Come with me on my Orchid Adventures in Southern Western Austalia
I am an avid Native Orchid fan who loves to travel around my wonderful state of Western Australia hunting down orchid species previously not seen and record them in photographs. I live on the far south east coast of the state in the beautiful town of Esperance.
From our camp in Arrino we back track west then south to Hydraulic Road where we make our first stop of the day. Nothing found so we drive further east to a creek crossing then stop for another look. Wow there are so many Purple enamel orchids (Elythranthera brunonis) and then on the other side of the creek Deb finds some Cowslip orchids (Caladenia flava subsp. flava).
up to 3 glossy-purple flowers
Named in honour of the famous naturalist Robert Brown
Underside of petals and sepals is spotted
Marking on petals and dorsal sepals vary greatly
Orchid with clumping habit.
This was also the area we were directed to find some spider orchids. Spent Pterostylis found first then some spider orchids well passed their best.
Way past it’s time
Unknown species well past it’s best.
So back to Three Springs to fuel up and onwards through Carnamah to Bunjil. Turning south we travel through Latham and make a orchid hunting stop at Buntine Rock. We park the Triton and make our way to the rock by foot. Lemon-scented sun orchids (Thelymitra antennifera) are the first to be found , quickly followed by many small Donkey orchids. They appear to be Pale donkey orchids (Diuris sp. ‘mid-north’) as they are very pale in colour and small in size.
Up to 4 lemon-scented, lemon-yellow flowers
Small flowered, but these where extra small. My index finger tip.
From the Latin ‘antennifer’ (antennae) and fero (to bear) alluding to the antennae-like column lobes
Other donkey orchids found that I am unable to name. They did not fit the description given to the two species that are recorded from around these parts.
Confusing aspects such as : More colourful; lateral sepals that hang rather than being reflexed; reflexed or upright petals; upright dorsal sepal. Pictures posted as evidence of these variations.
Rocky granite habit
Possible Dainty donkey orchid (Diuris refracta)
Broad lateral lobes to labellum
Hanging lateral sepals
Vivid yellow with minimal markings
Broad , rounded , erect petals
Crossed lateral sepals but not reflexed
Our next orchid hunting stop was at Miamoon Reserve, which is southwest of Wubin. We walked around this flat granite outcrop which still had some wet areas which allowed us to find a new species for this trip. First up though were more donkey orchids which now appear to be Dainty donkey orchids (Diuris refracta), which flower late July to early September between Bindoon and Northampton. Also found were more Lemon-scented sun orchids.
Antennae like column lobes
Found between Shark Bay and Israelite Bay
Prominently reflexed, sometimes crossed, lateral sepals
Reflexed petals and dorsal sepal.
The new species found is Common bee orchid (Diuris decrementa) which flowers from late August to early November in an area from North of Perth to Esperance. We must be in the northern margins of its territory.
Forward projecting lateral sepals
Small, yellow, brown marked flowers
Obliquely erect, tapering dorsal sepal
Final orchids found for the day were some spent Little laughing leek orchids and more Lemon-scented sun orchids.
Fertilised with seed pods growing
We then made tracks heading south through Dalwallinu and turning east at Pithara. Finally we turn south down Petrudor Rd and make camp at Petrudor Rock. Before the sun sets we go for a walk around the rock but find no orchids.
6 species flowering with 3 other s past their prime. Not too bad a day.
After breakfast I take a little walk around our campsite in Canna and finally find some orchids. It has been many days since we left Charles Darwin Reserve where the last orchids found were located. Pale donkey orchid (Diuris sp. ‘mid-north’) appears to be the orchid found, with only a few scattered individuals encountered. These orchids flower late August to late September and are found between Moora and Mingenew. Canna being only 60kms NW of Mingenew.
Off to find some orchids, whilst Deb and Richard enjoy a cuppa
Small flowered donkey orchid 200 to 350 mm in height with two to three basal leaves
Dorsal sepal and labellum lateral lobes have light reddish-brown edges
We say our goodbyes to Richard at the Canna Hall, then before heading off, we decide to take the Wildflower walk to Canna Church Rock. First up were more donkey orchids but then we find some Dainty blue orchids (Cyanicula amplexans). At the rock picnic area we come across some Lemon scented sun orchids (Thelymitra antennifera) and some Cowslip orchids (Caladenia flava subsp. flava), plus more donkey orchids.
We said our goodbyes to Richard
Tri-lobed labellum with broad, spreading lateral lobes and a short, flattened to convex mid lobe.
Pale version with long petals and sepals
Darker version with shorter petals and sepals
Size comparison with index finger
Distinctive column with a yellow crested mid-lobe and reddish-brown, ear-like lateral lobes
Broad spreading petals and sepals
With a little green friend
Short, broad petals and sepals
Up to 7 pale-yellow, light-brown flowers
After the walk we had awesome showers for a donation, then made our way south to Bilya Rock. No real parking area, so we pull alongside the track as best we could with camper trailer in tow. Onto the rock and the only colour immediately visible is Yellow. Lemon-scented sun orchids, Pale donkey orchids and Cowslip orchids were found. Some of the donkey orchids could be Dainty donkey orchids due to the reflexed petals however it is very difficult to tell.
Dark eyebrows and yellow nose
Up to 7 pale yellow flowers
Small rounded erect petals
Broad spreading lateral lobes to labellum
With his spiky friend
We checked out War Rock which was surrounded by paddocks, so was overrun with weeds. Time to make tracks for Three Springs as we had to get to the bank. We also took the time to have another counter lunch, this time at the Commercial Hotel. We asked for orchid locations at the Tourist bureau and was given a map with places marked for possible sightings, however the lady informed us it has not been a great year and things flowered earlier than usual this season. We made our way around Dookanooka Nature Reserve and was lucky enough to find some Cowslip orchids early on, then much later some Purple enamel orchids (Elythanthera brunonis). First for this season as they flower August to early November on a large range from Kalbarri to Israelite Bay.
3 and rarely 4 flowers
Small membranous labellum with two large, black basal calli
Nothing else found so we make tracks to Arrino for our next overnight camp. Only 5 known species found today, which was a slow start to our orchid hunting as we move south away from the dry north.
These distinctive signs are all over Wildflower Country.
9/9 After checking out of Charles Darwin Reserve we make one more trip to the spot on the track to Mongers Well, to see if the sun orchid had finally flowered. Yeehah it has. It is very small Granite sun orchid (Thelymitra petrophila). Nearby is another one not 100% open, but a darker colouring, so I took photos of it as well.
Smooth, yellow or purple crested mid-lobe and white tufted lateral lobes
Blue, purple or pink flowers 10 – 20 mm across
Bluer colouring than it’s neigbour
A rock dwelling blue sun orchid 100 – 350 mm high with a narrow leaf 80 – 250 mm long by 4 – 6 mm wide.
Size comparison with my index finger
I couldn’t pass up some last photos of a Dainty blue orchid (Cyanicula amplexans)
Short horizontally spreading petals and lateral sepals
Tri-lobed labellum with a short mid lobe, long lateral lobes which curve over the column and almost touch
First day we travelled North up to Paynes Find before heading East towards Sandstone. We camped just off the road this night.
Checking out the abandoned townsite
10/9 In the morning, Deb and Richard tried their hand at some prospecting using a very old metal detector. We lunched at the National Hotel in Sandstone, then after filling up our water tanks, we took the tourist loop around Sandstone before heading West to our next overnight stop at Jundoo Dam on the road to Mount Magnet.
Sandstone – Paynes Find Rd
Sandstone – RV Friendly
This was the old Brewery
350 million yr old rock
Overnight camp 10/9
11/9 After stopping at Paynesville cemetery we made it to Mount Magnet for an awesome hot beef roll in the Grand Hotel. After a visit to the Dept of Mines for maps etc to help with the prospecting, we take the tourist route with a planned overnight stop at Garden Rock, near Cue.
In the middle of nowhere
On the Mt Magnet tourist drive
Very sparse cemetery
Old train station platform
12/9 After a walk over the granite rock we head into Cue to check out the town. Very nice old buildings but very empty streets. We now head south looking for the spot we picked from the maps for some prospecting. After having a go finding gold mid afternoon, we find at place to camp for the next 2 nights.
Silhouette at sunset
View back down to where we camped
Some of the amazing old buildings
Got phone signal
False alarm 😦
Bank of New South Wales and Gazebo in the medium strip
Richard and Deb trying to make a fortune
13/9 Deb and Richard have a day gold detecting nearby, whilst I remain at camp. Writing notes for this blog and just relaxing.
14/9 Today Deb and Richard show me some of the areas they visited yesterday and then we make tracks for Yalgoo and further south, Canna for our overnight stop.
View back to the Tritons
Deb under a rock overhang, viewed through a hole
On the Mt Magnet tourist drive
Beautiful old building
On the Yalgoo – Morawa Road
On the Morawa Yalgoo Rd
Fingers crossed we find some more orchids soon as I’m getting withdrawal pains!!!
We were to tackle the Windy Well Walk today, however we were advised by some volunteers who are clearing weeds from the reserve, that there are no wildflowers let alone orchids in that area, so we have decided to have a rest day around camp.
In the shade around our campsite
Charles Darwin Reserve
Enjoying an evening under a full moon around a raging campfire
No findings to report, on a final full day at Charles Darwin Reserve.
As Charles Darwin Reserve is proving to be very light on orchids this year we have decided to take a day trip to Camel Soak which is to the west. Last year it was a place we found many different species so fingers crossed for this year.
At Lake Monger lookout, on Rabbit-proof Fence Road, just off Wanarra East Road the first orchid found was the Dainty blue orchid (Cyanicula amplexans). However in the breakaway we also found many sun orchids yet to open fully.
Long lateral lobes of labellum curve over the column and almost touch
Single broad, hairy flattened leaf
Narrow ridged leaf
A day or two early for the flowers to open.
Travelling down Rabbit-proof Fence Rd we turn East and arrive at Camel Soak. This granite catchment, also known as The Rock Hole was sunk as a watering point for men and their camel teams working on the No 2 Rabbit Proof Fence from 1903 to 1905.
Now to search for some orchids! The Yellow granite donkey orchid (Diuris hazeliae) is found all around the granite outcrop which is wonderful to see.
Broad petals, broad dorsal sepal and broad lateral lobes on labellum
Growing in the rushes on the edge of the granite
I stumble across a new orchid for this far north. Pink candy orchid (Caladenia hirta). All alone but still a different species finally.
Short fringe segments and four or more rows of calli
Spreading petals and lateral sepals
100 – 250 mm high with a single , broad, ground-hugging leaf
More Donkey orchids and Dainty blue orchids found
Double and triple headers
Recurved, crossed lateral sepals
Faint brown markings and long petals
full flower shot
Buddies in the background
Various stages of flowering
Another species found in good numbers. Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava sp. flava)
Heights of flowers also vary greatly
Often red marked yellow flowers
Flowers can be up to 250 mm high
Markings and length of petals and sepals vary a lot
Richard then spies a Little laughing leek orchid (Prasophyllum gracile) and further specimens are found.
Fused lateral sepals with elongated tips
Up to 40 yellowish-green flowers
Short, forward facing petals,
Single, green, smooth, tubular leaf
Small leek orchid, 60 – 200 mm high
Short, forward facing petals, erect, fused lateral sepals with elongated tips, a forward facing dorsal sepal and a small, recurved labellum.
Some unopened Yellow and Blue sun orchids were the only other species found.
Pink tinged underside
Exact species unknown
From the pink underside appears to be as named
Many more Dainty blue orchids and Yellow granite donkey orchids were found and photographed.
5 species identified today with 2 Thelymitra species found that had yet to flower for identification.
After a wonderful night around the camp fire, we wake to another beautiful spring morning. Breakfast eaten, we pack up camp and head to Pergande Sheep Yards. The yards were constructed in the early 1900’s from thin granite slabs harvested from nearby Waicubbing Hill using the heating/cooling method.
3 unusual sheep
Sheep yard made from thin granite slabs
This is the sheep run where the flock was thinned down to one sheep at a time passing through
Now for the long drive to Charles Darwin Reserve, with a lunch stop at the Dalwallinu pub. We arrived at the reserve mid afternoon and set up camp ready to tackle the tracks in search of orchids in the morning. The drive into camp though did not bode well for orchids, as it was very very dry.
Fish n chips for the boys and Fisherman’s basket for Deb
Such beautiful spring weather
Today we take the Salt Lake Tour to the North of our campsite to see if we can find any orchids at all. As expected it took a lot of looking before we found some small Dainty blue orchids (Cyanicula amplexans). These little beauties are found August to early October between Kalbarri to Norseman.
Short, horizontally spreading petals and sepals
Size comparison with my index finger
Purplish-mauve, prominently tri-lobed labellum
It was another 1/2hr before we found our next orchid species. Yellow granite donkey orchid (Diuris hazeliae), which flower August to September and range from Paynes Find to Salmon Gums.
Prominently yellow, brown marked flowers 20 – 40 mm across.
Broad petals and a very broad dorsal sepal
Labellum with spreading lateral lobes and a broad , flattened to convex mid lobe
Only 2 species found over the entire 32 kms of the Salt Lake Tour. It is a very stark comparison with August last year when there were orchids and other wildflowers everywhere.