Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ANOS trip to Bullio

I have uploaded a Picasa Album to enable easy viewing of the main Orchids and a few other plants and an unusual Moth, we saw today, at Ken and Leonie's place today.

A close-up of Ken's plant
Oligochaetochilus hamatus
(formerly Pterostylis hamata)
 We found this delightful "Red Passionflower"
Another plant I have not seen before.
Passiflora cinnabarina
However, I must commend Daniel for showing me a small group of Cyrtostylis reniformis a plant which I had never seen before, and one which I had hoped to find at Black Mountain, in Canberra last week. Success at last. Tiny little plants, barely visible amongst the grass and ferns on the side of a steep hill. Thanks Daniel.
Cyrtostylis reniformis
The tiny little Gnat Orchid
Hard to see, even harder to find.
The other plant I was thrilled to see was Oligochaetochilus hamatus (formerly Pterostylis hamata).Ken has grown this plant (which I used to get the first couple of close-up shots) but I was tickled pink to see this plant in full flower "in the wild".
Oligochaetochilus hamatus
(formerly Pterostylis hamata)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spikes - big and small - at Bungonia

It hardly seems fair to combine an Orchid and an Echidna, but both live at Bungonia and both have spikes on them - so there you go.

I had been to Canberra to check out some of the Orchids on Black Mountain (which I shall reveal more in due course). Then I went back to stay with Martin and Frances at Carwoola (between Queanbeyan and Captains Flat). That left me the opportunity to visit Bungonia Nature Reserve on the way back to Robertson.

Apart from the issue of duelling with some crazed 4WD drivers (blokes in Big Utes and Camper-trailers on behind) who were driving too fast for the conditions of the country roads we were "sharing". I find the word "sharing" inappropriate as I had to escape to the dirt on several occasions, as I passed these large vehicles which were "hogging" more of the road than seemed fair - to me. They were apparently reluctant to leave the narrow country-road strip of bitumen. My answer is DRIVE TO THE CONDITIONS). I assume there is some 4WD "event" on in the Canberra or Bungendore region this long weekend. I would hate to be sharing a camping ground with these guys if they don't calm down. So that's my first lot of "spikes" - spiky moods of 4WD drivers.


I got to Bungonia Nature Reserve and had a chat with the ever-helpful Ranger, Audrey.

Then I went off in search of any Orchids I might be able to find there. I have previously found an endemic Orchid, the unfortunately named Oligochaetochilus calceolus at Bungonia. It earns the specific name because of its preference for limestone-derived soils. Today's visit is somewhat earlier than the previous visit (when I had seen this species), and the country is (was) terribly dry. (It was starting to rain as I left). However I managed to find 3 plants with buds and one (only) plant with an open flower. It was a terribly small plant, with a stem with one open flower and another bud, and the stem was less than 100 mm high.

A "rufa-type" Greenhood
Oligochaetochilus calceolus
But the thing to note about this plant 
is the hard spikes on the labellum.
I assume they assist the plant with the movement sensitivity
which, as with all Greenhoods,
causes the "labellum" to snap closed
if an insect (or a casual photographer)
triggers the labellum.

The flower of Oligochaetochilus calceolus
Click on this image to enlarge it.
The spikes on the labellum helps distinguish
Oligochaetochilus calceolus

And now to the third of my "spiky" encounters today.

I saw an Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
crossing the road in front of me, 
just as I left the gates of Bungonia National Park today.

It crossed off the bitumen
and there was a patch of hard clay below the road.
It meant the Echidna felt exposed, and was not inclined to "dig in"
(which is the natural defence mechanism of the Echidna).
Click on these images to see better details.
I got close to this fellow and sat down.

It decided I might be a rock or something it could "hide under"

So it headed straight towards me, albeit very slowly.

Then it realised I was not a suitable hiding spot
and started to move around me.
It gave me a great chance to see the head fur.
This little Echidna was in great condition
and was not infected with Ticks
(Unlike many of its colleagues).
You can see the left front foot just visible below the nose.
That shows how strongly their legs move sideways as they walk.
But it has a great advantage when they are digging
as they "remove" debris out and to the side
allowing them to dig a hole beneath their body
so they appear to go straight down into the ground.
It moved to the edge of the roadside tree litter

It had to lift its nose over a small branch on the ground

Once it made it to the leaf litter (and softer soil beneath)
It immediately started digging itself down into the ground.
First place was not successful, so it moved a little further forward.
This was good enough for the Echidna
It was starting to burrow straight down through the leaf litter
and into the soil below.
Echidna's legs are set very wide and they scrape the soil outwards
so, effectively they just go straight down into the soil.
Their legs and claws are immensely powerful
and the tail is protected by a special clump of spines
to protect its weakest point
(the tail is at the lowest part of this image)

For those interested in the naming of the "Echidna" the original name comes from Greek Mythology:According to Wikipedia, "In Greek mythology, Echidna was half woman, half snake, known as the "Mother of All Monsters" because most of the monsters in Greek myth were mothered by her." So I think we can assume that the early naturalists were both puzzled and possibly repulsed by this creature.

Of course, from a scientific point of view, they are fascinating creatures, for not only are they "egg-laying mammals" (something they share with the Platypus). But Echidnas are claimed to be the "the oldest surviving mammal on the planet today". 

The generic name Tachyglossis means "rapid tongue". The specific name aculeatus means spiny. There is a CSIRO publication about the Echidna of which you can inspect a "sample" here.

I have been out in the bush for most of my life, but this was the healthiest Echidna I have ever examined, and certainly these are the best photos I have ever been able to take of an Echidna.


So, having got off to a bad start with my "spiky encounter" with some 4WD drivers, the day ended on a peaceful note, at Bungonia.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Orchids start earlier in Kangaroo Valley than Robbo

The orchids of Cambewarra Mountain and Kangaroo Valley are starting up. These plants flower about a month earlier than the same species, up on the Robertson Plateau. Some of these plants are nearly as high (in altitude) as Robertson. But Kangaroo Valley is in a "lens" and captures the sun and heats up. And Cambewarra Mountain is exposed to the milder coastal weather. So, either or both of those factors might explain what is going on here.

Sarcochilus falcatus - the Orange-blossom Orchid.
These are at Cambewarra Mountain.
Sarcochilus falcatus - the Orange-blossom Orchid.
Sarcochilus falcatus - the Orange-blossom Orchid.
Growing on the side of a Blackwood Wattle.

Dagger orchid clump clinging to the bark, and Rock Felt Ferns
Dockrillia pugioniformis

Dagger Orchid - as close as I can get to them.
Dockrillia pugioniformis
These Prasophyllum brevilabre were doing very well, in an area down in the lower end of the Kangaroo Valley where there had been a "burn-off" the previous season.

This accords with the reputation of many of these Leek Orchids as benefitting from  a burn-off. Given that I had just come from seeing a related plant (below) which was barely able to hold its flower stem together, I was impressed with how well these plants were doing. It tends to confirm the "do well after a fire" theory.
Prasophyllum brevilabreShort-lipped Leek orchid

Prasophyllum brevilabreShort-lipped Leek orchid

Prasophyllum brevilabreShort-lipped Leek orchid
These tall Leek Orchids were in very bad condition, reflecting the obvious dry season we are having here (south from Sydney). This plant stem had grown then snapped over. Others had shrivelled without opening any flowers. The only healthy plants I saw were several "smart" ones which had not attempted to flower. They were doing OK.
Prasophyllum elatum
Tall Leek Orchid
One thing to note, the Epiphytic Orchids of Upper Kangaroo Valley are not yet in flower. That includes the same species as here - Sarcochilus falcatus, and also the Dockrillia linguiformis

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Garden plants in Springtime - from Robbo

An assortment of garden plants from my garden and some others from friends gardens.
Spring is about to reach its floristic best in Robertson.

Waratah "Shady Lady Red"
This plant flowers prolifically>
Best seen in late afternoon light.

Waratah "Shady Lady Red"
Single flower

English Lawn Daisies
Bellis perennis
ON nature strip outside the Anglican Church

Bellis perennis - close up.

Malianthus major - bud

Melianthus major - flower head on tall stem
About 3 metres tall.

Red Rhododendron
growing in another garden (not mine)

Reticulata Camellia - hybrid
Possibly "Drama Girl"
(Photo taken courtesy of Pam)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Better views of new Orchids (for me)

I know I sound like a train spotter, but it is always good to find 5 Orchid species one has never seen before - all on the one weekend. The Central West of NSW is going off at present - well, at least the rocky bits.

The non-rocky bits are mostly being farmed very intensively, with canola fields of golden yellow and wheat crops of dark green just about everywhere from Young to West Wyalong, and back to Temora, Grenfell and Cowra.

Weddin Mountains seen across a field of Canola.

And for the Nature Lovers
A very find Swamp Wallaby
a big male, on Weddin Mountains trail.
At West Wyalong this paddock is not being cultivated.
But it is full of colour.
Low clumping wattle bushes.
Not yet sure of the species.
Very beautiful though.
An amazing weekend away.

Here are the new species and several nice ones, but not exactly "new" to me - with better images than on the Picasa site. That's simply a question of available time. 

Bunochilus macrosepalus
Broad-sepalled Leafy Greenhood
at Conimbla National Park
side view of Bunochilus macrosepalus
Broad-sepalled Leafy Greenhood

Bunochilus macrosepalus
Broad-sepalled Leafy Greenhood
with labellum in closed (triggered) position

Bunochilus macrosepalus
Broad-sepalled Leafy Greenhood
Close-up of labellum.
Very different in details from
my regular local plant Bun. longifolius

Bunochilus stenosepalus
Narrow-sepalled Leafy Greenhood.
Green labellum
Very narrow lateral sepals
(that is the flap below the labellum)

Side view of Bunochilus stenosepalus
Narrow-sepalled Leafy Greenhood.
Green labellum
Bunochilus stenosepalus
Narrow-sepalled Leafy Greenhood.
Close-up of green labellum
Diuris goonooensis
Western Doubletailed Orchid
A very variable species
This one has much red on the labellum
and lacks the wide lateral lobes either side of the labellum
Compare with the next two examples.
Diuris goonooensis
Western Doubletailed Orchid
A very variable species
This one has very  wide lateral lobes
either side of the labellum

Diuris goonooensis
Western Doubletailed Orchid
A very variable species
This one has neat lateral lobes
either side of the labellum

Diuris goonooensis
Western Doubletailed Orchid
A very variable species
Seen from the side, to show the crossed "legs"
(They are "Lateral Sepals" technically)

Cyanicula caerulea
"Blue Fingers"
Cyanicula caerulea
"Blue Fingers"
Side view of this lovely Orchid.
There were hundreds of them at Holy Camp trail
Weddin Mountains

Hymenochilus muticus
one of several species of Midget Greenhood
These were growing on a dry mullock heap
on exposed gravel in an abandoned gold mine.
They were a mere 100 mm (4 inches) high.
It is related to Hymenochilus bicolor
which grows in very different country, at Albion Park.
Linguella clavigera
Hairy Snail Orchid
This tiny Greenhood was also growing
on the old gold diggings>
But I also saw it at Weddin Mtns, Conimbla
and between Cowra and Crookwell (at Bigga)

A terrible photo,
but it was the only Spider Orchid I found
Possibly Arachnorchis phaeoclavia