Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, February 11, 2010

First of the new season Orchids

With Orchids, one cannot easily classify them into seasons - Winter/Spring/Summer and Autumn flowerers. Well, I use such a grouping for filing my photos, but it really does not "fit" with the reality of our seasons.

Tonight's plant is a good example of just such a problem. I think of this group of flowers, Corunastylis, as "autumn flowerers". They will be around until April, though mostly they are found in March. So I tend to file them as "autumn flowerers".

This year, we have had a burst of very heavy "late summer" rain - post cyclonic rain, in fact.

But with that rain has come a drop in temperature, the birds are behaving as if they are preparing to migrate north (those which move, anyway). And with this change in weather, up pop the first of the Corunastylis.

So, the real answer is that our Euro-centric phrases for our Australian Seasons simply do not match the reality of our seasons.

There is a similar "mis-match" towards the end of our winter. I have dubbed that time the "Season of Anticipation" when Wattles and Jonquils are in flower, and Peony buds burst through the soil. I have written about that problem before, but I have not noted the end of Summer - early Autumn seasonal mis-alignment previously. To be fairly clinical, I could simply call this season the "End of summer rainy period". It is not a romantic term, but it definitely fits Robertson, anyway. It would not fit Canberra, I know, and not Melbourne either.

However, to the point, here is the first of the new season Orchids - Corunastylis fimbriata. The "Fringed Midge Orchid". The PlantNET people still use the old name of Genoplesium fimbriatum. Have a look at Colin and Mischa's images of this species from NSW.
Note the very long "cilia" (hairs) on the tip of the Labellum
(botttom right of the image)
This "find" was a bit of a thrill for me, for while I have seen this plant once before, at Tallong, when looking for another rare species there, I had not managed any decent images of that plant.
This next image shows the other main diagnostic feature of this plant
which is the hairs lining the edge of the dorsal sepal.
You need to remember that these Orchids are "upside down"
to most Orchids, and the dorsal sepal is underneath the flower.
It is the pale green "boat-shaped" structure, with a few red lines on it.
The Dorsal Sepal is pointing downwards and backwards, at a sharp angle.
Compare this flower with the bare edges of the dorsal sepals of
Corunastylis sagittifera, which is otherwise very similar.
Click to enlarge this image.
These tiny Orchids are very hard to photograph successfully and I will try again, even on this one specimen. But the thing I did like to see (and one cannot capture it without close-up Video footage), is that when I found this plant the little hairy labellums (labella?) were flapping in the warm, gentle breeze. David Jones in his main text, is at pains to point out the flexible nature of the hinge of the labellum. And here they were flapping in the gentle breeze. I have seen many other Corunastylis species, but I have never seen the labellum move so easily.

Here is a shot of the top of the flower stem of this particular plant. There are several others nearby, but this was the first to open.
Click to enlarge the image.
These plants were growing in very poor sandy soil. This was close to, but definitely not in, Butler's Swamp - where the soil is peaty. Not so, for these Corunastylis - they were in pure sandy soil. I even found several plants budding up in a shallow depression in a large rock, where there appeared to be less than 2 cm of sand in the depression. The surrounding habitat was classic Southern Highlands "Sydney Sandstone" scrub, with Scribbly Gums, Stringybarks and Proteaceous shrubbery.


mick said...

Lovely flowers and your suggestions about the difficulties of categorizing Aus. seasons is very interesting. I wonder why we persist in such names when they don't suite our seasons - and even less up here in QLD! I liked the description of the flowers moving in the breeze. btw - where is the habitat photo I enjoy so much?? Next time - PLEASE.

Denis Wilson said...

Quite right, Mick
I didn't take a "habitat" shot, and I should have. I will look back through my old images - I am sure I have something, and will paste it.