello Denis,

I was very interested in the spawn. What a find!

Apparently, we get two species of Bird Orchids here:- Chiloglottis gunnii (probably flowering now if it's around) and C. reflexa. (I suppose there haven't been several re-naming sessions as I'm using my ancient Field Guide!!) I will have to keep an eye out for the last one next Autumn.

Denis Wilson said...

It was one of those things one only notices, after the photos have been developed.
I thought it was interesting.
Of course, it makes sense, for the thick leaf of the Orchid makes a perfect "basin" for the spawn, and will not dessicate the moisture in the spawn, because the leaf is so thick and almost plastic coated itself.
Whereas the dry moss would have immediately soaked out the moisture from the spawn if it had been laid there.
Bird Orchids especially these large ones, not the small Chiloglottis, are very interesting. Hard to see though. They grow under and in small shrubs and leaves and twigs. Less than two inches high too, although their leaves are relatively large, but flat on the ground.

Snail said...

That is an excellent find!

I've found two different orchids on one of the trees on my block. Quite high up --- safe from marauding pademelons. Have no idea what species they are, so I'm looking forward to seeing them flower.

mick said...

I am fascinated again with the photos you have taken of the area surrounding the orchids. They are of course beautiful flowers but I am more than ever convinced that it needs an expert to find them.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
This is a habitat similar to your "Wallum", I suspect. Sandstone based heath scrub.
On the rock shelves, the scrub dwindles down to tiny shrubs 6 inches high. Where there is some soil, the shrubs might be waist high - mostly Pea Flowers(Eggs and Bacon), and Epacrids (Epacris proper, and Leucopogons. Larger scrubs are spiky Hakeas. Scattered small Eucalypts.
In general these guys grow between and under the low shrubs.
I have known for some time that these plants are here, but I still searched for 30 minutes before I found these.
So it is not necessarily expertise, but stubborn-ness.
Local knowledge helped me in the first place, in that I was told where to look - go to Point X and look around. Beypond that I was on my own.
Once you see one (whether this species or any other Orchid) you will probably find more.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Snail
I was actually hoping you might be able to comment on the Frog spawn. But it is somewhat remo0ved from your main area of expertise - but you seem so widely read.
Re Orchids, Allen from "Swampy Things" ought be able to help you, if you get a photo. He is a bit of an expert on tropical Orchids, especially epiphytes, it seems. After all, he and Barbara live in the Daintree.
It can be relevant to know the host tree species (some Orchids are fussy).
Once the ones you know about are in flower - look for others at the same time. You might get lucky and find others lower down.
It is always good to have a reference plant, that tells you when to look for others.
Just a thought - Out of range of Pademelons, but what about Tree Kangaroos?
Best of luck.

Snail said...

I'll put some pics up of my orchids when I get back. So far the tree roos and the green possums have left them alone. But the animals might have simply overlooked them. Will try to get an ID on the host tree too. It seems to be favoured by epiphytes,

Not sure about the frog spawn. One possibility is that it may not be spawn but 'cuckoo spit' produced by a feeding leafhopper. But that could be me dragging the attention away from verts onto inverts!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Bronwen
I have just posted a bulletin about Tangle Orchids, which was testing my photographic skills, but eventually I found some growing low down.
Tiny little closed over flowers. But some of the Tropicals are beyond tiny - down to Minute.
I look forward to your posting in due course, when they flower.
Good point about "cuckoo spit", which I had not considered, I admit. I have seen it before on other plants, but I don't think it is quite right for these.
If I get a chance I shall go back and investigate the "spawn", if I can find the plant again.