Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Surprises at Tarlo, north of Goulburn.

Today I went with Alan Stephenson to hear a lecture by Mark Clements, a CSIRO expert Orchid researcher from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research. It was an interesting talk, about the challenges ahead in managing the CSIRO/ANBG Orchid Collection. One of the issues he raised was the possibility of having a self-sustaining commercial operation where they might grow and sell Orchids. That will scare the conservative management of the Dept of Environment which is the ultimate manager of the Botanic Gardens (ANBG). He also spoke about the work he has been doing for years, reclassifying Orchids (what is seen as simply re-naming Orchids), but it is obviously much more than that. There were several people in the audience who spoke critically of the "new names".

After the lunchtime lecture, Alan and I headed back up the Highway, to Goulburn and then on the Taralga Road to a district named Tarlo. We had been invited there by Lynette, a local property holder who had found some unusual Greenhood Orchids at her place.

From a photo which she had sent us, it was clearly one of the "rufa group" of Greenhoods, or "Rustyhoods" as they are known.
Indeed they are in the "rufa" group.

A quick look at the labellum revealed this.
The shape of the labellum and the lateral sepals
indicates it is Oligochaetochilus squamatus
This plant was previously known as Pterostylis squamata
Click to enlarge the photo and see the diagnostic bristles on the labellum.
Here is a flower with the labellum "triggered"
From directly in from, this is what the flower looks like
(with the labellum snapped closed - up inside the flower).
This is what the plants look like, in situ.
This plant was about 8 inches tall (approx 200 mm).
Here are two plants growing close together (amongst grass)
Here is the leaf rosette.
the leaves are dying off,
which Alan explained is normal once these plants start to flower.
This was very satisfying as it was a new species for all of us.
Lynette (who had found the plants, but didn't have a name for it)
and myself and Alan and also it was new for
Mark Selmes, from Mt Rae, had joined us to inspect these plants..
So it was a genuine thrill for all concerned.

For the record, these plants are 15 kms north-east of Goulburn, growing on sandstone and shale hillside, in dry stony conditions. This is well outside the previous recorded range for this species.


After studying these flowers, we went off to see a "dead bird" which Lynette had also found.
This was the thing which had interested Mark Selmes most of all.
All she knew was that it was a large grey and silver bird.
It had been suggested it might have been a Tawny Frogmouth.
A quick glance showed it was a very large Owl
Almost certainly a Powerful Owl.
The talons are immensely powerful.
I am convinced it is a Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua)
The bird had been dead for a long time, and was quite dried and "leathery".
I estimate it might have been dead for several months,
and had seemingly died in natural circumstances.
The body was more or less intact.

As it is an Endangered Species, Mark is very keen to get the remains positively identified and the record formally reported.

Too much excitement for one day!

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