Christmas Bells

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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stegostyla moscata - Musky Finger Orchid

Several days ago I found these plants growing beside Kirkland Road, Kangaloon.
Unfortunately, yesterday (Monday 19 October 2009) the ever-so helpful road workers from the Wingecarribee Shire used their graders, bobcats and sweepers to clear the road verge of all signs of life. No doubt, with bushfire season approaching, they had their reasons, but I keep asking why do this kind of work now, and not in mid winter? Orchids such as these plants are not "fuel" to sustain a bushfire. Firstly, they are moist plants, not dry, combustible material. Secondly, they are within a forest of highly combustible material, so this is merely "window dressing" by Council - the pretence of fire prevention. As I said it could have been done in Winter, when the damage they have now caused would be minimised, but removal of dry leaf litter woud have been achieved. When will they ever learn? I shall be writing to Council to point out the inadvertent damage they have caused.These plants have now been killed. At least I found them when they were in flower. However, the Sun Orchids which were budding up beautifully on Saturday morning have all now "gone to God", as the saying is. What an ignorant act by Council!This plant is now known as Stegostyla moscata. It is also known as the Musky Finger Orchid. It has apparently recently been separated from the very similar looking Stegostyla gracilis, which is now regarded as restricted to Tasmania and Victoria (to the N-E). My source for this is David Jones recent book "Field Guide to the Orchids of the ACT" (2008).
My blogging colleague JL has recently published photos of the similar, but darker marked flowers of Stegostyla cucullata. Those plants have been photographed in the Grampians, in western Victoria. My plant's labellum tip is clearly bright magenta purple, whereas JL's plant has a dark purple labellum tip.
This image is taken from very low down, to see up into the column.
Click to enlarge image.
Here is another plant which I found in late September, in Kangaloon. I believe it to be the same species, but in view of the uncertainty of namings and the lack of good reference material, I cannot be absolutely sure. The angle of this photo is more horizontal than the previous image, so you are seeing higher up along the labellum. This image does show the 4 lines of "clubs" (glands) on the labellum.
These images show these plants against the dry leaf litter on the forest floor. As you can see this part of the forest floor is covered with highly combustible materials, which is all still there, as the road cleaning took place only on the road verge, where the other plants were growing.
Two flowers on a 25mm long stem.
This plant has three flowers.
It is always worthwhile keeping your eyes open when walking through dry Eucalypt forests. Orchids love to grow there (especially in spring), but they are often far from obvious. But they are truly lovely things. If you do find them - have a close look inside the flowers.


mick said...

Beautiful photos and flowers. A great shame about the road verge clearing. I assume its just ignorance (council workers are hired for their expertise in managing machinery!!) - which hopefully can be changed in time. I have a friend who has been working with councils (south of here) for many years and just passing on information. Over the years she has built up a rapport and now is conducting shorebird workshops for council employees! A wonderful outcome - it would be great if it happened elsewhere.

Junior Lepid said...

Hello Denis,

I hope to round this one up too. I'm pretty sure we have the "Musky" in NW Vic.

I can understand your ire re. the 'cleaning up' of road verges. I haven't seen that happen in my immediate area for years and years.

As you said, it's just window dressing given the amount of litter elsewhere, anyway.

Thanks for the link, by the way.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick and JL
Interesting suggestion that I ought start an education program for Council staff.
JL the distribution of these species is very poorly known, and with name changes over the years, old records cannot be updated, because who knows what species was actually found years before, (except Herbariums - and they are either out of date, or too poorly resourced).
For example, PlantNET (NSW Botanic Gdns website) has Caladenia gracilis found in NSW, whereas Jones says it is restricted to Vic and Tasmania, so their records would presumably relate to Steg. moscata. But who knows for sure?
Its enough to drive one nutty.
Don't worry, the Sun Orchids are even harder to tell apart.

Junior Lepid said...

Yes, it's head-banging stuff. My "Grampians Flora" Field Guide lists Caladenia angustata. Apparently that is now known as C. gracilis (as you mentioned) but according to Colin's site, it's in Victoria - but not in the Wimmera/Mallee region - so there you go, I probably will never round it up!!! :-)

Denis Wilson said...

I know how you feel.
I have some old photos (taken before I got my Macro Lens set-up) which clearly show a really dark purple lip on one of these "Caladenias".
I cannot claim the species based on the poor photos available to me. But I would swear it is as dark as yours.
What would it be?
How would that fit with the supposed distribution lists discussed above?
Unfortunately, the best site for these plants is not off limits to me, as it has been declared "Water Board Country", and no access permitted. There is a long story behind this, which I shall not bore you with.
I am on the lookout for another good spot for these plants. There must be somewhere else.