Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Gibbosa Greenhoods" in flower.

An orchid with the "barely possible to pronounce" name of Oligochaetochilus gibbosus is just coming into flower down at Albion Park. It used be called Pterostylis gibbosa. You could try calling it the Illawarra Rustyhood, but it is not reddish brown as one might assume from that name. Its enough to make one want to give up (but see below, for a little glimmer of understanding, based upon a search for the etymology of the name).

That's why I have referred to it simply as the "Gibbosa Greenhood" in the title of this Blog posting.

Note the prominent brownish labellum, with several (only) stiff hairs.
Presumably these hairs act as a movement detector,
to help trigger the Labellum to snap closed, when an insect is present.
(Click to enlarge the image).
Here it is with the Labellum snapped closed.
That is a pollination technique,
designed to trap an insect inside the "hood"
which is where the pollen grains and the stigma (female organ) are located.
This is the botanical illustration for this species, from PlantNET.
By the way, my favourite on-line dictionary - the Dictionary of Botanical Epithets reveals that "gibbosa" means "humped". It is a very useful reference site, which can help one make sense of strange sounding names.

As far as I can work out the "impossible sounding name" Oligochaetochilus refers to having a few (oligo) long flowing hairs (chaeton) - Gk. khaite "long flowing hair". That actually makes some sense, now that I have tracked back its compounded etymology.

This Orchid is known to occur in very few locations, and several are in restricted (privately owned) sites, which is probably just as well. This plant is classed as an endangered species.

In truth, it is pretty hard to find, growing amongst long Poa grasses in a large reserve at Albion Park, just down Macquarie Pass from Robertson.

I had been invited down to see the "Gibbosas" by Kirsten, a colleague from the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society. So I had the benefit of an expert local guide. Thanks Kirsten.

Anyway, we drove right to the spot, and examined some of the first Gibbosas, then went for a walk around the Reserve, to look at other plants (and Kirsten's favourite young Red-bellied Black Snake).

The next Orchid we found was a total surprise to both of us, the "Blue Caladenia", or as it is now known, Cyanicula caerulea. Hardly "sky blue" (its original Latin derivation) to my eyes, but very blue, none-the-less. These days it can mean "dark blue, or even sea-green" There is no green in the pigment of this flower. Blues and purples, yes, but no green tones.I have seen illustrations of this plant in many books, but I have never seen it myself before, so this was a thrill indeed. A solitary flower, with the hairy leaf lying flat on the ground.
I have posted a few images from yesterday's tour on my Facebook site gallery.

Tomorrow I shall show some of the other plants we found.


mick said...

Beautiful flowers and your photos and descriptions are very interesting - as always! I had hoped to get out and look for some more up here this season but unfortunately damaged both my knees - again - and have been limited in my ability to walk :-(

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Thanks for your comment.
Sorry to hear about your injured knees. Not good.
Hope the healing process goes well.
Your Godwits need to be counted and photographed.

mick said...

Ah-hah! Godwits can be seen and counted from a kayak! Just arm strength needed there!

Denis Wilson said...

Pleased to hear it, Mick.
All power to your arms, then.