Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, December 20, 2010

Small Flying Duck Orchid

This is both a descriptive title and the "proper name" of an unusual Orchid which I saw when on a trip to Lithgow with the RiversSOS people. I have previously reported on several other rare plants I saw on that trip - Grevillea acanthifolia and also the Pagoda Rock Daisy.

What I was not able to adequately report at the time was that Louise, from the Lithgow Environment Group, who I was with on that wet and soggy tour of cracked cliff edges and the Pagodas, mentioned that she had spotted some "small Orchids - about 3 inches high". I immediately leapt out of the car, to go back with her, as I knew that it was way past the flowering season of most small Orchids, such as the "Caladenias". So any Orchid in flower up there which was as small as she said was likely to be "unusual".

My mistake was to not take my "Macro Lens" with me, so the images I managed to take through the fogged-up camera lens, while peering through my rain-spotted glasses, were barely recognisable. But I could see that in fact they were of the "Small Flying Duck Orchid". Sullivania minor (formerly Paracaleana minor).

That is a plant I had never seen before.

Since that weekend, I have been tied up with building work, and then it has been raining heavily. The site was on a really awkward-to-access Forestry Trail on the hills beyond Lithgow, and the road was bad enough in reasonable weather, but it has been bucketing down frequently since that weekend. So, I did not trust my energy levels, and my navigation skills, and Mud-Bashing driving technique enough to make the trip back to Lithgow (about 4 hours from Robertson). So I had made the resolve to "get back there another year, in late November".

Well, fortunately, Chris Jonkers (from Lithgow) who was leading that Rivers SOS tour that wet afternoon, has managed to get back to the exact spot where Louise saw those little orchids and has kindly sent me some images. I know he tried at least once without finding these Small Flying Duck Orchids, but he did find some of the regular (and much taller) "Flying Duck Orchids". In the process of that trip, Chris clearly got a drenching for his troubles. But he went back yet again to find the spot Louise had told him about - this time with success.

Several days ago Chris sent me these photos.

Small Flying Duck Orchid 
(Image courtesy Chris Jonkers)
Sullivania minor (Image C. Jonkers)
 Small Flying Duck Orchid
Head down (triggered closed)
Sullivania minor (Image C. Jonkers)
Those two images serve to show the similarities and some differences between this species and the regular Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana major).

Caleana major holds the "wings" back
and its entire flower is poised more vertically.
The "head" is well rounded, and smooth in texture.
Flying Duck Orchid - Caleana major
Photo: Denis Wilson
 By contrast, the Small Flying Duck Orchid 
holds the "wings" down beside the flower
and the head is distinctly "warty".
I should mention that the body is green
and of course, there is the matter of the height.
Sullivania minor (Image C. Jonkers)
This Species is a mere 100 mm high, whereas the regular Flying Duck Orchid stands about four times as tall as that (350 mm to 400 mm approx.)

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