Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year and a new Orchid (for me)

What better way to start the New Year with a new (to me) species of Orchid?

Several days ago I went with Alan Stephenson, the Conservation Officer with the Australasian Native Orchid Society (ANOS), and he showed me a colony of Calanthe triplicata (the "Christmas Orchid") *** I have been advised by Allen Sheather from "Wild Wings and Swampy Things" that this species is now regarded as a separate species, Calanthe australasica.
These plants are close to the southern end of their range - being about 15 Km south of Ulladulla, on the NSW South Coast.

They were growing on the floor of the tall forest, which was a mix of Spotted Gums (Corymbia maculata), and Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera) The soil was deep grey sand, with a deep cover of leaf litter. Along the creek, the habitat could be loosely described as rainforest-type understorey, but the dominant trees were wet sclerophyll forest trees.

Here is a huge trunk of a fallen tree - it crosses the creek.
approx size: 1.4 metre diameter trunk, Height estimated at 40 metres.
Canopy branches not included.

Few specimens were more striking than this magnificent tree.
A view directly up to the canopy.
I could not begin to estimate the full height.
The trunk of the same tree (Spotted Gum).
There is a human figure just barely visible in the lower corner
on the track to the left, beyond the tree.
I think it was a motor cyclist who passed us.

Some of the Orchids were growing in the more open part of the forest (brightly lit patches). However, many of these plants were budding, but had failed to flower.The only plants which had flowered successfully this year were those in the deepest shade, close to the creek.

Here is a set of buds - preparing to open.
There had been good rain in the previous few days,
which will help them open successfully.

This plant has a flower, buds and a seed pod from last year.
These plants are growing in a dead (rotten) log.
Perfect mulch like this probably takes 30 years to produce. But it works.
A closer view of seedling Orchids in the same rotten log.
Click to see the small seedlings.
The leaves of this plant are very distinctive
Long strap like leaves are deeply veined.
These stems are about 80 cm high.
Here is a close-up of the flower.
Underneath view of the flower reveals the "spur".
I believe this has the function of a "nectary".
After successful pollination, these Orchids produce large seed pods.
These ones are left over from last year,
but they have shed their seeds already.
I have only ever seen these plants (out of flowering season) at Barrington Tops, near the Old Guest House, and beside the Williams River. At that stage I did not know what species they were, but I did know they were Orchids, from their old seed pods - just like these ones.

*** Update on name correction
Allen Sheather was correct - Calanthe triplicata was re-named on 21/12/2006.

Source: Australian Orchid Name Index

Calanthe australasica D.L.Jones et M.A.Clem., Austral. Orchid. Res. 5: 8 (21 Dec. 2006). Type: Australia. Queensland. Kroombit Tops, 2 Jan. 1997, R.Crane 1773 (holo CANB!).
  • Calanthe veratrifolia (Willd.) R.Br. var. australis Lindl. et Paxton in Paxton’s, Fl. Gard. 2: 132 (1851-53). Type: cult. Kew ex ‘New Holland, Illawarra’, Aug. 1822, A.Cunningham s.n. (holo K-LINDL!).
  • Calanthe veratrifolia (Willd.) R.Br. var. kennyi F.M.Bailey, Queensland Agric. J. 28: 276 (1912). Type: ‘Lake Eacham’, F.Hamilton-Kenny s.n. (holo BRI!).
Dist: Nsc, Ncc, Nnc, Qmo, Qwb, Qpc, Qks, Qkn, Qco, Lord Howe Island; PG?

Further note: The distribution of the original named species, Calanthe triplicata "is huge - being from W. Indian Ocean, Trop. & Subtrop. Asia to Pacific including Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles Islands, China, Japan, Taiwan, Assam, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo, Java, Malaysia, Philippines, Sulawesi, Bismarck Islands, New Guinea, Solomon Islnds, Norfolk Island, Fiji, New Caledonia, Samoa, Vanuatu" Source: Orchids Online


mick said...

How nice to see and photograph a new orchid! This time I know it too! At least I assume it's the same one that grows in rain forests all up the coast? But I must say I have never seen the flowers in that lovely detail. I hope your new year is a very good one and that you have lots of lovely orchids to keep sharing with the rest of us.

Denis Wilson said...

Yes Mick, I would expect you to recognise that Orchid. It has permanent (evergreen) leaves, which are large strappy things. That's how I saw it out of season at the Barrington Tops. So it is easy to see and recognise out of season. Large leaves. Grows on open parts of the floor of rainforest.
From the name "Christmas Orchid" this is the season for it to be in flower.
Have a good New Year, Mick and thanks for your encouragement.
All the best for 2010.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Denis, Like Mick we also have this orchid in the Wet Tropics. Here it tends to occur in upland forest. I see that David Jones regards it as a distinct sp. and is calling it C. australasica
Regards Allen

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Allen
You are right: it is now recognised as a separate species: Calanthe australasica
My fault for not dragging out the Jones book (which was in the car from a trip the day before).
The PlantNET people (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) are out of date, yet again.
I shall amend the text of the post, (update declared, with credit to you for tipping me off)) so that all readers will see the correction.
Many thanks for the tip-off.

Mr. Smiley said...

Hi Denis

I know I'm a bit behind in my reading of your blog but I thought you should know that I found this little patch of C. australasica in the same place as you but more than 10 years ago. I always feared some idiot would burn them out as the routinely burn along that creek leaving nothing but weeds to grow. Glad you prove they are still there.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Dave,
You obviously know your South Coast (NSW) creeks and forests - as befits a former Canberran.
I imagine you were looking for insects of some description, but it is always interesting to explore these "border" habitats.
It is the southern end of the range for this plant. Presumably of similar interest to you.
Thanks Dave, for your comment.