Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Acianthella Orchids found at Gerroa.- update - Identity confirmed

A contact of Alan Stephenson's, Matthew, first discovered these plants last year, while working on "bush regen" work in the sand dunes in the Littoral Forest at Gerroa. Alan and I saw some of these plants last year, but the flowers had finished. I reported on the plants, with seed capsules present, on 15 June last year (much later than this year). That tells you something about the strange seasons we have been experiencing over the last few years.

Matthew contacted Alan yesterday to say that they were in flower again, (in fact mostly they had finished). But we went there today, met Matthew and took some photos of a few open flowers.

Front on view of Acianthella at Gerroa today.
Side on view of the Acianthella flower at Gerroa
The flower structure is clearly similar to
Acianthus exsertus
The whole plant is only about 2 inches high (about 50 mm) and the flower is less than 3mm across (slightly larger than a match-head). The front-on image when viewed at maximum pixels (as uploaded here) is about 50 times larger than the original flower.

That cropped image allows one to see the fine details of the flower, which is green except for the slightly rude looking pink cap of the anther (the male reproductive part of the flower). There is nothing subtle about Orchids!

These plants are presumably self-pollinating (at least David Jones's Big Book says so).

Plants growing in leaf litter on Littoral Sand Dunes
(2 plants circled in red)
Click to enlarge.

The shot of 2 plants growing amongst the leaf litter (circled in red) shows them at more or less real size (if viewed at full pixel size), if you are viewing this on a computer (smaller if seen on an I Pad).

The side-on view shows more clearly the structure of the flower which is clearly closely related to the more familiar Acianthus exsertus . The leaves are different though, much softer and not reddish underneath, and shaped almost like a "Club" (as in a pack of playing cards). The leaves are held above the ground (as is Acianthus). 
The tiny size of the flower is what surprised me most. At least Acianthus can be clearly examined with an un-aided eye. Not so these things. I had to use the camera, take a shot and then examine the image, to know if the flower was even properly open.

On the balance of probabilities, these plants are likely to be Acianthella amplexicaulis. I say this as, despite the difference in geographical range from what has previously been reported for that species, the photos I took look very similar to the ones Colin and Mischa Rowan have photographed. But their website does not show a location for their plants.

In that case this is still an important records, as a major extension of range - as previous records apparently are all north from the Hawkesbury estuary.
Thanks to Matthew and Alan for showing me these plants.


UPDATE 10 April 2013

Alan Stephenson has advised:

Have just spoken with Mark Clements and the orchid is definitely Acianthella amplexicaulis. This means it is not a new species but an extension of range of about 250 km and Mark was very pleased to get the samples. 
Thanks to Mathew for the find, as it is important.



That confirms my impression of the similarity of my images of these Orchids with those of Colin and Mischa, and of Bruce.

Good to have the ID confirmed, none-the-less, given the extension of range involved.

Once again, good work by Matthew in spotting these tiny things in the first place and in reporting them to Alan Stephenson. Thanks also to Mark Clements for the positive ID of the specimens.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nowra weekend with Canberra Native Plant people

I stayed at Alan and Michelle's place on Friday evening, in readiness for meeting up with Roger and Christine and the rest of the travelling group from Canberra Australian Native Plant group who had come to Nowra for the weekend.
Their plan was to start with Bomaderry Creek Nature Reserve, and then move on to other areas in the Shoalhaven region.
Naturally we showed them lots of tiny Orchids, some almost invisible.
I have posted a Picasa album, which is open to the public.

Probably the most unusual image is a photo of a newly described and named species of Banksia from Vincentia. Apparently this plant has recently been formally described and named by Peter Weston, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. He is a recognised expert on Proteaceae. In all probability this is the first internet published image of this newly described and named species.
Banksia vincentia

Leaves of Banksia vincentia
This is a tiny, aberrant form of "Speculantha sp. aff parviflora" - one of the Tiny Greenhoods. Normally these plants are about 100 mm (4 inches) high, to 250mm for tall specimens. This plant was only 30mm in total height.The 5 cent coin is there for scale, to show how tiny the whole plant was.
Speculantha - a tiny "alba form".
A vary rare variation from the normal forms
which are found in the Shoalhaven.
There are many other photos of tiny Orchids, mostly Corunastylis species which were seen on this weekend.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

White-headed Pigeons arrive to feast on Privet seeds.

I drive past this plant several times a day, so I knew it was heavily in fruit. But the seeds are not yet ripe (they go black when ripe - but as you can see the seeds are still green.) So consider my surprise when this evening (low light conditions which explains the poor images) I came around the corner and saw at least a dozen White-headed Pigeons peering at me from this Small-leaved Privet bush (Ligustrum sinense)

White-headed Pigeons
on Small-leaved Privet
These Pigeons are a seasonal visitor to Robertson. Usually their arrival coincides with the fruiting of the local Lilly Pillies (Acmena smithii). But this year, their fruits are not yet ripe, just getting ready. But then again, so are these Privet seeds.
These Pigeons apparently like to get in early.

Female (grey head) facing camera.
Others with pure white heads are males,
But they are not co-operating.

Female flying off  (black wings visible)
Male bird's head now clearly visible.
Pure white head.


And now for something completely different.
This is the Ladies Tresses Orchid, Spiranthes australis.
My father, who was the only male child in his family, but who had 5 sisters, was very experienced in doing "French Plaits" for his sisters. These plants remind me of his stories of plaiting his sisters' hair.

Spiranthes australis
I have written about these plants previously, That particular plant had its spiral pattern going in the opposite direction to today's specimen.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Albino Magpie still going strong in Kangaloon

I wrote about this bird in January last year. Comments I received indicated that the bird was actually quite well known to the local residents of Kangaloon.

I have not seen it over the last year, until a week ago, I spotted a small white figure across the brown paddock where the grass has been sprayed prior to ploughing and planting - presumably in preparation for a new crop of Potatoes.

I saw it again today, as I drove down Kirkland Road, heading towards Tourist Road. It was on the far side fo the paddock.

Subsequently when I drove back up the road, the Albino Maggie had moved a lot closer.
Albino Magpie was now closer
A cropped image showing the bird quite clearly.
As albino birds are reputed to have a poor survival rate, I am publishing this to show this bird is still going strong.
It seems to always be on its own, despite the fact that the dairy and potato fields near by are well supplied with regular Magpies. Jill (one of the locals who commented last year) reported that this bird was very aggressive and in fact, seemed to chase regular Magpies away.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Waterfall Orchids in full flower now.

This late summer season (if that's what it can be called) is looking like a good season, (if somewhat compressed in flowering time).  Other local Orchid enthusiasts confirm this impression. Nothing happening two weeks ago, and suddenly there is a "rush" of flowering.
Waterfall Greenhood (Diplodium pulchellum)

After a very dry season through until the end of January, followed by torrential rain, then another dry spell, followed by yet another torrential dump of rain, the summer Orchids now have to rush to get their flowers opened, pollinated, and their seed capsules ripened, while the warm weather lasts.
Waterfall Greenhood (Diplodium pulchellum)
Today, my friend Kirsten and I inspected the "Waterfall Greenhoods" (Diplodium pulchellum) at one of the local Waterfalls. There is one in particular plant which has a terrific flower, and easy to access.
Kisten photographing the Waterfall Orchid up close

The others closer to the river are also going off.

And lots of non-flowering rosettes are evident, which bodes well for this colony for next year too.
Rosettes (leaves of non-flowering plants)
bodes well for next year, too.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"A Place Called Robertson" was launched tonight

The film "A Place Called Robertson" was launched tonight in the Empire Cinema, Bowral.
Tony Williams

Tony Williams introducing the film which he directed, and which he and his wife, Anna Hewgill made over the last 3 years.

Two cinemas filled with people, and at our showing, the audience was thrilled and delighted with the beauty, the wit and charming humour of this film.
The star of the film was "Robertson" itself, as presented by its people.
You can see a trailer of the film here:
Congratulations Tony and Anna.
(Click to see them both "in action" during the making of this film).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Late Summer Orchids are flowering their heads off.

We had a dry spring and summer, until it rained in late January (the result of a Tropical Cyclone washing down the NSW coast as am ex-cyclone). Locally, Carrington Falls had all but ceased to flow. Then it suddenly kicked back into gear. The groundwater is the important point here. Tiny Orchids need moisture in the soil, and if that is not there, the Orchids will not move.
I got 177 mm in 3 days in late January and 227 in 4 days in late February. The bush has bounced back.
And now the summer/autumn Orchids are blooming, whereas they were not even visible two weeks ago.

These little orchids, some as small as 50 cm (2 inches high) are often hard to find in the grass.
One tends to try to remember where they were last seen and to mark them with natural features, such as a couple of bits of broken tree branches, or small stones. Nothing too obvious, of course.
Corunastylis rufa
Red Midge Orchid.
Corunastylis fimbriata
Fringed Midge Orchid

Corunastylis sagittifera
Corunastylis densa

Speculantha parviflora
Tiny Greenhood - seeming the "Type"
of this confusing genus.
Brown form of Speculantha parviflora.
As yet not named as a separate species.
Close-up of brown form of
Speculantha parviflora (as yet un-named species)
Not the differences between this and the true species above.
  • gentle curved line of "sinus" (front of flower)
    it does not have the bulging front.
  • These flowers start out dark brown, almost black on top
  • They age to a brighter red colour on the hood.
    See this image of a tight group with old and fresh flowers
Lovely "Spiral Orchid"
Spiranthes australis
Nice triple-flowered specimen of
Eriochilus cucullatus
Close-up of Eriochilus cucullatus

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Robbo Show went on, despite cold rain.

It takes more than a bit of rain to stop the Robbo Show.

No doubt the "takings" will be down, but in general I can say that the Pavillion exhibits, (even the flowers which of course are the items most susceptible to weather problems) were of a very good standard. Many of the Arena events had to be cancelled - all the horse events were cancelled several days in advance on the basis of the need to ensure safety of riders and their mounts. They couldn't do otherwise, in my opinion. The Dairy Cattle judging took place, as normal.
Friday morning - no horse events on the Arena.
But,. fortunately, on Saturday morning, the weather was clear at 10:00am, when the Pet Competitions were on. The kids and their Pets were very pleased. Some of the other outside events continued, including the formal dog show (classes and judging). Sideshow Alley was in full swing, though no doubt they would be a bit disappointed with the weather keeping the "fun atmosphere" dampened down.
One of the Locals, with her award-winning pet Rat.

Over in the cattle Yard, the beef cattle were being displayed and judged.
Some of the other outdoor events, including the Dog Fence Jumping event were cancelled. I left once that cancellation was announced. That has allowed me to come home to dry out and warm up.
Sister Superior and her Soul Mate Dog

Everybody - it time to call it quits.
Too much of  a good thing is about to get ugly.

I didn't stay for the Demolition Derby, but no doubt it has gone ahead, despite potential damage to the playing surface of the Robertson Oval - because the local Rev Heads love the demolition derby - despite the mess it makes of the Oval.