25/09/2020 ….. Peak Charles Long Weekend – Day 1

Esperance, Helms Arboretum, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Peak Charles NP, Red Lake Townsite NR, Weekend away, Western Australian orchids

It’s Friday before the Queens Birthday long weekend and I have taken another RDO, so as to make it extra long. A camping weekend at Peak Charles which is some 150kms or so NNW of Esperance is planned.

We pack up the Triton and camper trailer then head up to pick up Deb C. who rides shotgun with my darling Deb driving. We are taking Deb C. on her first ever trip North of Esperance. First point of call is the Esperance Bird and Animal Park for a takeaway coffee/hot chocolate and sweet slice. This was to give us energy for our first orchid hunting location, which just for a change is good old Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35).

First orchids found alongside section 21, were the wonderful Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp. flava) , the Common bee orchid (Diuris decrementa) and the Lemon-scented sun orchid (Thelymitra anennifera) which are regular finds at this location. Oddly enough they are all yellow in colour.

Then just before hopping back in the Triton Deb spies a spider orchid in the overgrown Section 21, so we all go to investigate. We discover many beautiful large Esperance king spider orchids (Caladenia decora) in flower. The spreading petals that barely drop are a distinguishing feature when comparing them to the often co-located and similar Heberle’s spider orchid. Due to the lack of colour some may actually be hybrids with the Esperance white spider orchid.

Leaving Section 21 we head straight down to the track between Sections 1 and 2. Nothing much found along this track, however upon driving further we find the Rattle Beaks (Lyperanthus serratus) growing on the edge of Section 9. No longer right on the bull ants nest, thank goodness, but about 2 metres away. Only the one in flower though which was disappointing.

We then zigzagged our way through multiple sections and found many more Esperance king spider orchids and other possible hybrids. Could not resist posting more photos of these beautiful orchids.

We also came across some much smaller orchids. The Zebra orchid (Caladenia cairnsiana) for example has flowers that are only 15mm across whilst the Esperance king spider orchids can be up to 100mm.

We then checked out a patch in Section 83 to see if we could find the small spider orchids we had found in previous seasons. Prior to reaching the exact spot of the spider orchids some other orchids jump out at me. The Purple enamel orchids (Elythranthera brunonis) are so bright you cannot miss them.

And then the Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) appears in it’s usual location. Only a small clump of 2 plants though is found this year. A a little further off the road are some more Lemon-scented sun orchids and Common bee orchids in flower.

Also discovered in in the reedy grass were some Elegant donkey orchids (Diuris concinna) which differ to the bee orchids in only having a small amount of brown markings at the base of the labellum. Coincidently, this species was named in 1991 from specimens collected at Helms Arboretum in 1985.

Walking back to the Triton we find more Esperance king spiders orchids and accompanying hybrids.

Moving up to Section 107 where we expect to find the magnificent Esperance white spider orchids (Caladenia longicauda subsp. crassa) flowering. We were not disappointed. These orchids can be larger the the Esperance king spider orchids and as mentioned previously the two hybridise with each other to form many varied coloured specimens.

Then on the edge of Section 109 we locate some more Zebra orchids. Some are not the usual colour and the lateral sepals are not clasping the stem, so may also be hybrids.

OMG it’s 12 o’clock and we are less than 20kms into our 150km drive, so we had better get a move on. Heading north on the Coolgardie-Esperance Hwy we make a pit-stop at the Grass Patch local store. Was an interesting reception, however Deb still purchased some locally made jam and relish, plus we all enjoyed an ice-cream.

Just north of Grass Patch we pull into Red Lake Townsite Nature Reserve and head down our track looking for the Frog greenhoods we have previously found here. No such luck this season however after eating our lunch and by a stroke of luck we found a lonely sun orchid just starting to bloom. As there seems to be only 2 species flowering north of Esperance I will be calling this one the Shy sun orchid (Thelymitra graminea). They flower during October and November, which would explain why we only found one starting to flower.

We finally reach the Kumarl – Lake King Rd turnoff and commence the unsealed road part of the drive to Peak Charles campground. We arrive to an all but, packed campground with only 1 uneven spot left. We decide to head head south around the rock, with the intention of finding the camping area in the Salmon Gums, however we find a track heading back towards the rock, so decide to investigate. It proves to be a dead end, however after a bit of manoeuvring we settle here as our camping spot.

We set up our camper and then the gazebo and camper stretcher for Deb C. Fire pit organised so I go for an explore up the rock. Way too steep for me in the fading light so grabbed a photo looking out over the woodlands, which I have selected as the Feature photo for this post. Time now to settle in for 3 nights camping under the stars.

Bliss!!

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