Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, January 17, 2011

A tiny purple Midge Orchid - Corunastylis densa

Yesterday, Chris Ross kindly took me around some of my local favourite spots, looking for any new season Orchids. The Prasophyllum flava were still in flower (but fading fast).
However, down on Tourist Road we went checking for any early flowering Corunastylis (Midge Orchids). There was no sign of the tall C. apostasioides which are known to grow in that area. 
But Chris did spot a tiny little purple-flowered Corunastylis.
Corunastylis densa - as it appears on the bare ground
I kid you not, it was barely more than an inch and a half high (30mm). I assume it will grow a bit higher as it matures.
Corunastylis densa
Anyway, I checked Colin's Retired Aussies site, and selected his images of C. densa as the best match for my flowers. I emailed Colin for his opinion and he came straight back and confirmed C. densa.
It's a C. densa - the little yellow dots are a dead giveaway.
The Petal glands are only on this orchid.
Where did you find it?
We found some out on the Mt Wilson Rd.
Corunastylis densa - a first for me.
I have seen (in other years) other purple Corunastylis here, but much taller, and with hairy labellum, unlike this one. This one is a first for me, and for this area I suspect. Unfortunately, PlantNET does not recognise C. densa.
I have now dug out my copy of David Jones's Orchid Book, and Corunastylis densa is listed from "Point Lookout" (which is near Ebor, in New England district), to Tinderry Mtns (north-east from Cooma). The photo is credited to Ron Tunstall, taken at Woronora Dam, so that covers the Illawarra Plateau, I guess.
Jones puts it in his Group 5 (only 3 species) - within Corunastylis - all of which have these little glands. Click on the next image to enlarge it.

C. densa - note the little yellow dots (glands) (Click to enlarge)
The recognition notes say: "lateral sepals and petals with small white apical gland". The other two species with these glands are restricted to Vic (Tas???) for C. nudiscapa; and s-e Qld for C. conferta. (Special note for Mick - this latter species (similar to mine) - is one Orchid which occurs in your area - Fraser Island to Runaway Bay - in heathland on stabilised dunes on white sand). That species flowers February to May. 
So, given the distribution limits of C. densa and the other related species, that confirms Colin's point about the little yellow dots being a dead give-away. In other words, with those little glands, and occurring here, it can only be C. densa.
Thanks to Chris Ross and Colin Rowan.


mick said...

That orchid is so tiny and so beautiful! Thanks for putting the coin in the photo for an idea of size. Interesting that a similar species is found up this way. You make me want to get out asap and look for it -BUT- the ground will need to dry out a lot before that. My lawn has dried - and I've mowed it!! - but there are still big puddles beside all the low lying roads.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick.
Yeah, don't get bogged in muddy tracks looking for these tiny things.
I remember that you have a friend who knows about Orchids and the Wallum scrub you have there. But this one seems to be almost a dune creature.
Anyway, it is called Corunastylis conferta, or Genoplesium confertum if they use the old names. In English it is the "Crowded Midge Orchid".
Worthwhile asking around amongst the plant people.

Gaye said...

Hello Denis,

the summer orchids you are turning up are amazing - well done.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Gaye.
I am a bit surprised myself. Normally I expect a slow down over the summer (apart from Hyacinth Orchids).
But this year, I keep finding things.
I guess the answer is to not stop looking!
Assume nothing.
How is the Pilliga ?
I'll bet the birds are nesting furiously with the season being like it is - lots of insect food for chicks.