Park Closure – Helms to the Rescue

11/08/2019

Considering we should be waking up out at Thomas River for another day exploring Cape Arid National Park on our weekend camping, (Refer 10/08/2019 post) we cannot stay home this Sunday. So where do we go on a cool overcast August day? Helms Arboretum of course. (Mud Map SE 35). This should provide us some compensation for missing out on our camping weekend.

On arriving we first check out Entrance Plot 21 along the southern edge. We straight away find some Esperance king spider orchids (Caladenia decora) and possible hybrids growing tall amongst the thick weeds.

In the unnamed southern side of the track we find some small snail orchids. Consensus is these are an unnamed species which has been tentatively called the Helm’s snail orchid (Pterostylis sp.) as they do not fit any of the named species recorded for the location.

Moving on to Plot 21 on Brockway Road, just past the wooden log sign marking Helms Arboretum, where there is usually a good patch of spider orchids growing under the large tree. Again appears to be Esperance king spider orchids in various shapes, sizes and colours.

Next we move onto Plot 12 which is planted in a species of pine, so very minimal undergrowth, which makes for easy searching. Nothing much was found before we both stumbled across a massive nook of snail orchids. What an amazing sight to behold. These snail orchids differ to the earlier found ones by having much thinner lateral sepals which do not appear clubbed. From this they appear to be the Ravensthorpe snail orchid (Pterostylis sp. ‘Ravensthorpe’) which flower in woodlands between the Stirling Ranges and Esperance during August and September.

Moving on to Plot 9 we park between Plots 9 & 13 where a patch of yellow catches my eye. The always bright Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp.flava) is found. The we find the Western tiny blue orchid (Cyanicula aperta) in our search of Plot 9. For size appreciation, I grabbed a shot with the Wild Orchid Watch scale card.

Moving to the area we have found large spider orchids before we are shocked to see that people have driven into the plot to saw up firewood, which is illegal in this reserve. They have driven right through the area our spiders were found. With a sigh of relief we find some flowering, however the numbers were definitely down from last year. Again these are beautiful specimens of the Esperance king spider orchid.

As previously found in Plot 9 we finally find some snail orchids (Ravensthorpe or Helms) and many more Western tiny blue orchids. Few pics taken before moving on.

Next is Plot 38 along Jolowah Road. where we find more Esperance king spider orchids and a spent but visible greenhood. Also a lone Cowslip and Western tiny blue orchid is found.

We then moved on to Western boundary (Marked X) and found the lone Southern curly locks (Thelymitra uliginosa) which we have struggled to find flowering over the years. It was nearly open but not enough sun today unfortunately.

We needed to keep moving as it was now past 3pm and it was getting cold. We moved on to the plot were we have found Zebra orchids on previous seasons. We found Greenhood, Cowslip and Spider orchids on the way.

In between Plots 109 and 110 is where we have previously have found Zebra orchids (Caladenia cairnsiana) and we are not disappointed this year. However numbers are way down on previous years. Zebra orchids flower July to September over a range from Nerren Nerren Station to Mt Ragged.

So we did not get to have our camping weekend out at Cape Arid National Park due to the roads being closed , however we did get to experience the orchid bounty after a summer bush fire at Boyatup hill and good old Helms Arboretum provided us with an afternoon of orchid finds, so we cannot complain.

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