27/09/2020 ….. Peak Charles Long Weekend – Day 3

National Parks, Peak Charles NP, Weekend away, Western Australian Orchids

Well after a wet night we awake to a fine, cloudy day with white fast moving clouds covering the peak of Peak Charles. An amazing sight it is!!

After breakfast we jump in the Triton and head off south towards nearby Peak Elenore, where we plan to explore for orchids. Driving along the track southwards we come across a track leading west back towards the rocks so Deb decides to check it out. We come across someone camping so nearly just turned back but luckily I noticed we could bypass a fallen tree and get closer to the rocks. Pulling up alongside we venture into the rocky slope which is quite well vegetated and is still quite green. Might be due to being on the lee side of the hill.

Almost immediately green spider orchids are found. Two subspecies of Calendenia attingens are found in this area. They are very similar orchids with the main distinguishing feature being the lateral sepals. Small mantis orchid (Caladenia attingens subsp. gracillima) has upswept lateral sepals and the Granite mantis orchid (Caladenia attingens subsp. effusa) has barely upswept lateral sepals, plus the lamina calli of the Small mantis orchid extend further onto the red apex than other species, which assists with identification, however is still proves difficult.

In the midst of so many mantis orchids a Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) is found. These orchids flower July to early October over an easterly range from Kondinin to Madura. They can be found growing around granite outcrops. Other specimens were found later on in the search of this location.

Another spider orchid is found which is proving more difficult to identify. The labellum has very dark distinct red lines and the petals and sepals are quite narrow. I will be naming these orchids the Ironcaps spider orchid (Caladenia paradoxa) which can be found on granite outcrops and is said to intergrade with C. microchila at the eastern extent of it’s distribution (Wubin to Norseman). Please correct me if I’m wrong as the distribution listed does not include Peak Charles specifically.

A rufous greenhood type orchid is the next found. Various specimens are found scattered around and they differ in colour, lateral sepals positions and general aspect. Naming these orchids is proving very difficult. The specimens with long thin apically upcurved lateral sepals could be the Striped rufous greenhood (Pterostylis zebrina) which is recorded as being found between Mt Ridley to Merredin growing on or near granite outcrops.

There is a brown coloured greenhood with much shorter lateral sepals that are quite hairy looking and quite square at the top rather than being rounded. Based on this I’ll name this specimen the Straight-topped rufous greenhood (Pterostylis sp. “straight tops”) which is located between the Murchison River and Peak Charles, our current location. However this orchid is not listed in the latest reference book so please correct me if you believe I am incorrect.

Many other rufous greenhoods were found and naming them is just too difficult, so I’m just uploading some pictures with the hope that someone can provide some guidance.

An unexpected find was the Sigmoid spider orchid (Caladenia sigmoidea). For very small orchids they are quite distinct with red and cream colourings and of course the ‘S’ shaped apex to the labellum, from which it derives it’s name.

Moving on, we head south towards Peak Elenore. We don’t go far before a change in vegetation makes up stop to have a look around. First up is a rufous greenhood orchid just budding up. Then further along another lone orchid is found, however this one is in full flower. Due to the long thin sepals this orchid could be a Slender rufous greenhood (Pterostylis macrosceles). It is recorded as growing between Goomalling and Queen Victoria Rocks, which is someway North of our current location, however Florabase records it as being in the Esperance shire, so I am happy with my ID.

After 30mins of searching, nothing else is found, so we move on. This time we stop in a white sandy patch to see if anything different can be found. After a few minutes with nothing found we move on and get to the Salmon Gum patch, where we were originally going to camp after finding the camping ground full. So happy we are camping where we are as this place is rather dry and barren. However there are orchids here. First up is the Insect-lipped rufous greenhood (Pterostylis insectifera) which is located between Karroun Hill, Ravensthorpe and Norseman. An exerted labellum and down-curved lateral sepals are distinctive features.

Another orchid found could very well be the Elegant rufous greenhood (Pterostylis elegantissima) due to the wide-spaced flowers and laterally-splayed lateral sepals. The labellum is almost blackish, dark green. Unfortunately, one of my specimens two flowers has a green labellum, which disagrees with my ID. However the orchids occur in locations between Goomalling and Salmon Gums, which concurs with my ID. Another case of ID confusion!

As it’s now 12.30ish we decide to give Peak Elenore a miss and head back to camp to grab a bite of lunch. After lunch the 2 Deb’s have a rest so I head off looking for a way up onto the rock. It is way too steep close to camp so I follow the base for quite a while. At one point I stumble across a small spider orchid growing a the base of the granite. Struggled to get some good photos but they are posted below just for recording purposes. By the off white colouring I believe it to be a Common spider orchid (Caladenia varians) which is found from Kalbarri to Esperance flowering from July till mid-October.

Nearby other rufous greenhoods were found. I think some are more Striped rufous greenhoods and one with cupped lateral sepals I am unsure of.

Not finding much else I decide to leave the rock s and head into the surrounding woodland/scrub to see if anything different is found. First up only more rufous greenhoods are found then by chance a small patch of Shy greenhoods (Pterostylis allantoidea) are found. The little guys belong to the snail orchid complex and flower in the area bordered by Ravensthorpe, Coolgardie and Israelite Bay, during August and September.

Stumbled across the remnants of a Caladenia roei complex orchid then on the track back to camp some more rufous greenhoods are found.

Peak Elenore will have to wait for another visit as time has gotten away from us and this is our last night camping. Appears the rufous greenhood orchids are the dominant orchid complex at Peak Charles N. P. at this late time of the season. It was still a pleasure finding them and getting out into the “Great Outdoors”.

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