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!!

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.

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.

Solo search North

Day Trip, Nature Reserves, Red Lake Townsite NR, Road Trip, Speddingup East NR, Truslove North NR, Truslove Townsite NR

11/05/2019

I get to go Orchid hunting by myself today, as Debbie is flying to Perth for an Awards night with her employer. After seeing Debbie off at the Esperance airport, I head north up the Coolgardie-Esperance Hwy. My first point of call is Fleming Grove Road. This is the 2nd visit of the season to this location, with the first turning up nothing. Let’s hope today is more fruitful.

A little white flower catches my eye. A White bunny orchid is found however on closer inspection of the leaf it appears to be a Crinkle-leafed bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. undulates) which begin flowering in April over a large range from Northampton to east of Esperance and inland to Mt Jackson and Queen Victoria Rocks. This classification may be incorrect as one plant has 4 flowers and my references state they have up to 3. Also I don’t have a clear photo of the leaf due to surrounding vegetation. Other bunny orchids were found with less flowers which may confirm my classification.

Also found were some early Pterostylis genus orchids. Seems to be yet to fully open greenhood. Nothing more found so moving on to the next location.

Greenhood

Getting ready to emerge

Speddingup East Nature Reserve is that location. Driving slowly in first gear, I glance out the drivers window in a vain attempt at orchid spotting. Nothing seen at all so a bit despondently I turn around to head back to the road when I glance a gravelly track leading into the scrub. Why not give that a try, on foot this time, as it is very overgrown and too narrow, even for the Triton.

Nothing found here either, so I head into the scrub, for the walk back to the Triton. So glad I did, as there all by itself I find a perfect example of the Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus). This specimen stood 230mm in height and still looked fresh given they flower March to May. They range between Pinjarra and Esperance growing in sandy soils in scrublands and woodlands.

Feeling so much better now, I head off for Truslove North Nature Reserve. Turning just past the School site I slowly drive but find nothing. Parking up for a bite to eat, I call up Deb to find she had just arrived at her hotel. After a chat I go for a walk into the scrub, however do not find anything, so move onto the next locality.

Passing through Grass Patch to my destination of Red Lake Townsite Nature Reserve, where I enter at the school site. Again I slowly drive through looking out my window, with no luck at spying any orchids. So I get out and wander around on foot, which still brings up nada.

OK, so today is not proving very successful, however I continue on my trip further north, with my next stop at Salmon Gums. A little disheartened, I sit in the Triton listening to the final quarter of the Collingwood v Carlton AFL match. After some heart stopping moments Collingwood win, which improves my mood, so I move on to our spot for orchid hunting.

This spot was proving orchid-less as well, when on my way back to the Triton, walking along the side of the road ditch I see a little orchid, all by itself. Finally found a Pygmy orchid (Corunastylis tepperi) in flower after only finding spent ones in previous years. Only the very top of the inflorescence though is still open with the majority finished for the season. These little guys flower April and May only, from Corrigin to Eyre.

So lucky to have found the one and only Pygmy orchid as he proves to be the last orchid I find today. On the way back home, I call into Circle Valley, Grass Patch arboretum, Truslove Townsite Nature Reserve and Scaddan, which all prove to be void of orchids. Well at least I didn’t find any.

Oh well, it was a nice day out but only 3 species found. 2 were single specimens, so I was very lucky to have found them. Pterostylis orchids are starting up, so the season moves on. Such a dry start is making the hunt harder this year so far, so we can only see how it pans out going forward.