25/07/2021 ….. First Spider Orchids of the season

Day Trip, Esperance, Helms Arboretum, Western Australian Orchids

Planned family picnic cancelled, so we took the opportunity to go for a Sunday drive. Time to check the local area to see if we could find anything special. We headed west first, with a roadside stop producing only Caladenia leaves. We then pulled over for another roadside stop on the Gibson-Dalyup road, which proved more successful.

A donkey orchid catches my eye, then Deb notices I had walked past 2 plants to get to my find. Typical of me to miss ones that Deb then finds. Oh well, a find is a find. The orchid appears to be the Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis) which occurs between Denmark and Esperance and flowers from July to September. Leaves of other species located but nothing yet in flower or already past their time.

We now move on to Gibson to see it we find anything new. Once we reach the track off Walker Road we chug along in 1st whilst hanging out the window looking for anything. I spy a nice big Caladenia leaf so pull over to go for an explore. Before that though I make coffees from the thermos. Deb finds a couple of Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) which we found here on a previous visit, however took some photos to record it nevertheless. Another Pterostylis orchid found however not fully open. The Jug orchid (Pterostylis recurva) will be a common sight soon enough.

Slightly disappointed with our luck so far today, so we move on to our Crawford Road location. Again we appear to be too early as we find many orchid leaves, with some in bud. So where to go now? Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) of course. Surely we will find something in flower there.

We decide to mix it up and turn down a track in the arboretum we had not checked out before. This lead us nowhere that seemed likely to produce orchids so we found our way back to known territory. First up though, we head to a sunny spot to have lunch. Curried egg sandwiches eaten whilst checking out nearby spots. Deb finds so many budding spider orchids in a spot we had not really checked before, so we now know where to check out later in the season.

Moving on we head to the location where we have previously found Western tiny blue orchids. Deb drops me off to walk through the plot, whilst she drives around the boundary. I find some what I believe to be Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) however one of them is quite dark so am not so sure. Could be Dark banded greenhoods or Mallee Banded greenhoods. Thoughts welcome on the ID. No tiny blues found as they are listed as flowering from August, so again we must be too early.

Back on the main road into the arboretum Deb spies a small flowering spider orchid blowing in the strong winds. Very difficult conditions to try and get a good photo to assist with identification. I will provide two options. Either Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) or Common spider orchid (Caladenia varians) as both flower early in July and extend into the Esperance area. What are your thoughts?

Then it was time to check out the plot where we find our king spider orchids. Deb as usual finds the first one in flower. The Esperance king spider orchid (Caladenia decora) as the name suggests is found around Esperance. It actually ranges between Bremer Bay and Cape Arid and inland to Scaddan. It is said to flower from August to October so the few orchids we found today must be some early bloomers.

We then move on to the plot where we find snail orchids in most years. This time is no exception. The snail orchids grow from quite a large rosette of leaves, have 2 or 3 stem leaves on a smooth stem and uniformly thick lateral sepals. I have been advised by a knowledgeable person from the WA Native Orchid Facebook group that they are most likely the yet unnamed Helms snail orchid (Pterostylis sp. ‘Helms’). Also found some spider orchids in bud.

It’s now 2 pm so we make tracks for home as Deb commences her shift at 4 pm. Was not expecting to find 2 species of Spider orchids in flower so it turned out to be a great Sunday exploration.

04/07/2021 ….. North-eastern adventure

Burdett South NR, Day Trip, Esperance, Helms Arboretum, Mount Burdett NR, Nature Reserves, Western Australian Orchids

On a cold winters day, what better to do than go exploring for orchids!! We must be mad. With grey clouds and the possibility of rain, we head north to check out the northern boundary of Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35). We wish to see how far the Southern Curly Locks (Thelymitra uliginosa) have progressed. We locate some of the spiral leaves but not in the same numbers as previous years, which is disappointing considering the great start to the season, weather wise. Another orchid found was a spent Scented autumn leek orchid (Prasophyllum Sp. ‘early’) which flower April to June, hence this orchid being finished for the season.

Nothing else found so we move eastwards to Dempster Road via Gibson Road then turn into Wittenoom Road. Rather than check out the blue metal dump which is one of our regular haunts we move further north and check out the old gravel pit near Scaddan Road. First up growing in the pushed back road verge we find some banded greenhoods. As they vary in colour they may be different species. Other specimens are found further afield so I am confident the larger greenish ones are the Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) whilst the smaller brownish ones are the Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula). Both flower during July and are shown as appearing in the Esperance region.

Then a wonderful patch of snail orchids being watched by a large fungi is found. From the rosettes and colouring of the snail orchids I believe they are Brittle snail orchids (Pterostylis timothyi). These small guys flower from July to September over an easterly distribution including Esperance.

We now move on further north and venture up a track that leads into Mount Burdett Nature Reserve. Further Brittle snail orchids are found or are they the similar Fawn snail orchids (Pterostylis parva) which are of smaller stature with shorter lateral sepals but fatter appearance.

Whilst we are taking photos of the snail orchids another 5 cars drive past on the track, so we decide to turn around and head to Mt Burdett (Mud Map SE36) for a detailed search. We reach our parking spot at the base of the granite rock an immediately find some greenhoods. From the height of the plants and the number of dark coloured flowers I believe they are Dark banded greenhoods (Pterostylis sanguinea) which flower June to September over a large range from Mullewa to Toolinna Cove.

Nearby found a lone Banded greenhood and then looking around some large snail orchids come into view. They are the Robust snail orchid (Pterostylis dilatata) which are distinctive, in that when flowering they lack a rosette.

I think the next snail orchid found is definitely a Fawn snail orchid as it is short statured , has bloated flowers and the rosettes have blue-green pointed leaves. The snail orchids are sharing the bright green moss with another small orchid as well. The Pink bunny orchid (Eriochilus scaber subsp. scaber) flowers early July, so these are on time as they are just starting to open. These little orchids are unique in that their flowering and non-flowering leaves differ in appearance.

Moving further up the rocky mount, we come across a patch of Mallee banded greenhoods which are similar to the Dark banded greenhoods but have less flowers and are shorter in stature.

We finally make it up to the summit, so to speak. We are excited to find a nice patch of shell orchids in flower. The Green-veined shell orchid (Pterostylis scabra) are a common inland shell orchid flowering over a huge range, Kalbarri to Esperance, during the months of May to August. They grow in varied habitats of woodlands and shrublands to shallow soil pockets on granite outcrops. The later describes our location.

Moving down the mount back to the Triton we come across more Fawn snail orchids. Nothing more so we move on in a south easterly direction this time.

So driving down Greens Road we notice a track leading into the Burdett South Nature Reserve. Quick check of Google Maps and we decide to check it out. It is quite overgrown so we end up walking mostly. Lucky find of a recognisable Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata) as they finish their season in June.

We come to a salt lake that provides a great backdrop for our obligatory “Selfie”, however the only other orchids found in flower where the good old Banded greenhood, plus a snail orchid with its hood eaten off. Rosette of stalked pointed leaves, leads me to name it the Brittle snail orchid.

Well it’s now 3.45pm so we decide to walk back to the Triton for the drive home. It was a very cold day however we found some great orchids and enjoyed the fresh air.

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!!

12/07/2020 ….. Helms in July

Esperance, Helms Arboretum, Western Australian Orchids

What better way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday that to check out Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) for any orchids that may be flowering. Before the search though we stock up on energy by having a cooked breakfast at the Esperance Bird and Animal Park.

The first orchid found was the ever reliable Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) which occurs over a lengthy period (April to Sept) over a wide distribution (Perth to Balladonia). Fairly coastal east of Albany, whilst further inland it is replaced by either the Dark Banded Greenhood or recently named Mallee Banded Greenhood. In fact the distributions of these orchids overlap in places, as confirmed by finding a small Mallee Banded Greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula) at Helms. These orchids are recorded as growing between Northampton and Eyre during the season June to September, over mainly inland locations.

Moving on to another section of the Arboretum we come across Snail orchids in varying stages of flowering. Naming Snail orchids is always difficult especially when some found in previous years at Helms have remained un-named. The pictures below I feel are of two different species. One is the common Hairy-stemmed snail orchid (Pterostylis setulosa) which flowers from June to September over a large range between Kalbarri and Balladonia. The other smaller snail orchid has, shorter lateral sepals, only 2 stem leaves, a rosette of quite rounded leaves plus does not have a hairy stem. It will remain un-named again this year.

Well not much happening at Helms this time. I trust we will visit again sometime this season and I look forward to a greater variety of orchids. Until next time!!!

14/06/2020….. Helms in winter

Esperance, Helms Arboretum

Debbie has started work today at 2pm, so rather than hang around home alone, I take the opportunity to visit Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35). Along the boundary of sites 7, 9 and 12, I come across some decent Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) which are known to grow up to 450mm in height and can have an inflorescence of up to 25 flowers. In the afternoon sunlight the colours come up magnificently. One of the orchids had a little spider with its food catch, however my photo of it is not too clear.

The afternoon sun was sinking quickly so I headed to the road I’ve marked X and went for a walk through the low scrub, looking for a particular orchid I had found here on previous seasons. After walking around for 10 mins or so I was starting to lose hope, when suddenly a small patch of white catches my eye and low and behold I found the Autumn leek orchid (Prasophyllum parvifolium). These orchids flower from June to August, so how they got the name Autumn leek orchid alludes me. They range from Eneabba to Mt Ragged and can grow to 400mm in height. The plants I found appear to have the reddish stripes of P. parvifolium however P. sp.’early’ is also found in the area. Known as the Scented autumn leek orchid it lacks the red stripes and actually flowers in autumn, April to June. The scent of each differ as well, but I could not smell anything, even when head down bum up. Please provide your thoughts on the ID and I will edit my post if need be.

Its now after 4pm and the sun is setting behind the grey clouds, so time to head home. Not much happening at Helms in this first month of winter but we all no that will change as the season progresses.

2020 – The season begins in March

Day Trip, Esperance, Helms Arboretum, Nature Reserves, Red Lake Townsite NR

11/03/2020

So have a guess where I went on the first official orchid hunt for the 2020 season? If you guessed Mud Map Ref: SE35 you are correct. Helms Arboretum is our so called “Rabbits foot” location and I was not let down entirely. Nothing in flower however White bunny orchids were in bud.

14/03/2020

However only 3 days later they had bloomed. Deb was with me today, so we both got to see the first orchids in flower for the season. White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp.dilatatus) is found from Dirk Hartog Island to Israelite Bay. Flowering period is March to May so it is one of the first orchids to flower in WA.

28/03/2020

First up we checked out Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE35) where we were excited to find the Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus). This orchid is the sole species in the genus and is endemic to Western Australia, where it is found between Pinjarra and Esperance during the months of March, April and May.

Leafless orchids may grow to 400mm in height






We then move further north and find some Pygmy orchids (Corunastylis fuscoviridis) in the Redlake townsite Nature Reserve. This orchid was originally named in 1883 and placed in the Prasophyllum genus however in 2002 it was moved to the Corunastylis genus. Then in 2018 it was re-named C. fuscoviridis as it was formally named C.tepperi, which is a species found in Victoria and South Australia. This is the sole West Australian species and is located from Corrigin to Eyre. It is also found in South Australia and Victoria, hence the naming issues.

Pygmy orchids may grow to 250mm in height but they are very difficult to spot in the leaf litter.

March proved to be the month when the Orchid season began in my local area. Four species are recorded as flowering during March around the Esperance area. We were lucky enough to find three of the four, with the Hare orchid the being the elusive species.

Final hoorah of 2019 season

Esperance, Helms Arboretum

27/09/2019

On my drive back in from the airport, after flying back from Melbourne via Perth, I stop in at Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) to have a quick look around. Only 2 orchids found due to the limited time available.

 

Common bee orchid

Diuris decrementa

Common mignonette orchid

Microtis media subsp. media

This lightning visit turns out to be my final orchid adventure for the 2019 season. Highlights were numerous and I will miss many, however some I remember whilst writing this final blog for the season were:

First time finds: Twisted sun orchid, Tenterden yellow spider orchid, Karri snail orchid, common bunny orchid and others.

Hybrids : Northern sandplain spider orchid (1st time find as well), Dusky fairy orchid, Spectacular spider orchid and other un-named ones.

Summer bushfire blooms : Rabbit orchids, Blue beards, Red beaks and Pink bunny orchids in Boyatup.

New Locations discovered : Narembeen shire, Westonia shire, Mukinbudin shire, Mount Marshall shire and Perenjori shire to name a few.

Park Closure – Helms to the Rescue

Esperance, Helms Arboretum

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.

A time when the Pterostylis ruled the Woodlands

Day Trip, Helms Arboretum, Nature Reserves, Red Lake Townsite NR, Truslove North NR, Truslove Townsite NR

13/07/2019

Finally after what seems like ages, we head off on a drive to search for some orchids. First stop is the wonderful Helms Arboretum, (Mud Map SE35 ) at the snail orchid plot. Well in previous years it was the snail orchid plot, however we may be a little early this year.

Eventually we come across some rosettes and then a few are in flower. Appears to be the species found 30/07 last year which could not be named. Western Australian Native Orchids Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/517329235050125/ identified these as an unnamed snail orchid from the South East.

Also found the leaves oF the spider orchids from previous years , so will be coming back later in the season to check on them. Moving along the track we find some Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata) and Dark banded greenhoods (Pterostylis sanguinea) growing on the verge. The lateral sepals are fleshier in the Dark banded greenhood, as the below pictures illustrate. 

More of the same found so we decide to proceed to our next planned stop – Fleming Grove Road. Here we find lots of Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata) in the final stages of flowering.

Pushing through the scrub we stubble across more Banded greenhoods growing under bushes for protection from being eaten by  the kangaroos.

Then nearby  we are lucky enough to find a solitary donkey orchid barely in flower. Based on location this must be a Green Range donkey orchid (Diuris littoralis) which flowers July to early September over a near coastal range from  Denmark to Esperance. Then another more open flower is found closer to the greenhoods.

Moving on again this time to Truslove Townsite Nature Reserve which unfortunately turns up orchidless. However Truslove North Nature Reserve turns up some Dark banded greenhoods.

Next stop is Red Lake Townsite Nature Reserve where we take a break for lunch. Deb finishes her lunch first and heads off up the track by foot on her search. I have a quick look around , finding more Dark banded greenhoods, and then jump in the Triton to move up to Deb as she has found something new. Dwarf shell orchids (Pterostylis brevichila) are her find, which flower July to September in a range from Hyden to Mt Ragged. Great pickup Deb!!

 Next up Deb finds a Midget greenhood (Pterostylis mutica) so close to flowering. These little guys are found July to October from Wongan Hills to the SA border.  Also within coo wee are some yet to fully open Frog greenhoods (Pterostylis sargentii) which flower July to October in an inland range from Northampton to Grass Patch. Better specimens are found down another track.

Then some more greenhoods are found, so last minute photos taken before moving on.

Our final destination for today is Eldred Rd near Salmon Gums, where we check out the woodlands surrounding a clay pan lake. (see Feature Image). Only orchids found were more greenhoods, but some appear to be the newly named Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula) which flowers June to September in an inland range from Northampton to Eyre. All orchids  were restricted to the bases of the larger trees.

Mallee banded greenhoods
Short stature and few flowered inflorescence.

So today was a day that the Pterostylis orchids ruled. At least 7 species found.  

?? Snail

Dwarf Shell

Banded Greenhoods x 3

Midget Greenhood

Frog Greenhood

The Diuris and Leporella are bonus orchids in a woodland of Pterostylis.