Introduction

Western Australian orchids

Well I have finally decided to take the leap and record my orchid travels, discoveries and photos in a BLOG so that others may choose to join in my adventures, looking for what I feel are an amazing family of flowering plants that have so many varieties, colours, shapes and sizes that one can not help but be amazed by them. In Western Australia there are two distinct areas that native orchids are found. The South West of Western Australia and in the north starting in the Kimberley.  My BLOG will focus on the South West terrestrial orchids due to the massive size of my home state of Western Australia.

Orchidaceae is the family name in scientific speak however I will be using the common name of “Orchid” in my posts. In Western Australia the South West orchid territory ranges from  Shark Bay in the Midwest  on a diagonal line to Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields and eastwards to Eyre on the Nullarbor plain including the entire South West,  Great Southern, South Coastal and Wheatbelt regions.

In this Southern region 28 different genera and over 400 species are found with many yet to be formally named, so as you can imagine tracking down all of these will provide years of adventures for me to fill up my BLOG.

Please note I am a self-taught amateur in Orchid location, Orchid identification and Orchid photography so I would ask for your understanding if I may get it wrong, and would appreciate your feedback, notes and comments to help this little BLOG grow and develop just as my wonderful Orchids do in this great state of Western Australia.

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Cowslip Orchids (Caladenia flava subsp. flava)

19/07/2020 ….. Cascade Calling

Cascade NR, Day Trip, Western Australian orchids

My sister, Lorraine and her hubby Ken are visiting us for a few days, so today we head out west to Cascade Falls. We are joined by our son Jace and his little family. The water is flowing nicely now it’s mid winter. The grandkids enjoy playing with all the foam caused by the water cascading over the granite rocks. After exploring the shore we set up on a flat area for a picnic lunch.

The little family head home whilst us oldies head off further west on an orchid hunt. This is a first for Lorraine and Ken, so let’s hope we have a successful hunt. We visit Cascade Nature Reserve and go for a check in the scrub/woodlands. With luck I come across some Dwarf shell orchids (Pterostylis brevichila), which we had found here previously. Not as many but still very happy to find them again. Dwarf shell orchids flower during the months of July, August and September over inland areas between Hyden and Mt Ragged.

As the image above shows we also find the Midget greenhood (Pterostylis mutica) which flowers from July till October over a much larger range, Wongan Hills to the South Australian Border. If fact they are also found in all the states of Australia. Another larger specimen was found further into our hunt.

Not much else turning up so we decide to head back to the Triton and stumble across one nice Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) growing on the edge of the utilities track we are following.

Leaving Cascade Nature Reserve we head back east and stop along Boydell Road. In the road side scrub we locate some donkey orchids. They appear to be the Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis) which occurs in coastal and near coastal locations between Denmark and Esperance. They flower from July to early September and were only formally named in 2016 from specimens collected in 1995.

Not much else found so we head across the Coolgardie – Esperance Hwy and head into Neridup. Here we visit our favourite blue metal dump site and as we arrive I jump out to walk along the track in to see what I can find. The others drive in ,park up and get out stuff for afternoon tea. I discover some Brittle snail orchids (Pterostylis timothyi) growing in the gravelly mounds pushed up to create the blue metal dump. These awesome little orchids flower from July to September over an eastern range of Lake Cronin to Esperance. The prominently veined , pointed leaves of the rosette is a distinctive feature of these orchids.

Also on the edge of the cleared area in a slight depression, the spider orchids we found last year were again located. The Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) flowers from July to early October and has an eastern distribution from Kondinin to Madura.

After enjoying afternoon tea we spread out and immediately find some more donkey orchids. They appear to be more Green Range donkey orchids, as the only similarly coloured donkey orchid found this far east is the Yellow granite donkey orchid. However we are not near any granite.

We now cross over Wittenoom Road and come across some Green-veined shell orchids (Pterostylis scabra) near a small, currently dry, road run-off trench. These orchids flower from May to August over a large mostly inland area from Kalbarri to Esperance. Unlike the Dwarf shell orchid found at Cascade this shell orchid has it’s labellum visible. A little like poking out their tongues.

Getting late in the afternoon and the sun sets early in winter, so we start to make our way back to the Trition. Along the way we find another colourful Donkey orchid, some more Brittle snail orchids and a small speck of blue. Blue beards (Pheladenia deformis) in bud but not yet open are found. So as the season moves on, so must we as we have a date around the fire pit at home will all our travelling companions from today.

A great family picnic followed by a successful orchid hunt. Not too bad for a Sunday in mid winter.

12/07/2020 ….. Helms in July

Esperance, Helms Arboretum, Western Australian orchids

What better way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday that to check out Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) for any orchids that may be flowering. Before the search though we stock up on energy by having a cooked breakfast at the Esperance Bird and Animal Park.

The first orchid found was the ever reliable Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) which occurs over a lengthy period (April to Sept) over a wide distribution (Perth to Balladonia). Fairly coastal east of Albany, whilst further inland it is replaced by either the Dark Banded Greenhood or recently named Mallee Banded Greenhood. In fact the distributions of these orchids overlap in places, as confirmed by finding a small Mallee Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula) at Helms. These orchids are recorded as growing between Northampton and Eyre during the season June to September, over mainly inland locations.

Moving on to another section of the Arboretum we come across Snail orchids in varying stages of flowering. Naming Snail orchids is always difficult especially when some found in previous years at Helms have remained un-named. The pictures below I feel are of two different species. One is the common Hairy-stemmed snail orchid (Pterostylis setulosa) which flowers from June to September over a large range between Kalbarri and Balladonia. The other smaller snail orchid has, shorter lateral sepals, only 2 stem leaves, a rosette of quite rounded leaves plus does not have a hairy stem. It will remain un-named again this year.

Well not much happening at Helms this time. I trust we will visit again sometime this season and I look forward to a greater variety of orchids. Until next time!!!

11/07/2020 ….. Quick check at Dempster Head

Dempster Head, Esperance

Time to visit one of our regular haunts. Dempster Head, sometimes referred to as Rotary Lookout, which is an Esperance Shire Reserve that aims to protect a granite headland. As you can imagine the views from the lookout provide a 360 degree view of the Esperance town, bay and beaches.

We however check out some of the areas off the beaten track, so to speak, and are usually rewarded with orchids. Today proves no exception. We head to where we have found Corybas leaves in previous years. We hope they are flowering as their recorded season is July to early September. We find the leaves as expected and they are in bud, which is exciting, however none in flower were found. A return visit later in the season will be required.

Next up we head back to the walk trail as we have previously found Mosquito orchids. It appears we may be too early for these as well, due to the first location only having orchids in bud as well. However at another spot on the track we find a lone orchid in flower, with 2 flowers fully developed. Mosquito orchids (Cyrtostylis robusta) flower June to August in locations between Perth and Israelite Bay and can have up to 8 flowers per orchid.

Further around the track we come across a Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) with numerous flowers. These are common orchids found from Perth to Balladonia, which flower from April to September. Also found are some Snail orchids which have yet to fully form so I will not attempt to name them at this stage.

Not a lot flowering yet, so we will need to return at a later date to see if we are more successful. Until next time !!

04/07/2020 ….. July Jaunt to the West

Day Trip, Lake Shaster NR, Munglinup NR, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Springdale NR, Stokes NP

Today we plan on visiting Munglinup Beach shire reserve and search for the shell orchids we have previously found there. Other than that we are going to wing it. It is a beautiful sunny winter morning when we head off. I am driving for a change as Deb has just finished night shift.

First point of call is Stokes National Park where we visit the camping area. Here we find many greenhoods. From the colouring of them, they appear to be the Dark banded greenhoods (Pterostylis sanguinea) which occur over a larger range, Mullewa to Esperance in WA as well as Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. They may however be the newly named Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula) which has a shorter stature and up to 5 flowers only per plant. These occur over a similar range, Northampton to Eyre as well as in South Australia. Both species vary in colour from dark green to brownish-green to reddish-brown.

We now move on and head further west along the South Coast Hwy. Turning south onto Torradup Road which curves west into Springdale Road. We pull over at a burnt patch of scrub, which apparently is Springdale Nature Reserve. A quick look around turns up many Thelymitra, Pyrochis and Caladenia leaves but nothing in bloom as yet.

Heading further west we turn down Munglinup Beach Road and head down to the Oldfield River. On the track in, Deb spies a flowering donkey orchid. So we both jump out to grab a photo of the South coast donkey orchid (Diuris sp. ‘south coast’) which occurs between Munglinup and Denmark. Differs to the Green Range donkey orchid in having a broad mid-lobe to the labellum.

We then drove to the river bank and parked up on the granite. After eating lunch we ventured around looking for orchids in flower. Lots of Caladenia leaves found and only one decent greenhood.

Off to the Munglinup Beach campground we go (Mud Map SE33), as this is our planned stop of the day. Heading into the stabilised dune system we immediately come across a snail orchid, which is not fully formed as yet. From the location and length of the lateral sepals I am going to name this the Ravensthorpe snail orchid (Pterostylis sp. ‘Ravensthorpe’) which occurs between Esperance and the Stirling Ranges. Also came across lots of what appears to be Corybas leaves.

Pushing through to the base of the dunes Deb successfully discovers some shell orchids in flower. They are found all along the base of the dunes, with many more non-flowering rosettes than flowering orchids, but still flowering in good numbers. The Curled-tongue shell orchid (Pterostylis rogersii) is a coastal orchid found from Binningup to Israelite Bay during June, July and August. It varies in colour from Green to Brown, as the photos below show. There are 7 named species of shell orchids found in Western Australia.

Further snail orchids are found and many Corybas leaves, with some starting to bud. We will have to re-visit in the coming weeks to see if we can catch them in flower.

Time to move on, so Deb takes a track leading east which we assume will take us to another beach access. Whilst slowly driving along in 1st gear we are both peering out looking for any orchids that may catch our eye. Unbelievably I spy a lone little snail orchid. The Thick-sepalled snail orchid (Pterostylis meridionalis) occurs along the coast from Cape Arid to Esperance. My location is 100km west of this, however I feel its small stature, uniformly thickened lateral sepals and substantial rosette when compared to stature of orchid, confirms my ID. Please correct me if you disagree.

We have travelled into Lake Shaster Nature Reserve whilst heading east, which occurs both west and east of the Shire Reserve at Munglinup Beach. Further along the track we come across many more banded greenhoods, of varying colours and sizes.

Just before we reached the coastline another patch of snail orchids was found. These appear to be further Ravensthorpe snail orchids by their thinner lateral sepals. The bays we found on the coast were beautiful as always. It is now after 3pm so we had better make tracks home.

Backtracking the way we had come, we make a decision to head north up Fuss Road, so as to reach the Hwy sooner. Well that was the plan.

Just shy of the Hwy is the Munglinup Nature Reserve, where we find an access track that just beckoned us to stop. So parking up in an abandoned sand pit, we go on a little exploration down the track on foot. So glad we did as there on the edge of the track is a little spider orchid in bloom. The first one for the 2020 season. 🙂 The Common spider orchid (Caladenia varians) occurs between Kalbarri and Esperance, with flowering starting in July and progressing until mid-October. This was the only spider orchid found on todays adventure.

Further along the track we come across more banded greenhoods, which seem to be the orchid of the day. Again the variations make it difficult to decide if they are Dark banded, Mallee banded or just Banded.

The day however ended with discovering many donkey orchids in flower, in what appeared to be an abandoned gravel pit, that our track lead to. From the varying width of the mid lobe of their labellum we may have found two species. The South coast donkey orchid as previously found earlier today has a wide mid lobe, whilst the Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis) has a thinner mid lobe. Both species occur in coastal/near coastal locations from Denmark to Munglinup and Esperance respectively. Flowering times also overlap during the months of July and August.

Light is fading fast now, so we walk back to the Triton, enjoy a hot cuppa, then head home. The moon is already in the sky as we return to Fuss Road. Turning right onto the Hwy we head east as far as Young river where we check out a possible spot for orchids. Here we catch an amazing sunset over the river. What a great way to end a wonderful day trip searching for orchids. We are blessed.

24/06/2020 ….. Winter Wednesday Wander

Cape Arid NP, Day Trip, National Parks

I have taken an RDO today so that we can spend the day with my youngest son’s grandparents-in-law. Deb and I will be introducing them to our wonderful Western Australian orchids.

Heading out East to the farm near Condingup, we enjoy a cuppa before heading off for our day in the great outdoors. We make our way to Boyatup Hill (Mud Map SE 40) which we trust will ensure we have a variety of orchids to share with our guests.

On the track into the hill we stop at our usual first location and straight up Deb finds a spent orchid which appears to be the Scented autumn leek orchid (Prasophyllum sp. ‘early’) which flower April to June all the way East to Israelite Bay. On the other side of the track I come across a Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata) also way past it’s best. These also flower till June and extend to Israelite Bay.

Also found on the same side of the track to the Hare orchids were some Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) which are a common winter orchid flowering over a southerly range, from Perth to Balladonia. Dark variants were also found which may actually be the Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula), a recently named species which occurs from Northampton to Eyre. This new species is a few flowered short statured orchid with variably coloured flowers. The lateral sepals of the Banded greenhood are not as fleshy as other greenhoods.

Deb as usual, finds the first new orchid species of the the day. The Robust snail orchid (Pterostylis dilatata) is quite unique amongst the snail orchids, as flowering plants lack a rosette of leaves. Other features include clubbed lateral sepals and an early flowering period, being May to August. They are found between Geraldton and Israelite Bay and can attain a height of 150mm.

Further afield we find another spent Leek orchid and leaves of the Thelymitra genus. Making our way into the abandon gravel pit I stumble across a speck of yellow. Excited to find the first flowering donkey orchid of the season.

I am aware of only 2 donkey orchids that flower east of Esperance. The Beautiful donkey orchid and the Green Range donkey orchid. The Beautiful donkey orchid has distinctive mauve markings and usually grows on granite outcrops so the orchid found must be the Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis). This orchid flowers from July to early September , so they must be an early risers. They are found West to Denmark in a coastal, near coastal range.

Further into the search we find some Mosquito orchids in bud, Spider orchids in bud and more donkey, leek, greenhood and robust snail orchids, in varying stages of flowering.

We now move on to Thomas River in Cape Arid National Park for lunch. We enjoy lunch in one of the camp kitchens in the upper campground, then make our way down to the beach and head out on the rocks to catch a glimpse of the 4 whales in the bay. On the way back sitting on a stump in the river is a White bellied sea eagle.

Leaving the beach and Thomas River behind us, we head back towards the farm. We make a slight detour at Parmango Road where we pull over to check out the location shared with us late last season. It is after 4pm so a quick search is conducted. Nothing found, then with some luck, I was able to locate a Scented autumn leek orchid with one or two flowers still blooming.

With the light fading fast and the temperature dropping just as fast we jump back in the Triton for the drive back to the farm. We are invited to stay for dinner and finish our day enjoying further great company. I hope our guests enjoyed their day searching for orchids.

20 – 21/06/2020….. Coastal tease

Weekend away

20/06/2020

A young friend has invited us out to Alexander Bay for an overnight fishing camp-out. After having a quick check of the shire campground we hit the beach and make our way onto the rocks where Billy and his boys are already fishing.

After eating our lunch I go on exploring with the boys as Billy and Deb move locations to try for some squid. On the way up the granite rocks I discover some nice greenhoods. Both the Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) and the Dark banded greenhoods (Pterostylis sanguinea) grow east of Esperance and can be found growing on granite outcrops. One has brown colouring whilst the others are green, so appears both may be present in this one location.

As the boys had run ahead, my searching is more focused on the walk back to Billy and Deb. I discovered many leaves and rosettes of orchids yet to sprout buds. Then under some bushes in the sand dunes behind the granite are some Caladenia leaves which have buds forming. Also found where some thin Thelymitra leaves and a lone Bird orchid.

Back to the fishing and Billy has caught 2 squid and it’s time to move on up the beach to find our possie for tonight. We finally found what we envisaged to be a great spot on the beach and set up camp. Campfire lit, a few fish caught, more seaweed caught, dinner cooked, a few drinks consumed then bed.

21/06/2020

We awake to a very cold morning where the waves crashing on the beach seem to be causing steam to rise from the ocean. It is a beautiful sunny morning but you would not know it as it is so cold. After breakfast we slowly pack up and move back towards the Alexander Bay campground.

We pull up to a spot where we try for some sand whiting or flathead but not much is happening. A call of nature causes me to go exploring at the base of the sand dunes. Whilst walking back I check very closely under the scrub and find some rosettes. Upon closer inspection there are snail orchids starting to bud. A further tease for the season ahead it appears.

Results from the overnight fishing trip: Camping: Great, Fishing: Average, Orchids: Tease. If time permits a re-visit in a few weeks may prove worthy.

14/06/2020….. Helms in winter

Esperance, Helms Arboretum

Debbie has started work today at 2pm, so rather than hang around home alone, I take the opportunity to visit Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35). Along the boundary of sites 7, 9 and 12, I come across some decent Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) which are known to grow up to 450mm in height and can have an inflorescence of up to 25 flowers. In the afternoon sunlight the colours come up magnificently. One of the orchids had a little spider with its food catch, however my photo of it is not too clear.

The afternoon sun was sinking quickly so I headed to the road I’ve marked X and went for a walk through the low scrub, looking for a particular orchid I had found here on previous seasons. After walking around for 10 mins or so I was starting to lose hope, when suddenly a small patch of white catches my eye and low and behold I found the Autumn leek orchid (Prasophyllum parvifolium). These orchids flower from June to August, so how they got the name Autumn leek orchid alludes me. They range from Eneabba to Mt Ragged and can grow to 400mm in height. The plants I found appear to have the reddish stripes of P. parvifolium however P. sp.’early’ is also found in the area. Known as the Scented autumn leek orchid it lacks the red stripes and actually flowers in autumn, April to June. The scent of each differ as well, but I could not smell anything, even when head down bum up. Please provide your thoughts on the ID and I will edit my post if need be.

Its now after 4pm and the sun is setting behind the grey clouds, so time to head home. Not much happening at Helms in this first month of winter but we all no that will change as the season progresses.

01/06/2020….. Winter is here!!

Cascade NR, Day Trip, Nature Reserves

First day of Winter so where should we go today for our orchid hunt? Let us go north. So we head off up the Coolgardie-Norseman Hwy and get as far as Fleming Grove Road before we stop to have our first explore. Loads of Hare orchid leaves and spent flowers are found. Then Pterostylis rosettes start to appear and finally some Banded Greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) are found in flower.

Nothing else found so we head back to the Highway to continue north. However we make a last minute change and head over the Hwy into Boydell Road, heading west. Driving along we pull over to the side of the road and check out a bit of scrubland that appeared to contain some granite rock. This proved incorrect however we did find some possible King-in-his-carriage orchid (Drakaea glyptodon) leaves. Left a marker on the road in the hope of returning to find it flowering in August. Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata) leaves also found, with some spend orchids to confirm flowering had occurred. As they can flower from as early as March it was great to find some recognisable hare orchid flowers. Finally for this new location a Banded greenhood was also found and photographed.

Travelling further east on Boydell road we turn right at the Cascades Road intersection. Our planned stop is Cascade Nature Reserve which we had visited a few years back and found some shell orchids. Unfortunately it appears to be too early for the shell orchids to be flowering this year. Just found some very small rosettes with the buds just sprouting. After exploring for a time we find many spent Pygmy orchids (Corunastylis fuscoviridis) which flower during April and May. Banded greenhoods are found just before we head back to the Triton. Cascade Falls off Loop road will be our final destination of the day.

Parking above the falls we walk down along the bank to the falls, which are just flowing at this stage of the season. From here we check out the parking area , then walk back along the track to the Triton. No flowering orchids found so we head back to the South-coast Hwy via Coomalbidgup for the drive back home. Not too bad a way to kill off 4 hours or so on a public holiday Monday.

Meanderings in May

Day Trip, National Parks, Road Trip, Stokes NP

09/05/2020

After a sleep in we pack up the Triton and head out east to our rock location off Merivale road. We arrive just in time for lunch, so getting our priorities right, we eat first. Whilst eating, we wander around the old abandoned picnic area and find spent White bunny orchid plants, so we may be a bit late in their season.

Just as we were to head off up the slope to the granite, 2 orchids are found in flower. Based on the leaf size I believe them to be Granite bunny orchids (Eriochilus pulchellus) which as the name suggests occur at granite outcrops from Northcliffe to Balladonia. They can grow up to 150mm in height and can have up to 10 flowers per plant. Further specimens were located as were searched around and on the granite.

On the other side of the granite outcrop I thought I had come across another bunny orchid species. This one though has larger leaves so appears to be the White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus). However on closer inspection they appear to be more Granite bunny orchids. The leaves are just towards the larger size for the species which can be 5 to 15mm in length and 3 to 8 mm in width. Others were subsequently found, with one having 6 flowers and standing easily 150mm in height.

We then moved onto the other large granite outcrop, however nothing new was found just more Granite bunny orchids. Once we got back to the picnic area I went back to what I thought was a lone orchid growing in the made made embankment which channels the water flowing off the granite away from the picnic site. There turned out to be a bunch of plants with one reaching 430mm in height. Identification confusion as the bunny orchids that reach that height both grow in the south west corner not East of Esperance.

We now decide to move on and head a little further north to our Coolinup Road locations. At the small granite rock location further Granite bunny orchids are found. At our latest location we locate a newly flowering Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) and some wonderful Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata). At the granite section of this new location I am sure some of the bunnies found are White bunny orchids (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus) as the leaf on one of them is over 50mm in length. Took some photos with coloured card as backdrop to see if the orchid would stand out better. Please provide feedback in comments on preferences.

23/05/2020

Off to Stokes National Park today for a walk along the trail from the Day use area to the Benwenerup Campground. We collected a friend (Deb C.) in Esperance to join us on the adventure today. We arrived at the park and after grabbing a water bottle each we commenced the walk by climbing the stairs up the embankment. From here the compacted walk trail follows the embankment with 2 lookouts over the inlet before crossing over the access road for the section to the campground. Only orchids found flowering were the Banded greenhoods.

At the campground further greenhoods were found. So after a short rest we made our way back along the trail to the access road, which we followed back to the day use area. Pictures taken of the Showy Banksia (Banksia speciosa) flowers and Zamia palms (Macrozamia dyeri) which were found in good numbers along this section of the trail. After eating our lunch, we spent some time on the inlet banks, then made tracks back to Esperance. A wonderful day out in the sunny Autumn weather.