Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A different Potato Orchid

Potato Orchids live in the Robertson Rainforest - but I have only found them in association with some old massive, introduced Pinus radiata trees. That doesn't mean they are not naturally occurring, it just seems to indicate a preference for living in the deep leaf litter at the base of 120 year old Pine Trees.

It is interesting to speculate on whether there is a mycorrhizal association with the Red "Fairy Toadstools" (Amanita muscaria) which I have reported on previously in Robertson, growing in association with old Pine Trees.

There are two plants with flowers in this image
(in front of the old log on the ground).
There are two more stems with buds (further back)
Another shot of the habitat
One plant still has buds, the other is just opening.

Unlike the previous species of Potato Orchid, these ones are Gastrodia sesamoides. I have seen these plants previously, but not really studied them until asked by Alan Stephenson to examine reports of Gastrodia procera in Kangaloon. (Oh, I get it - two species of Potato Orchid, in the local area, not one, eh? I had never noticed the differences.)
The first thing to note is the height.
This plant was 75 cm high (pocket height)
but the others nearby
(and there are nearly always others in this species)
were all much shorter than that - less than knee height.
The second thing to note is the shape of the flower.
The tubular part of the flower (the perianth)
is considerably wider than the flared opening of the flower.
That fact is more evident in the previous photo
where you can see the flower is hanging nearly vertically.
Here is a "portrait" shot
In order to show the two species in comparison,
I have merged the two best shots I have taken this season.
I cannot guarantee the "scale" of the two separate plant images,
but the proportions of the flower on the right (G, sesamoides)
are clearly plumper than the one on the left (G. procera).
The other thing I notice is that the petals of the flower on the left
are more reflexed.
However, I would want to have more flowers to compare
before I declare that to be a "hard and fast rule".

These plants have flowered three weeks later than the first flowers.
But there is an altitude and habitat difference, which might explain the delayed flowering. But these plants (today) are consistent, for I first saw them flower on 15 December 2005.
Very close to the same time, some 5 years ago.

Strange, weird flowers, these Potato Orchids, but they do have a certain charm.

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