Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flying Duck Orchids at Meryla Pass

Several days ago I went down the Meryla Pass road, in the Meryla State Forest. I stopped when I got to the Morton National Park - simply because I was going to run out of time and light, if I had kept going. It is great country. However, I did take a single shot of the spectacular Bluff opposite Meryla Pass. You can see why this country is regarded as "Blue Mountains" habitat, albeit lower and further south. Still sandstone, and still spectacular.
This Bluff must be close to the end of "Red Hills Road",
near Fitzroy Falls.
It is overlooking part of the Morton National Park,
with the Shoalhaven River Gorge beyond it.
This country, which I am yearning to access
is inaccessible to most human beings.
Indeed, even the road I was on (which is accessible)
leads to a locked gate.
That is the start of the Northern Section of the Ettrema
Wilderness Area.
The road to Meryla Pass leaves the Nowra Road (the road from Moss Vale to Fitzroy Falls and down through Kangaroo Valley and on to Nowra). There is a small sign saying Meryla Road, and Manchester Square. The first 5 Km take you down a winding road, dropping off the fertile red basalt soil farmlands of Avoca and Werai districts, down into the moist rich farm lands of "Manchester Square". (A most unlikely name for a farming district in Australia - but that's what the district is called. There is no township, just a "locality").

Passing on from Manchester Square two things happen, you leave the bitumen and you enter the Meryla State Forest. You have also driven down onto the Sandstone. That's what I am interested, for its rich flora and fauna habitat.

Nothing says "Classic Sandstone Flora" to me
more than Boronia bushes.
Boronia thujona - close up.
(Edit: In retrospect, I realise the leaflets are smaller
and more rounded
than B. thujona.
It may in fact be
B. microphylla.)
B. thujona is very common at the Barren Grounds.
I have not identified B. microphylla previously.
These plants are growing just on top of rocky outcrops.We are overtopping Bundanoon Creek,
on a small sandstone outcrop.

This is what the small rocky outcrop looks like.
Another of the "typical" shrubs here is the large-flowered pink
Tea-tree - Leptospermum rotundifolium.

Here is a close-up shot of the lovely "Round-leaved Tea-tree"
While I was there, I saw this male Gang-gang Cockatoo
"watching me, watching him".

Click to get a better view of him.
And here are the Flying Duck Orchids (Caleana major)
A veritable flock of them.
They are relatively tall (30 cm on average).
But small flowqers, on thin stems, so at first glance they look
more like a swarm of flying insects than Flying Ducks.
Here is another view.
Two flowers on a single stem (which is a common arrangement).
Now you can see how they earn their name.
Another view.
The bud on top is just unfurling.
the top parts will fold back, as wings.
The lower section, which is green, will turn red
as the flower matures, becoming the "body" of the Flying Duck.
The "head" is the "labellum" of the Orchid,
which at this stage is still inside the flower.
Now we come to the "pointy end" of the story.
The top flower is fully open.
The second (lower) flower has been triggered by an insect
(or stray movement).
The "head" (labellum) snaps shut over the body (column)
hopefully trapping any stray insect inside until it
collects a dob of sticky pollinia on its head or back
(or deposits one from another plant)
thus achieving pollination.
On the lower flower
The head is completely folded down over the Duck's "stomach".
(Click to see it better.)
Here is the "head" and the all important "neck".
The "lamina" (neck) is flexible
and when triggered by the sensation of movement in the flower
the "lamina" snaps shut.
The head bends right down,
closing off the previously open "body" of the flower.
Here is the front on view of the "body" of the Flying Duck Orchid.
The lowest section shows the anther where the pollen is stored.
The head snaps over to completely close off this "body".
The round shape allows room for an insect pollinator
to move around inside the flower,
even when the head snaps closed.


Flabmeister said...


These are the first images I have seen in which the 'duck' resemblance really shows.

WRT to boronias I recall a half marathon run near Pigeon House on a day when it was a tad foggy. This is sandstone country and the scent of boronia had thoroughly permeated the mist. This almost took my mind off the pain of the race!


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
Because the flower is so dark, I really need to take a white background with me to show it up. The flower is so very shiny that it reflects light from the flash I use, unless I am very careful.
Re Boronia, there are some species which grow away from Sandstone, but not many. I certainly think of them as "typical" of Sandstone flora.
Wow - running up Pigeon House! That's serious.

Mark Young said...

Gang Gangs are such beautiful birds. Congrats on the wonderful image Denis.

mick said...

Magnificent scenery and flowers and of course orchids. My book of local plants says that there are 4 kinds of boronia up this way - I only know the two more common ones (falcifolia and rosmarinifolia) - and they all grow in sandy or wallum areas.

Mr. Smiley said...

You are so lucky to have so many ground orchids in your area. Thanks for documenting them.

D Rentz

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mark and Dave
Thanks both of you for commenting.
I just like to keep on catching the odd and unusual.
Mark, Gang-gangs are not "rare" here, just uncommon. They are in fact on the NSW Threatened Species List. One can never know when one will turn up in a tree peering down at you.

Flabmeister said...


The run was near Pigeon House not up it. Still quite hilly enough, and I was a lot fitter (and younger) at the time.


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin,
I realised I had somewhat exaggerated your performance, but who cares?
You were in the bush, surrounded by Boronias, near Pigeonhouse; overwhelmed by their scent.
This Blog is visited by Heroes. Don't under-sell yourself.