Thursday, 30 October 2014

Sun Orchids

Trim Sun Orchid Thalymitra peniculata 

The current warm and sunny Spring seems to be suiting the local orchids as there are thousands of them in flower in the woodlands around Canberra at the moment. The shy Sun Orchids are the species that I have particularly noticed this year on Black Mountain. This is a great place for orchids in number and variety with about sixty orchid species recorded in the woodlands there. I don't go out looking for them especially, I simply notice them while in the woods looking for Tawny Frogmouths, my main study species here in Australia.

Trim Sun Orchid in woodland habitat

Some orchids grow in small colonies, however the Sun Orchids are usually found singly and as they are slow to open their flowers every day, and only if the sun is bright, they can be easily missed. The tallest of these plants was the Trim Sun Orchid which stood erect at about 40cm, which was just about the same as the surrounding grasses so it was well concealed until it opened up and displayed its bright purple-blue petals.

Large-spotted Sun Orchid Thelymitra juncifolia

The most difficult to find species of those shown here was the Large-spotted Sun Orchid as they were growing in partially shadowed woodland, where the dappled light hid them in the partial shadows - always tricky conditions for our eyes to detect anything due to the loss of detail in the contrasting light.

Large-spotted Sun Orchid on forest floor

The one species I found out in the open grassland on the edge of the forest was the Slender Sun Orchid, the smallest of those here with a flower only 15mm wide. They were growing in quite tight flower spikes and reminded me in their form and soft hue of alpine gentian species.

Slender Sun Orchid Thelymitra pauciflora 

I might have found these orchids difficult to find but the local herbivores seemed to find them alright. There are Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Swamp wallabies and  rabbits all in there munching away. When I passed through the area a few days later, the flowers were gone, the plants were gone. So they weren't just not open or gone to form seed and even more tricky to find, they had been eaten. What a beautiful meal.

Slender Sun Orchid plant in grassland

I thank Dennis Wilson for help with identifying these orchids, he is always so patient with me.

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