Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, March 19, 2012

Schools of Prawns - on top of the Shoalhaven Escarpment

I went bush with Alan Stephenson on Sunday.
He wanted to check on a Corunastylis he had seen in an earlier year, about which there was some confusion of identity. We did not find any of those particular plants, so that mystery remains. However, we did find lots of other plants of interest. Today I shall start a series of reports.

We went initially to the top of the Shoalhaven Escarpment (on Main Road 92) - above Sassafras, on the way towards Nerriga. We stopped at the highest point of this range, before the road descends to the Endrick River. That place is 780 metres above sea level - the highest point on that road.

We went there looking for the rare Corunastylis superba. Alan and I had examined this known site - looking for these Orchids - on 2 February 2012, and there was no sign of these plants - no leaves visible at all (and yes, we did know where to look). On Sunday, we found four plants - one had finished and set some seeds already, and one was just finishing flowering (see attached image).

Corunastylis superba
just finishing flowering

It is interesting that these plants had grown, and finished flowering in the six weeks between our visits. There were also several other plants with leaves recognisable as Corunastylis plants.

On the way to that site, we had called in to another area of exposed sandstone rock-shelves which is known to be good for Orchids.
As soon as we arrived at the rock-shelves, I spotted some "Little Dumpies" (Diplodium truncatum).
(Diplodium truncatum)
Almost immediately, we then found ourselves amongst some of the gorgeous little Greenhoods known as "Prawn Orchids" (Crangonorchis pedoglossa). This particular plant was a stand-out with the extremely fine point to the "dorsal sepal".
Such a long tip on
the Prawn Orchid
We later called in to another place where these Prawn Orchids are also known to occur, and much to our delight, they were obviously having a great season (the rainfall has been pretty remarkable, as you may well be aware). The moss beds over the rock shelves were totally soaked, and water was leaking out freely from these moss beds.

As these Prawn Orchids are small plants, photographed in a colony, from a distance (to allow me to get them all in the one photographic frame) you will need to click to enlarge the following images to make much sense of them.

I had never seen such a group of
Prawn Orchids.
A veritable "School of Prawns"
or a School of Prawn Orchids,
if you are pedantic.
And no sooner had we discovered
the first big colony,
than we found an even bigger and better colony.

These are tiny little plants, but such a great colony is remarkable.
There were over 30 plants in frame and even more close by.

And they were also growing out in the open (not under the low shrubbery as per normal).


Flabmeister said...


I look forward to the rest of the series. From past sporting endeavours I recall that soggy moss on sandstone has a frictional coefficient close to zero. I hope you didn't get to test the resilience of your new hip!


mick said...

Very clever title! and of course the little flowers are beautiful.

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Mick and Martin for your comments.
Yes Martin, the issue of the effect of gravity was paramount on my mind and my hip's mind. And by the way, repaired hips do have their own memories of pain!.
For Mick and others who do not know the second site, the good news is the best displays were in fact on the lower slopes of a very steep, rocky outcrop. But Martin's memory is right. A 60 degree slope, with rock covered with tiny fragments of loose, broken-off fragments lying over hard rock, is like trying to walk over ball-bearings.
I was very uncomfortable up on the slope, but once we came down it was sheer joy to find these beautiful colonies of plants on much safer levels of rock.
The rest of the trip was safe.