Boyatup Bounty after Bush Fire

10/08/2019

A weekend away, out East of Esperance, is planned. So after breakfast we hitch up the camper and head out Fisheries Road. Our first point of call is our Coolinup road site. (Mud Map SE 37,38) There is finally some water around, so we make our way into the site and first up find the small Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) still covered in rain drops. There also appears to be some Cream spider orchids (Caladenia horistes) intermixed in. These orchids flower August to early October in a southerly range from Fitzgerald River National Park to Balladonia. These two spider orchids have overlapping locations and both belong to the Caladenia filamentosa complex. They differ in flower colour and wispiness of petals and sepals.

Then underneath the thick tea tree bushes Debbie comes across some Mosquito orchids (Cyrtostylis robusta) which flower between Perth and Israelite Bay in the months June to August. These differ to the similarly located Midge orchid by the broad labellum.

Nearby more spider orchids are found with neighbouring Blue beards (Pheladenia deformis) which are yet to fully open.

Also nearby are the Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) and Mallee banded greenoods (Pterostylis arbuscula) which differ in the number of flowers, colouring of flowers and overall height of the plant.

Venturing across the road more greenhoods are found as are many spider orchids in large groupings, especially protected under the tee tree bushes. The surprise finding was a recognisable Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata) way passed its prime, but still another species located for the day. A nice solo Jug orchid (Pterostylis recurva) is found plus Deb stumbles across a small beautiful Pink bunny orchid (Eriochilus scaber subsp. scaber). This one was only 20mm in height.

Such great finds already and we have yet to arrive at our planned camping area, so we can set up and have lunch. So off we head towards Thomas River campground.

Oh no! The road to Cape Arid National Park is closed so we cannot reach Thomas River. Now what?

As we are close to Boyatup Hill (Mud Map SE 40), we decide to go there first and figure out where to camp later. Luckily Deb had pre-made lunch so we quickly have a bite to eat then make tracks for Boyatup.

At out usual first stop, along the track in, we immediately find a Dancing spider orchid (Caladenia discoidea) on the right hand side together with an unusually coloured donkey orchid. Both are still covered in rain drops.

Moving to the left hand side of the track, as it is less bushy, we find some Cream spider orchids, Western wispy spider orchids, Dancing spider orchids and Jug orchids.

Finally a different spider orchid is found. Appears to be from the King spider orchid complex. From it’s appearance I believe it to be a Esperance king spider orchid (Caladenia decora), which flowers August to October between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid. May be the closely related Heberle’s spider orchid which has a similar appearance and range.

Time to walk further along the track towards the old gravel pit. Mallee banded greenhoods, another spent Hare orchid and some Western tiny blue orchids (Cyanicula aperta) are found. These little blue orchids flower from August to October between Dumbleyung and Mt Ragged.

As we reach the other side of gravel pit the landscape turns black. A bush fire had swept through the area last summer, so this is why we planned a visit to this location. We have yet to witness the orchid bloom after a summer fire. Fingers crossed the devastation of the bush fire does lead to new life and we will finally get to observe this.

Immediately to the left as we exit the gravel pit is a lonely Dancing spider orchid growing in the blackened soil. Deb finds some Blue beards nearby which stand out easily against the black.

Then the first pink speck is sighted. Pink bunny orchids begin to appear in scattered groups all over the place. Many more blue beards are found, some growing in clumps. Other Mallee banded greenhoods and Western tiny blue orchids are also found. We are able to explore a much greater area as the fire has cleared away all the undergrowth, leaving just blackened bushes and trees.

We reach the spot we usually park the Triton as the track gets very thin and would scratch the hell out of the paintwork. However we have the camper in tow, so cannot turn around here. So we have to drive further up the track to the granite rocks so we can attempt to turn around. Not that we drive only, as we park and go exploring every five minutes or so. We chew up time but get to explore so much more ground.

Our usual orchid at this part of the track is the Mosquito orchid however only a few leaves are visible in the burnt bushes at the edge of the track. It is not until we venture further afield do we locate some in flower. Also found in this part of the search were more Blue beards and Western wispy spider orchids.

We make it to the turn around spot of the flat granite however the ground between the rock is very soft, so it is a very boggy event, however Deb as always gets us through. Now we are facing the way out we can breathe a bit easier. So why not keep on expanding our search towards the hill itself.

Woohoo we have found our first Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp. flava) of the day. These bright yellow beauties always brighten up the day. Then at the base of the hill we discover a vast patch of Western Wispy spider orchids growing under the protection of a bush.

Moving back down towards the Triton we find more Pink bunny orchids, Cream spider orchids, Mallee banded greenhoods and Blue beards.

Then another yellow orchid is found. The Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis) is recorded as being located between Denmark and Esperance, however http://www.esperancewildflowers.blogspot.com records this orchid as being found east of Esperance and the Orchids of South-West Australia (4th Edition) range map indicates occurrence in Cape Arid, so I am confident is this classification.

Then in an area that would have been impenetrable prior to the fire we find a fully open Esperance king spider orchid. A neighbouring dual headed specimen though appears to be the closely related Heberle’s spider orchid (Caladenia heberleana) due to it’s narrowly clubbed petals and sepals. They flower September and October in a range from Augusta to Cape Arid, so this must be an early flowering one or a mis-classification. Both are very attractive large spider orchids non the less.

We just noticed it is now after 3.30pm and we have yet to decide where we will camp the night, so quickly head back to the Triton and drive back to Fisheries Road. Our thought s were to head into Alexander Bay and camp at the shire campground, but then decided the way in will be wet and slippery, given the closure of Cape Arid National Park, so we decide we will instead go home and sleep in our own bed.

That being decided we breathed a sigh of relief and headed back West. A detour via Condingup Lookout (Mud Map SE 39) though could not be bypassed. We drive up to the Telstra tower and park up. First spot to check is the granite rock outcrop. However on the way there we discover some beautiful snail orchids hiding on the edge of the track. These little guys appear to be the Fawn snail orchid (Pterostylis parva) which are found from the Stirling Ranges to Israelite Bay. They darken with age and flower June through to August, hence the reddish tinge.

We arrived at the granite outcrop and the large hood of snails had already been and flowered and the nearby mosquito orchids were nowhere to be seen. Disappointed I was walking back to the Triton when Deb decides to go into the scrub on a wide berth back. I’m glad she persevered as she stumbled across many Fawn snail orchids and Pink bunny orchids flowering in the moss on the flat granite rocks. Also found were some Green range donkey orchids, Blue beards and Western wispy spider orchids. Not a bad detour Deb!

Finally back in the Triton we make our way down the hill, stopping to check on the Bird orchids growing alongside the road. The rosettes are still growing up but still a way off flowering yet. Also found a finished Scented Autumn leek orchid.

Moving on as it it now 5pm we park down on our usual spot on the Lookout Road and have a quick scout for anything in flower. We find a possible Cream spider orchid, a very old Hare orchid and some Pink bunny orchids. One pink bunny was found flowering in a field of non flowering bunny leaves. I took a photo to show how the leaves change when they flower.

So as the light fades we make our way back to Esperance, thankful that we got to witness how some orchids thrive after a summer bush fire. Pink bunny orchids were very prolific at Boyatup Hill as were the Blue beards. It was hard to walk around without feeling like you are stepping on some, but we did our best to minimise this by treading carefully. All up we found 16 orchid species flowering with 1 yet to flower (Bird) and 1 finished (Leek). 14 of the found orchids were located at Boyatup so the bush fire did produce a bounty for us to discover. Well worth the day trip, it is a pity the weekend planned did not occur.

You may have noticed some of the photos have a Scale card produced by the Wild Orchid Watch (WOW) a citizen science project arranged by the The University of Adelaide. Please refer to their web page at http://www.wildorchidwatch.org plus their Facebook and Instagram pages. If you are based in Australia please register your interest, as an App is close to being released which will allow you to record your findings.

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