Solo again as Deb is still in Perth with Ollie visiting relatives and having a ball. So, after enjoying a sleep in, I have breakfast, do some washing, then pack up and head off for an exploration northeast of Esperance. First stop is on Wittenoom Road at our usual spot. I immediately check out where the spider orchids flower and was shocked to see the area had been pushed up to increase the space. There was only one small Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) in flower, with no others found, not even leaves.
Then I wander around the site, plus also across the road and not too much is flowering. I find some very small donkey orchids which I am not confident to name. Then of course I find the Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata)and Dark banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea) growing under the scrub.
And the final orchid found at this location was the small Brittle snail orchid (Pterostylis timothyi) which was hard to photograph due to the wind. So I will post a video of it instead.
Time to move on, but only as far as Scaddan Road, where I pull into a section of reclaimed scrub to see if there is anything flowering. Only found a single greenhood growing as well as some more snail orchids. Both named previously.
Past lunch time, so I head off to Mount Burdett, which is located in the aptly named Mount Burdett Nature Reserve. I parked up halfway as the track is badly washed out, however the view was still great whilst eating my nuts and drinking my coffee. I then walk up the last of the track and first up come across some more snail orchids, but this time they are growing in lush green moss.
Then I hit the usual rock edge where we find most of the orchids on the previous visits. This time however all I find are the faithful Banded greenhoods. This is looking poor, however I push further along the base and come across what appears to be a great patch of non-flowering Pink bunny orchid leaves. Could not see anything flowering though. Just as I was about to head up the hill, I stumble across a small patch of Robust snail orchids (Pterostylis dilatata) which is one of the larger snail orchids and it does not have a rosette, which is quite unique.
Climbing up I come across the Dark banded greenhood again plus a patch of Caladenia leaves. Then found some Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata) which were in a reasonable state given the listed flowering period is March to June.
Further towards to summit I reach the access track which is very rough and would be a test for your 4WD. At the first turnaround area I discover some further Brittle snail orchids. Then finally at the summit clearing I find a few Green-veined shell orchids (Pterostylis scabra), with only one fully formed. These are a widespread orchid, being found from Kalbarri to Esperance. After taking some pics, I have a quick search for any donkey orchids in flower, but alas none were found. So, it’s back down I head.
Nothing more really comes to my attention before making it back to the Triton. So back to Norwood Road, where I turn right. On the left side of the road, it had been burnt out, so I pull alongside the road, park up, then venture into the blackened scrub. After walking around for about 15 mins, with not an orchid in sight, I despondently jump back into the Triton and head toward Dempster Road. Just before the intersection of the roads, I pull into a layby, which is actually the boundary of the Mount Ridley Nature Reserve. Mount Ridley though is actually some 20kms to the north and is not included in a reserve, which I find bizarre. I decided to check out the reserve bush first, but didn’t get very far in, as it was fairly thick. I did however find some small greenhoods, one of which may be the Midget greenhood (Pterostylis mutica), which commences it’s flowering in July. The I checked out the other side of the road but again, no orchids found. Then just before I reach the Triton, I notice some very spent Pygmy orchid (Corunastylis fuscoviridis), so had to grab a pic for recording purposes.
Moving on, I turn left onto Dempster Road and head south toward Fisheries Road. This part of the road is another boundary of the Nature Reserve, so when another layby catches my eye, I do a U-turn and park up for my final exploration of the day. It is getting dark pretty quickly, but I notice some Dark banded greenhoods and grab some pics, then come across some small rosettes with 3 little buds growing from the bare earth in between. Due to this they are going to be some Shell orchids. I take a pic for record purposes, then make a beeline for the Triton.
Then out of nowhere, hiding under a small bush, a large patch of Dwarf shell orchids (Pterostylis brevichila) catches my eye. Now this is an awesome last find for the day. These wonderful orchids are found from Hyden to Mt Ragged, growing in eucalyptus woodlands. The rosette is listed as being compact with rounded leaves, which confirms the buds found earlier will be more of these.
Time to head home as the light is fading fast, however I pull over to grab a shot of the sunset over one of the many clay pans in the area. Amazing day with 2 species of Shell orchids being found together with other Pterostylis species, A sole Wispy spider orchid represents the Caladenia genus and spent Pygmy and Hare orchids close out the list. Winter is moving on slowly, so we can look forward to more orchids flowering in the weeks to come.
Well, the 2nd month of winter rolls around and I am home alone for the weekend. I only have the Ford so have to stick to decent roads and tracks on my orchid hunting adventures. I decide to head out East to see if anything new has started to bloom.
1st stop: Track off Old Smokey Road – Had to walk the track as it was not decent enough to tackle in the Ford. Firstly, I will mention the orchids found that had finished their season and the ones found yet to bloom. White bunny orchid (Eriochilus sp.) had finished, whilst the Mignonette orchid (Microtis sp.) was a remanent from last season. Next up Sun orchids (Thelymitra sp.) with leaves only currently growing are found.
The first orchids found flowering were the greenhoods. Possibly both the Dark banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea)and Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) were found, however with both having varying colours it is hard to distinguish. Some P. sanguinea are all green/white whilst rarely some P. vittata are found fawn coloured. The other orchid found was the Fawn snail orchid (Pterostylis parva) which also has fawn toning plus pointed leaves to its rosette.
2nd stop: Coolinup Road – More greenhoods are found flowering, possibly a mixture of P. sanguinea, P. vittata and Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula). Another snail orchid is also found flowering, however this time they appear to be the Brittle snail orchid (Pterostylis timothyi) due to it’s thinner, taller stature.
Also found were some Caladenia sp. leaves, Bird orchid rosettes and Mosquito orchids in bud, tempting another visit, later in the season.
3rd stop: Track off Fisheries Rd before Parmango Rd – This is a new location and not too much is found this time. I am lucky to stumble across a Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) in flower. A lot of dumped rubbish in the area, which is terrible, however I did locate 3 old Cottees bottles, to add to our collection. I wandered into the dried-up lake area, which was almost devoid of any growth, just a bed of leaf litter. On the slow drive back along the track to Fisheries Road I did find some spent Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata) still distinguishable.
4th stop: Under powerlines off Parmango Road – I revisit one of our newer locations and walk up to the gravelly area to see how the spiral leaf orchids are faring. Along the track and at the targeted patch I did stumble across some spent Hare orchids, Caladenia sp. leaves and the spiral leaves of a Thelymitra sp. A highlight of this patch was the couple of small Scented Autumn leek orchids (Prasophyllum sp. ‘Early’) found in flower.
Well, this certainly turned into a day of being too early for some orchids, late for others and only a few in flower. As the season progresses so will the numbers of orchids in flower increase. I look forward to a re-visit later on with Debbie in tow.
Well after all the stress of the last month or so, it was great to get out in nature again with my darling wife for a good old orchid hunt. We decided we would head out East and see if anything new has sprouted since our visit in April.
We went straight out to our Parmango Road location and found some beautiful Scented autumn leek orchids (Prasophyllum sp. ‘early’), which as the species name suggests, flower from April through to early July. Their stark white colouring stands out in the dull green greys of the surrounding foliage.
Another flowering orchid found was the Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata) which commences flowering as early as March. They can have up to 3 flowers per orchid (rarely 4) so I will post 3 of our triple headers found.
. Only spiral leaves and buds were found of Pterostylis species, so no other photos taken. Beaumont Nature Reserve is our next location; however, orchids are very light on there as well. At least the first orchids found are new for the 2022 season. The common Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) is found in isolated specimens of various sizes and stages of flowering.
The only other orchid found flowering was the Red-lipped bunny orchid (Eriochilus valens), which is also an early flowering orchid, starting in March and finishing in May, so we are lucky to find some still going. I believe this is our first recording of this species which is exciting. It was the leaf shape and petals clasping the column that allowed me to ID these. Also, the latest references now record their location as far east as Condingup whilst my older reference book has it occurring only as far east as Munglinup.
We now move back towards Esperance and pull into Condingup Peak. Snail orchid rosettes found with Sun orchid leaves growing out of the moss on the rocks. Bunny orchids are finished up here and we find a recognisable Hare orchid.
Final location for the day is Coolinup road, where we find some more orchids that are all past their prime as well. More Hare and Bunny orchids are found. The bunny orchids may be the newly named Eastern granite bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. ‘eastern granites’) which is listed as being located between Esperance and Balladonia during the months of April and May. Growing on granite, smooth leaf and lack of pink colouring confirm this ID. Thoughts??
Well that is our day done. With only 5 species found it was not that great, however recording 2 different species of Eriochilus was exciting as both are new to us.
Well, we finally get to go exploring on our first orchid hunt of this season. It has been a struggle finding the time, what with COVID isolation after a family centred Easter weekend, but we got there on the last day of April. Richard (our travel buddy) dropped in for the weekend, so he was seconded as driver for the day. First up of course we had a wonderful, cooked breakfast at the Esperance Bird and Animal Park.
Moving north up the Esperance Coolgardie Highway we make a stop at our Fleming Grove Road location, hoping the previously found orchids are again flowering. Deb moves ahead of us boys and confirms she has found the Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus). These orchids flower from March till May over a range from Pinjarra to Esperance.
Also found in the same area were many Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata) which occur during March to June over a wide range, Kalbarri to Israelite Bay. Unlike the leafless orchid, these little guys have either one or two purple striped smooth green leaves.
There was also a solitary White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus) surrounded by Hare and Leafless orchids. However, many more were found scattered around the wider location. These orchids also flower early, March to May, over a range between Dirk Hartog Island and Israelite Bay.
We then decided to move further east and check out the scrubland near the railway line. Well, we really only checked out the edge of the track, where we found another Leafless orchid and a White bunny orchid hiding underneath a prickle bush. Video taken of the Leafless orchid but not the White bunny. We also did a recognisance of the patch of scrub diagonally opposite our usual patch and this was a nice mix of scrub and regrowth so it may warrant another visit later in the season.
Deb has to work tonight, so we make tracks for home so she can relax before her shift. We also have our son’s birthday dinner to attend at 5pm. Finding our 3 usual suspects for today made the quick trip worth it and it was nice to get out in the fresh air for a change.
Well, what else do you do on a RDO in spring but go Orchid Hunting. Today we head out east of Esperance in the hope of finding some different species to those found around the lakes and at Helms Arboretum last weekend.
First up we head past Condingup and head north up Parmango Road. At our usual location we slowly drive in, hanging out the windows looking for orchids, then park up and head further in on foot.
At the clearing where we park up, we are surprised to find the beautiful Custard orchid (Thelymitra villosa). This striking orchid flowers during the spring months, over a large range from Northampton to Israelite Bay. It is known to have up to 20 flowers per plant.
Located very close by is the glistening Purple enamel orchid (Elythranthera brunonis). This sun loving orchid flowers from August to early November over a similar range, Kalbarri to Israelite Bay.
Time to head off on foot as you do find more orchids this way. Backtracking toward Parmango Road first though as Deb spied a bird orchid on the drive in. Only one specimen found and appears to be the Bearded bird orchid (Pterostylis turfosa) as the species named Esperance bird orchid was included as an eastern variety of P. turfosa.
Also found here was a smaller yellow orchid. The Bee orchid (Diuris laxiflora) also flowers during the spring months, though only flowers as far northwest as Gingin from Esperance.
Finally, we head west along the track. A single, solitary Esperance king spider orchid (Caladenia decora) is found. No others were found along this track today. The prominently clubbed sepals allowed me to ID it, as the similarly located and similarly featured Heberle’s spider orchid causes no end of confusion, when trying to ID these king type spider orchids.
Another small yellow orchid catches our eye. The tiny Twisted sun orchid (Thelymitra flexuosa), is so named due to a distinctive zig-zagged flower stem. The flowers themselves are listed as being 12 – 15mm across which is smaller than a 5c piece. We have only found this species a couple times before, so this is an exciting find.
Amazingly the next orchid is also yellow in colour. The more common Lemon-scented sun orchid (Thelymitra antennifera) which is so named due to the antennae like structures to the column. These orchids flower as far north as Shark Bay from Israelite Bay to our east.
Finally, an orchid that is not yellow in colour. The striking Common mignonette orchid (Microtis media subsp.media) can stand up to 600mm in height and can have up to 100 yellowish-green flowers per plant. Each flower is miniscule being only 2-3mm across.
The surprise find for the day was a solitary hammer orchid, which is well and truly fertilised and slowly shriveling up. The only recorded hammer orchid in the Shire of Esperance is the King-in-his-carriage (Drakaea glyptodon). The distinctly pouched labellum is not apparent, though it may have just shrivelled away.
Another single specimen found. Hiding in a bush the Shy sun orchid (Thelymitra graminea)is living up to its common name. There are four visually similar blue sun orchids flowering in the Esperance district so my identification may be incorrect, so please feel free to enlighten me.
Next up is an orchid that apparently smells bad. As they are so small and close to the ground, I have never put that to the sniff. The White fairy orchid (Caladenia marginata) is an orchid that is stimulated by fire and is usually found around granite outcrops. That is the case for our nearby Cape Le Grand rock location, however no visible granite at this location.
Another sun orchid is found in the old damp gravel pit area, however due to the deep cleft in the mid-lobe of the column I believe it to be the Slender sun orchid (Thelymitra vulgaris). They are one of the weird self-pollinating orchids, as are the Twisted sun orchids.
Next up is a mutated orchid I believe. It appears to be a Lemon-scented sun orchid however it does not have a normal looking column. I would love to have your thoughts on this unusual specimen.
Another amazing orchid is found poking up through the undergrowth. Rattle beaks (Lyperanthus serratus) in its dull green and maroon colourings is a beautiful orchid. They may have up to 10 flowers per plant and can reach heights of 500mm. They have a distinctive leaf which we regularly find prior to the flowering season but feel blessed when we find one flowering.
In the gravelly or rocky wet area, we were staggered to find the Pointing spider orchid (Caladenia exstans). We had previously found this orchid at Thomas River and Dempster Head which are in listed habitat of near coastal granite. We are around 25kms from the coast with no apparent granite so did not expect to find these orchids here. Actually, we have also found them at Boyatup which is a similar distance inland but also has granite everywhere.
Further orchids were found but not great photos taken so will record them here and put up the best photo I have of them. Zebra orchid (Caladenia cairnsiana) in a nice bright red form. Dancing spider orchid (Caladenia discoidea) in washed out colours plus the Laughing leek orchid (Prasophyllum macrostachyum) with its beautiful red lined sepals and petals.
Well, this track walked along proved a great spot with many species found. We can’t linger at one place too long so back to the Triton we trudge and onward to our next location.
We pull into Beaumont Nature Reserve which is little further north along Parmango Road. Here we again make our way on foot as the track is too tight and will scratch the crap out of the Triton. It is not long before we find our first orchid. Interestingly it is another Rattle Beaks, closely followed by more Zebra orchids and Bee orchids
Walking further along the track we find other previously found orchids. This time another Purple enamel orchid appears shining in some brief sunlight, further Common mignonette orchids stand tall and yellow Lemon-scented sun orchids are visible against the drying foliage.
Next up the blue sun orchids start to appear in numbers. From the thin leaf I believe they are further Shy sun orchids and another Slender sun orchid is found, with its deeply clefted column mid lobe. Maybe we will find something new here the further we venture in.
And guess what? We did find something new for the day. From what I can tell this spider orchid appears to be a Hybrid but could also just be a pale coloured Esperance king spider. What are your thoughts?
Another yellow orchid is found, and it is amazing it has taken this long to find the very widespread common Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp. flava). These orchids vary greatly in the brightness of their yellow and the patterns of their markings.
The next orchid found is confusing as the location would lead the ID to be the Short sepaled spider orchid (Caladenia brevisura), however a lack of clubbing to the lateral sepals seems to indicate the Ant orchid (C. roei)may be the correct ID, but these orchids only go as far East as Ravensthorpe. However, my iNaturalist record has confirmed the first choice.
A new colour for the day appears in the undergrowth. The Pink candy orchid (Caladenia hirta subsp. rosea) is an unexpected find. They are however listed as occurring as far east as Israelite Bay, so should not be a surprise. The pink colouration is varied from very pale pink, almost white to vivid pink.
Talking about a splash of yellow. We have finally reached the granite area with a stream running through it and there is a good number of orchids flowering here. A standout is a great clump of the Elegant donkey orchid (Diuris concinna) which is bright yellow with some small brown markings. This is the best bunch I’ve ever seen.
Flowering nearby was the closely related Common bee orchid (Diuris decrementa) which is known to grow on shallow soil on granite outcrops. They were found in large numbers the more we ventured.
As pictured above with the bee orchids was the small Swamp mignonette orchid (Microtis atrata) which as the name suggests are found in seasonally wet flats and run-off areas around granite outcrops. They are only 40 to 80mm in height.
Other orchids were found growing on the shallow soil surrounding the granite, including Rabbit orchids (Leptoceras menziesii) and Lemon-scented sun orchids. Rabbit orchids have ear-like petals that provide the common name and very forward projecting lateral sepals.
Plus of course granite loving orchids are also found. The Granite sun orchid (Thelymitra petrophila) is an inland occurring orchid that flowers from August to November, however, the Coastal sun orchid (Thelymitra granitora) is also recorded as being found on inland granite outcrops northeast of Esperance and flowers during August and September. I think we have found both as the Coastal sun orchid is said to have a fleshy flower stem and the photos do seem to show one with a thicker stem.
Other orchids found in the woodlands and on the granite were more Common mignonette orchids and Shy sun orchids.
The most exciting find at this location was the hybrid of the Lemon-scented sun orchid and one of the blue sun orchids. This hybrid is a wonderful pinkish tone with bright yellow antennae. (Thelymitra x)
What a great location this has turned out to be, however, we decide to move on. Next stop is Condingup Hill. (Mud Map SE39) We had barely turned off Fisheries Road when the first orchids are seen. The common Purple enamel orchid comes in first place for this location, closely followed by the small Twisted sun orchid.
Next up a king type spider orchid is found. However, I have no idea if it is an Esperance king, Heberle’s or a hybrid. Both the aforementioned species have spreading petals/sepals and with this specimen they are hanging. They appear to be clubbed and particularly thin when compared to the large labellum. Ideas on ID welcome.
Higher up the track at the swampy flat area we find some more Swamp mignonette orchids and a Lemon-scented sun orchid.
At the corner, underneath a bush we are happy to find the Bearded bird orchid in flower. Actually, there is more than one in flower which is great.
We choose not the check out the lookout or Telstra tower area, so we drive back down and look along Fisheries Road just before the Condingup townsite sign. As expected, we locate some Esperance white spider orchids (Caladenia longicauda subsp. crassa) growing in the swampy ground.
The only other orchids found flowering here were some Purple enamel orchids. So, we grab some quick snaps then jump back into the Triton and head west.
We turn into Ridgelands Road and head north. Stopping at a patch of non-farmland we venture down into what appears to be an area leading to a swamp/lake. The ground is covered in dry leaf litter but growing here and there are some tall sun orchids. Most likely Shy sun orchids again due to location and thickness of the leaf.
Moving to the other side of the road, it is apparent the vegetation is different and straight away we find some Esperance white spider orchids.
Another, Caladenia species found which occurs between Ravensthorpe and Israelite Bay is the Short sepaled spider orchid. This small spider orchid is distinguished by its south easterly location and short sepal tips which are clubbed. At least these ones have clubs unlike the one found earlier today. There colouring varies considerably from dark red to light green.
Other orchids found include the ever-reliable Cowslip orchid, more Purple enamel orchids, a patch of Elegant donkey orchids and the Common mignonette orchid.
After 4pm, so time to make tracks home. At least 27 orchid species found with a hybrid or 2 thrown in. One last picture to post of a herd of Zebras coz I like it. No other reason!!
Well, after yesterday spending some time looking for orchids near our coastal lakes, it was inevitable that we would venture out to Helm’s Arboretum (Helm’s Forestry Reserve) to check out what is still flowering in this amazing location. (Mud Map SE35)
We do not have to venture far before we stumble across some orchid beauty. In the section near the entrance, we find the following orchids:
Common bee orchid (Diuris decrementa)
Esperance king spider orchid (Caladenia decora)
Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp.flava)
Common mignonette orchid (Microtis media)
Shy sun orchid (Thelymitra graminea)
Time is a moving and so must we, so onwards into the Arboretum we go. At the first road to the right, we turn off and slowly drive along looking out the windows. As soon as we spy something new, we pull over for a closer inspection. Along this track we find the following different orchids:
Little pink fairies (Caladenia reptans subsp. reptans)
Un-named Hybrid orchid (Caladenia flava x C. reptans)
Pink fairies (Caladenia latifolia)
Lemon-scented sun orchid (Thelymitra antennifera)
Moving further into the Arboretum we stop at a specific spot to find the Rattle beaks and we are not disappointed. Other orchids our found across the track from the Rattle beaks.
Rattle beaks (Lyperanthus serratus)
Small mantis orchid (Caladenia attingens subsp. gracillima)
Purple enamel orchid (Elythranthera brunonis)
Heberle’s spider orchid (Caladenia heberleana)
Now to check out some further areas of this large reserve. We come across some more varied spider and sun orchids which may be different species, hybrids or just colour variants. Other orchids new for the day were also found and I will list these first.
Red beaks (Pyrorchis nigricans)
Zebra orchid (Caladenia cairnsiana)
Common spider orchid (Caladenia varians)
Esperance white spider orchid (Caladenia longicauda subsp. crassa)
Now for pics of the varied spider and sun orchids found.
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. EDIT: I have been advised by a knowledgeable person the green orchid is a Dark banded greenhood (Pterostylis sanguinea) (green form) due to opaque lateral sepals without stripes, compared to the earlier greenhood found. Also confirms Mallee banded greenhood (Pterostylis arbuscula)for the darker greenhood. Thanks MP
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? EDIT:C. microchila has been identified by a knowledgeable person. Thanks MP.
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.
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.
Our Sunday drive North of Esperance is successful in finding 5 of the early season orchids flowering in the Esperance shire.
First stop is Gibson where a new location turns up the Banded greenhood (Pterostylis vittata) which flower from April, however it is usually slightly delayed this far east, so we were surprised to find some open.
Next up is our Fleming Grove Road location where we find 3 species. Firstly the Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus)is found. We were amazed to find around 8 flowering in close proximity as we had previously only found isolated individuals.
Intermixed with the Leafless orchids were many Hare orchids (Leporella fimbriata). Again the numbers were high compared to previous discoveries.
Final orchid found at this location is a lone White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus). The stem leaf was very small so we were unable to tell if it had crinkled edges, so it may well be a Crinkled-leafed bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. undulatus). They have differing location specs: White bunny being coastal and Crinkled-leafed bunny mostly inland. As the location is only 30km inland it may be either, so please comment should the identification be apparent.
Final species of the day is the small Pygmy orchid (Corunastylis fuscoviridis), which we find at both Salmon Gums and Red Lake Townsite Nature Reserve. Flowering during the months of April and May only, we feel lucky to have found some still in flower, as we found loads more already finished for the season.
Looks like it may be a bumper season, due to the early rains. To celebrate the successful day, we indulged in an ice-cream from Salmon Gums Roadhouse.