So the days are getting colder and the light is getting dimmer. Many outdoor adventurers may be thinking ‘not much in flower’. But take care along those walking tracks and always remember to look before you tread because chances are, given the time of year, you might be squashing a Pterostylis or even a small Corysanthes.
While spring and summer are months of veritable orchid smorges boards, there are a couple of brave species that start flowering during the colder winter months.
Pterostylis is a genus that is widespread around southeastern Australia and many of the species flower from autumn through to summer. The common name ‘Greenhoods’ reflects their general floral morphology. The dorsal sepal and lateral petals fuse to form a hood like floral structure, which usually shelters the labellum (a modified petal). All the reproductive bits (stigma and anthers) are tucked up inside this hood structure. Also reflected in this common name, is the tendency for most of the species to be green. Perhaps because of this, little Pterostylis sp. may be easily overlooked, but once your eye is in, you should be seeing these fine orchids everywhere.
Perhaps even harder orchids to spot are species in the genus Crytostylis. Jones (2006) characterises this genus into a broader group called ‘Elf, Mosquito and Gnat orchids’. The flowers within Crytostylis are thought to mimic the appearance of small insects. They are relatively widespread and can be found anywhere from The Mallee to coastal areas of Victoria. Apparently, they are pollinated by gnats, which feed on nectar produced on the labellum. Species in this Genus flower between May and November.
A related orchid and similar in appearance is Nemacianthus caudatus or commonly referred to as a ‘Mayfly orchid’. This species is also widespread and common, though endemic to Australia. The flowers in this Genus are strong smelling and thought to be pollinated by insects. This species flowers between May and October.
Some even smaller orchids are Corysanthes sp. also called ‘Helmet orchids’. These orchids are also widespread and common, but perhaps harder to see because the flowers are generally only about 2cm tall! Luckily, they commonly form vegetative colonies, so it is likely that once you have seen one, others will be close by. There are 15 species in this genus and they are all endemic to Australia. Species in this genus tend to flower from March to September.
All the above species are widespread and common, and most likely flowering at the side of a track near you!
Jones D.L. (2006) ‘A complete guide to native orchids of Australia, including the island territories’. Reed New Holland: Sydney.
For more orchid photos check out my flickr orchid set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cracoo/sets/72157624848791871/