Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, December 06, 2010

Another Leek Orchid - Prasophyllum australe

Last week I received a call from Alan Stephenson asking if I could possibly go to Jervis Bay to meet another friend of his who had reported seeing a Prasophyllum which Alan had not seen. This is more or less Alan's "home turf". Alan wanted some "diagnostic images" to confirm the identity of this species. Alan has an injured leg, and is still wearing his "space boot", and cannot get out and about.

Those of you who know him can tell how it would have pained him to make that call. That makes my re-telling of this story all the more satisfying (to me). I say that in the "nicest possible way". I was perfectly happy to oblige Alan, if only to see this Orchid myself.

The plants had been found, and reported to Alan by Christopher Grounds and Marilyn. As arranged, they kindly agreed to show myself and Kirsten (the Illawarra ANOS Editor) where these plants were.

The location is known as the Heritage Estate, at or near Vincentia, adjacent to Jervis Bay National Park.

Here is a habitat shot, for Mick
A lovely "Scribbly Gum" in the process of shedding its bark.
The old bark increases in colour, just prior to peeling.
The low heath shrubbery has Callistemons in flower.
Not quite as tree-free as most of Mick's "Wallum" country,
but with many similar species, I suspect.
Certainly coastal heath land on a sandstone base.

This patch of bushland has been the subject of much wrangling, over the years. It has a history of development proposals going way back into the early 20th century. And then there was the intervention by Minster Garrett to declare the development proposals to be a "Controlled Action" under the EPBC Act. The estate is a mixture of some privately owned parcels, and some Council Land. Much of the area is being trashed by trail-bike riders and drunken louts. In between the beer bottles, dumped trampolines and dead vehicles, is some of the best Orchid habitat, on sandstone heathland and open Eucalypt forest, one could wish to find.

This doesn't look like the best Orchid environment.

This wonderful old tree is the last tree in this particular clearing.
The remaining area of the paddock has been cleared.
The stump of the tree has been burnt, but still the tree lives.

I think it should be called the "How Good is that? Tree"
Imagine how long it takes the local drunks to
(Question 1) drink those bottles?
(Question 2) and then throw the empties into the hollow?
(Question 3) and then celebrate how good they are?
Answer - all night?

Photo explanation:
The hole filled with beer bottles is
about 8 metres off the ground.
I have cut and pasted the image into the
lower portion of the image,
so you can see the bottles.
But they are at full height off the ground.
Back to Orchids.

This is the Orchid in question: Prasophyllum australe.
I have double-checked this species ID with my colleagues Colin and Mischa Rowan's marvellous Orchid web reference. I also checked it with David Jones's book and Tony Bishop's book. Between both online references, and the books, I am confident of the ID of this species.

As PlantNET says: "Labellum to 8 mm long, c. 2.5 mm wide, lanceolate when flattened; in living flowers, the upper portion recurving until the tip touches the gibbous base, the margins crisped, pellucid and often undulating. Callus plate extending almost half the length of the lamina ending in 2, compressed but much raised, bumps or prongs."
Despite the "Botanical Speak" there is another clue:
"Flowers white with reddish brown and green stripes, highly fragrant."

My nose is not very sensitive, and Kirsten said
she does not have much of a sense of smell, either.
So I referred the issue to Marilyn and asked her opinion.
She sniffed the flowers, and was delighted to find
it had a sweet honey perfume.
Even I could detect the perfume.
Unfortunately, Blogger does not yet have "Sniff-o-Blog".
One day, perhaps.
Are you there, Google?

Here one can see the recurved labellum
(the pale pink and white bit).
Check the flower low down on the right of the stem,
and the one in the middle right of the image.
The labellum starts out flat, and then bends upwards,
and reflexes right back on itself.
The edges of the labellum are white, crispy and ruffled.

The plant had a very long leaf.
Here Marilyn demonstrates how long the leaf is by holding the tip
between her fingers. Here Kirsten photographs the plant,
up-close and personal.
It was probably at this time that Kirsten allowed a Bull Ant
to climb up her trousers.
Silly woman!

She will be more careful in future.
Those of you who know her, might like to ask her about it.

On the way back to the Car we found this flower.
The iconic Cryptostylis hunteriana.
It is one of the plants for which the then Environment Minister
Peter Garrett decided to step in, and deny development approval
over the Heritage Estate.

It is listed as "Vulnerable" on the EPBC ActThis bizarre plant holds its flower completely upright.
Fully exposing the sexual organs of the flower
to the appropriate insect pollinator (a wasp).
The sepals and petals are all modified
to serve only as "handles" on which the wasp perches
when pollinating the flower.

And the plant has no leaves!
That latter feature makes this plant particularly hard
for Orchid enthusiasts to find
because other related plants have persistent leaves
which can be seen and identified over about 8 months of the year.

There were 3 plants of this species growing together.
And here is a related species,
the Large Tongue Orchid, Cryptostylis subulata.
This plant has similar arrangement of reduced or curled
petals and sepals (once the flower opens).
But this one holds its "private parts"
hidden underneath the flower.
To make up for its "modesty" it has a large series of glands
along underneath the flower,
to attract its pollinators by scent.

The black line of glands
is very obvious from low down

and off to the side.

Yes, I was lying in the grass, when I took this photo
But at least I didn't get bitten by Bull Ants!


mick said...

Wonderful habitat! I wonder what is the motivation for trashing something like that? More importantly - I wonder how it can be stopped? The orchids - of course! - are beautiful.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick.
Can't you understand the desire to strip a patch of bush of all living things, so you can go and drink with your mates, and play "hoopla" with the bottles?
How "UnAustralian" of you, Mick.
I cannot understand it either.