Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Helmet Orchids" - Corybas aconitiflorus

Corybas aconitiflorus "Spurred Helmet Orchid". 
These plants are just starting to flower here in the Southern Highlands.

I didn't find any of these plants in flower last year (even though I know of many localities where the plants grow), but I stumbled across these little guys more or less by accident several days ago, when going in search of the Hunchback Orchids at Manning Lookout.

These plants were growing right beside one of the tracks there which still leads to a now-closed-off "lookout" point. Its a bit like following a "Wombat Track" trying to push your way through the dense shrubbery. to get there, but stone steps cut into the rock, in some sections of the track clearly indicate the presence of an old track.

Corybas aconitiflorus - 5 cent coin for scale.
The 5 cent coin is the smallest coin in circulation, in Australia, these days. It is 19 mm in diameter, or 3/4 of an inch across. Clearly it is larger than the leaves of these plants.

There is some colour variation evident here, but I have seen these plants with dark red flowers. Today's colours are quite "normal" for this species, here in the Southern Highlands.
Corybas aconitiflorus
I like the look of this next particular flower. A bronzed look being a combination of the base colour green, and the red veining.

If you look underneath this flower, 
you will see the tiny "spurs" against the stem. 
Click to enlarge the image.
Corybas aconitiflorus
Corybas leaves are visible for much of the year (not permanently, however). They are notorious for being "shy to flower". In some circumstances one can find these leaves densely carpeting the ground, without finding a single flower. In that case, make a mental note of the place and the date, and come back next year. 

When they are starting to flower, they will show a minute bud from the short stem below the flat leaf, appearing to emerge from the "notch" in the heart-shaped (cordate) leaf. Although sometimes described as "rounded", these leaves are always eccentric, with the stem on one side of the leaf (not in the middle of the leaf).

The underneath of these leaves is normally a dull purplish colour. But they can be distinguished from the similar-looking leaves of Acianthus, by the fact that these plants have their leaves lying virtually flat on the ground. By contrast, Acianthus plants, which also have flat leaves, usually hold their leaves actually sitting above other small plants or grass leaves on a short stem, perhaps 2 cms tall. Normally one can easily slide one's finger below the Acianthus leaf, whereas to do that with Corybas leaf one has to "lift the leaf up".


mick said...

Beautiful and so very tiny, Denis. I am in awe at the way you even find such tiny plants among the leaf litter - especially if the track was as overgrown as you describe.

Mac_fromAustralia said...

I'm amazed at how you find them too. Looking at the third photo enlarged, I found myself thinking it's like a jewel, not the biggest or the brightest, but exquisite anyway.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mac.
My finding of things like Ground Orchids is not all that surprising. But it does mean I never see any Koalas!
And, yes, the 3rd flower is lovely. Subdued, but sweetly marked.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick for your comments.

Anonymous said...

I have also come across these lovely orchids which are now flowering on the Nature Trail in the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden. Several other small native orchid species grow in the same area of the Garden.