Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spring Orchids on a sunny day.

 Well, thanks to everyone for their support in organising a sunny day yesterday, for our Orchid tour.
A very pleasant day was had by all.
Confusing, as ever when it comes to working out appropriate IDs for plants
some of which are extremely variable, as you will see.
We started out with the local show-piece Sarcochilus falcatus
Another nice clump of Sarcochilus falcatus.

We then moved down to Kangaloon and found these beauties just opening for the first time this season.
Sun Orchids refuse to open when it is not warm and sunny.
On advice from Colin I have edited several names.
Colin suggests this is Thelymitra x truncata
Thelymitra media - a nice tall, strong Sun Orchid.
 Here is one of the tiny Pink Sun Orchids which are very common locally.
These plants are notorious for opening only in warm sunny weather.
Thelymitra carnea - the Pink Sun Orchid
Next is another common Sun Orchid, the Slender Sun Orchid (Thelymitra pauciflora)
It is not a showy plant.
Pale colour, thin stem, relatively small flower.
Thelymitra pauciflora

Next we get into the hybrid Sun Orchids.
The following plants are all variants on a theme.
They are all descended from Thelymitra ixioides
but they show the parentage of the tiny pink "carnea" as well.
Sun Orchids are notoriously susceptible to hybridisation
as they tend to open at the same time, 
in close proximity to eachother.
The bees and other insects do the rest.
I thought this was Thelymitra x irregularis. But Colin disagrees
Colin thinks this is a pink colour form, of Thel. ixioides
This final plant is a large floppy flower, with some spots, a lilac colour.
But it is the different tip of the column which is most distinctive.

The Sun Orchid which we really wanted to see - Thelymitra kangaloonica - an endangered species known to grow in Butler's Swamp, Kangaloon, was not yet properly open. We found a few in bud, but not nearly as many as last year. Presumably this is down to seasonal variations. 

I have posted an album from yesterday with many more species in flower than in this Blog (because it would take far to long to present and to read through. You can have a quick look, and select certain flowers to look at, if you wish, by going to my Picasa Album for yesterday's outing,  which is now open to public viewing.
It includes three species of Beard Orchids, Flying Duck Orchid, lots of Stegostylas (Caladenia type plants) and a Potato Orchid. It also has photos of another local plant, which is an as-yet un-named Leek Orchid.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lets hope for a sunny morning in Kangaloon, tomorrow

Let us hope that tonight's sunset is a prelude to a warm sunny morning.
Sunset from my back deck tonight
Tomorrow morning we have approval for the annual ANOS visit to Kangaloon, to check out the Orchids growing there, which are protected from view by virtue of living within the Special Area of the Sydney Catchment Authority..

The SCA has granted ANOS Illawarra approval, for tomorrow, to enter the "Special Area" at Kangaloon. Naturally we will be very careful to not harm anything in this precious area.

I wish the same could be said about Apex Energy, at Darkes Forest, near Helensburgh.

Anyway, here are some images of a few of the Sun Orchids which might be visible to us, tomorrow, providing the weather is sunny. Sun Orchids earn their name, of course, by opening up only on sunny mornings.

Pink Sun Orchid, Thelymitra carnea.
Slender Sun Orchid - Thelymitra pauciflora

Spotted Sun Orchid - Thelymitra ixioides
So, let hope tomorrow is kind to us - SUNNY.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hot weather burst finished some Orchids, kick started others

After three weeks of cold weather, with the Sun Orchids sitting there refusing to open, suddenly we got a burst of hot weather (27.9 C max). Two things happened (well three really) - my Peonies got burnt off (but I'm not going to talk further about them now), and then the little pink Caladenia type things nearly all shrivelled up, and in response to hot weather (which suits them) the Sun  Orchids, Beard Orchids and Flying Duck Orchids all popped open. So, it is a case of win some, lose some.

Firstly, the most prolific Sun Orchid which is found along Tourist Road 
The Spotted Sun Orchid - Thelymitra ixioides
The Spotted Sun Orchid - Thelymitra ixioides var ixioides.

Here is another example - a Spotted Sun Orchid with hardly any spots.
Thelymitra ixioides - a form with few spots
This flower is brand new, and the "column" has not yet fully developed.
It was just expanding, in the warm weather.
A newly opened Thelymitra ixioides
As a matter of record, these are the very first of this species of Sun Orchid to open, in Kangaloon, on 24 October 2011. The same species was rampantly in flower in Nowra, on 28 August, when I went down there with Alan Stephenson, to check out the Depot Road powerline easement - (an equally great spot for Orchids as Tourist Road, Kangaloon).
  • Similar habitat - both are slashed grasslands on sandstone base soil.
  • Different altitude - approx 60 metres in the Nowra case, and approximately 600 metres in the case of Kangaloon.
  • Difference in flowering time: 7 weeks delayed flowering - owing to the altitude and cooler climate.
The next "new season" Orchids to open in the heat were these Leek Orchids. This is an as-yet un-named species of Prasophyllum. The closest species is probably Prasophyllum fuscum, which means I can safely refer to this one as "Prasophyllum sp. aff. fuscum".
Prasophyllum sp. aff. fuscum

And finally (for tonight's Blog post) here is the Flying Duck Orchid - Caleana major. Once again, this is the first of this species to open in Kangaloon this year. I saw one last weekend, at Dharawal State Conservation area, but that is lower and more coastal. So, that time difference is not surprising.
Flying Duck Orchid - Caleana major
I love this weird little flower. it is my favourite "challenge" to the pro-Dawkins lobby, for Richard Dawkins is a keen supporter of the "Blind Watchmaker" view of evolution. I just cannot figure that something this cute, effective (and good looking) is the result of "randomness coupled with cumulative selection". But I stress I am not arguing for an "Intelligent Design" view of the origin of species. I am simply expressing my admiration for the result of some 60 million years of Evolution, in what I like to categorise as one of the marvels of the Nature of Robertson.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Beard Orchids (Calochilus sp)

The "Beardies" are coming into bloom.

This is the Red Beard Orchid, Calochilus paludosus.
Its specific name means "swamp-liking", as seemed appropriate for this specimen, which was growing amongst rushes on a "soak", high on Leebold Hill at Red Rock Reserve (top of Cambewarra Range), above Kangaroo Valley. But it can also be found on dry sandstone slopes in Kangaloon.

As these flowers mature (especially in warm weather) the dorsal sepals of this species will open virtually to a reflex position (almost lying flat - backwards).

All of these images might need to be clicked on, to enlarge them, to see the details.

Calochilus paludosus - Red Beard Orchid - side view

Calochilus paludosus - Red Beard Orchid - note the golden base of the labellum

This next species was previously known as Calochilus robertsonii, but has now been re-named.
Calochilus platychilus - Purple Beard Orchid
Calochilus platychilus - Purple Beard Orchid
Calochilus platychilus - low angle view to show the column details.
Calochilus paludodus showing the fully reflexed dorsal sepal
 This plant was photographed yesterday at Douglas Park,
above the Nepean River,
at the St Mary's Tower monastery..
It does also grow at Kangaloon and in Kangaroo Valley.
The third local species is the "Copper Beard Orchid" 
Calochilus campestris.
Calochilus campestris - note the large "nose" (the column)
Calochilus campestris has two dark, flattened plates high on the labellum

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dharawal State Conservation Area - full of flowers in Springtime

I have uploaded a  bunch of photos to my Facebook album "Spring Flowers of Dharawal State Conservation Area".
The link is:
I hope you can view it (Facebook says everyone can view this album). We shall see.
Gymea Lily - a magnificent head of flowers on 3 metre tall stem
Please let me know by commenting, if you cannot access the Album.

It has taken me hours to put this album together and to name all the plants, so I am too tired now, to do anything else, but to just paste in a few images here.
Calytrix tetragona - note the fine "awns" attached to the flower

Eriostemon australasicus - a lovely plant.

Thanks to Sharyn and her husband for guiding me around Dharawal SCA, today.
It is much appreciated.
A wonderful mini-waterfall - small creek flows over a large rock shelf.
Dharawal is a wonderful place, and warrants being converted to a National Park, as promised by the Premier Barry O'Farrell.

Some of the endangered Frog species in Dharawal breed in these rock pools
Please read the Press announcement by Kevin Evans, CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Its Springtime in Kangaloon

How quickly things change. Several weeks ago only the very early spring wildflowers were evident. Then we had a three-week cold snap and everything just seemed to stop.

There is now so much happening out in the Sandstone-based forest at Kangaloon, it is hard to keep up with what is going on. I might take as many as 250 photos in a few hours, of many beautiful native plants.

Some I take just to try to document the species of the region. Very few of these images make to to my Blog.

Some, like this one, do make it to the Blog,
for reasons of the odd things which they show us.
In this case, it is a non-perfect Waratah. 
As the Waratah flowers mature, they ripen sequentially,
from the base of the inflorescence.
The Rosellas know this, and as the flowers full with nectar, 
the Rosellas chew off  the sweet flowers
(but from the base of the inflorescence up).
The non-chewed flowers (at the top) are not yet "ripe".
That's what you can see in this image.
The white bits are the "stumps" of the flowers which have been chewed off.
Waratah - chewed by Rosellas
How do I know that?
Well here's the evidence.

Flowers of Waratah on ground under the plant - dropped by Rosellas
The sad thing is that this defeats the pollination process of the Waratahs.

While the local wild Waratahs are magnificently tasty (apparently), the Native Irises (Patersonias) are just flowering wildly (as long as it is a sunny morning).
small flowered Patersonia sp. in dry area, and in full sun
Large flowered, tall Patersonia sp. in moist forest.
By contrast, this is a tiny Orchid with a bronze colouration. 
It is very hard to find amongst the grass.
It is called "Stegostyla transitoria"
It is one of two "bronze-coloured Caladenias" in Kangaloon in flower at present.
Stegostyla transitoria (note the "warty"calli on the labellum)
a low angle view of Stegostyla transitoria
 A close-up view of the "warty" labellum of this species.
Stegostyla transitoria - close-up of flower

Monday, October 17, 2011

Petalochilus mentiens (aka, Caladenia mentiens) on Tourist Road

Two years ago (minus two days), I found Petalochilus mentiens (the "Lesser Fingers Orchid") on Tourist Road. Those flowers were more reddish than the flowers I found today. Apart from that, they are very very similar. These flowers are so tiny they really do earn their "lesser fingers" name. There is an other, equally small flower in Victoria, but it has a thicker stem, apparently, and some other fine differences. Petalochilus mentiens is well reported from the Bowral area, having been photographed in this area by Mark Clements.

I searched in vain for this species last year, and also several times already this season. Today I found them again.

My friends, Colin and Misha have photos of this species taken this year, near Narrandera, NSW. The season must start a bit earlier out on the Murrumbidgee plains than here in the Southern Highlands.

This tiny flower is taller than 
many Petalochilus fuscatus I have seen this year,
but the flowers are very much smaller.
Click on these images to enlarge them to see the details better.
Petalochilus mentiens - a tiny flowered "Finger Orchid"
 The 20 cent coin (for scale) is 28mm across
Petalochilus mentiens - with a 20 cent coin for scale.
Note the dark exterior of the flower and closely held (low) dorsal sepal.
Petalochilus mentiens - side view
  In this photo you can see 
the two lateral sepals (centre "fingers")
are very closely held. 
The botanists refer to them being fused at the base.
Petalochilus mentiens - note the protruding labellum tip

Petalochilus mentiens - amongst grass.
 This is what I mean by being a tiny flower.
This is the tip of my little finger for scale.
I took this shot before I found I had a coin with me.
Measuring my little fingernail, as I write,
I make it to be 9.5mm long and 9mm wide.
Petalochilus mentiens - with my little fingernail for scale
A better shot (for scale) of Petalochilus mentiens

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Seacliff Bridge March for Stop CSG Illawarra

This is a follow-up to my post of yesterday 
for Blog Action Day

I have posted a set of images of the  
Seacliff Bridge March 16 Oct. 2011 Stop CSG Illawarra. 
You can find them at this link to my Picasa Album.

It was a great day, and a wonderful sense of community.
And what a location.
Plus the walk took us past "Coal Cliff"
Illawarra escarpment - looking north from Leeder Park, Coalcliff
 Congratulations to the organisers of the march, the Stop CSG Illawarra group.

 I spoke with this lady and her brother about the Green Eureka Flag.
I had heard about this flag from Anne Kennedy
who knows the young designer of this flag
Benjamin Wild.
The lady was keen to talk about it
as she told me she was the very first person to buy this flag
"My order was No 1 on the list", she said proudly.
Lots of familiar Water campaigners, 
and Rivers SOS people, anti-CSG mining campaigners, 
and many, many children and dogs there supporting the cause.
They're the hope of the future (well, the kids anyway).
Clr Greg Petty, and his wife and Kim with Shoo Cockatoo Banners
Part of the march on the Seacliff Bridge
Enthusiastic abseilers effect the "Banner Drop"
The crowd walking up towards the end of the March
Mal from The Wilderness Society, one of the Drummers
Congratulations to the Lord Mayor of Wollongong, Gordon Bradbury, 
and the Councillors who have supported this cause.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury and Councillors supporting the Rally
And congratulations to the Police and Ambulance and Fire Brigade and RFS officers who have managed the crowd and traffic control superbly, and demonstrated community solidarity beautifully.

Coalcliff - History
The name Coalcliff originated in 1797 when three survivors of a wreck set out to walk to Sydney. They found coal here and used it to light a fire for warmth. After they were rescued they reported the presence of coal and Governor Hunter sent George Bass to investigate. Bass found several seams that extended for some distance and conjectured that they might extend throughout the range.
You can read more of the history of this place here.

coal visible at the base of "Coal Cliff" - from Seacliff Bridge.