Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, November 04, 2011

Tall Potato Orchid reappears in the forest

We found a single plant of this species, the Tall Potato Orchid, (Gastrodia procera), last weekend, but it was still in tight bud. Today I managed to find a few more plants.

One plant had been decisively beheaded by one of our local Marsupial friends, no doubt. Wombat signs are very evident in the area, so let's assume one of them to be the guilty party. I have previously seen identical damage with local Hyacinth Orchids - another plant with similar saprophytic habits.
Assumed Wombat damage - a stem completely nipped in half.
This plant seems to grow in association with decaying vegetable matter, of which there is no shortage down in the Eucalypt forest. They are classed as being saprophytic - forming a relationship with a fungus which is breaking down the residual plant material in the dead trees.

Strangely, the remaining plants (not eaten by Wombats) were all slightly deformed - in one case at least, because of insect attack.
Green adult Aphids and swarms of white nymphs
 This is what the plants look like, on the forest floor.
 This flower is held upside down, 
but that is normal for this species.
Gastrodia procera - Tall Potato Orchid
Here is my finger to give a sense of scale.
These flowers are smaller and thinner than the other local species.
Here is a Beetle on another plant. 
Unfortunately I didn't notice the Beetle at the time, 
or I would have gone in for a better shot.
Beetle on the top Orchid flower.

Gastrodia procera - with flowers hanging naturally
Note the recently fallen timber in the background.
These branches are potential food for generations of Orchids to come
as they are classed as saprophytes - living in relation with fungi living off decaying plant matter.
Gastrodia procera - You can see the thin, tall flower stem.

Gastrodia procera flower in situ, with finger for scale.
Note the closed tip of the perianth of this flower.
It is likely that it has closed after pollination by an insect.
The same flower as above turned over to show closed tube.
I wrote about this species last year - from plants found in the same area.
I subsequently wrote a comparative report on the other local species, Gastrodia sesamoides (the so-called Cinnamon Bells Orchid). That plant is less tall than this one, and has chubbier flowers.


Le Loup said...

Do you know how it got it's name?
Armidale NSW.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Keith

Yes, I've never seen the tuber, but an early explorer tried some, with Aboriginal people in Victoria. He was not impressed, but he didn't starve either. Lived to tell the tale.



catmint said...

so wonderful to see this as part of a complex and sustainable ecosystem.

Denis Wilson said...

Good point, Catmint.
Everything is being recycled out in the forest.
And some species like this, take advantage of that converted energy.