14/06/2020….. Helms in winter

Helms Arboretum, Within 20kms of Esperance

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, Helms Arboretum, Nature Reserves, Red Lake Townsite, Within 20kms of Esperance


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.


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.


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

Helms Arboretum, Within 20kms of Esperance


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

Helms Arboretum, Within 20kms of Esperance


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, Truslove North, Truslove Townsite


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.

Late Season Looks

Cape le Grand, Detours, East Naernup, Helms Arboretum, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Road Trip, Stokes, Within 20kms of Esperance


Whilst on a fishing trip to the beaches of  Cape le Grand National Park I take some time to check out the vegetation behind the dunes to see if I am lucky enough to find any orchids. In a patch of shallow soil overlaying limestone rock, which was trickling with water, I was lucky to find some Purple enamel orchids (Elythranthera brunonis). I also found close by  a Yellow sun orchid yet to open and a large leaf from unknown orchid. 



Next fishing trip is to a place named Margaret Cove, which is west of Esperance in the Stokes National Park. Again I decide to talk a walk, however this time back along the track to see if I can find any late season orchids flowering. All I find are some Common mignonette orchids (Microtis media) growing on the very edge of the track. I check out burnt banksia scrub but nothing else is found.


Remembrance day and we make a visit to Helms Arboretum to see if anything different is in flower out there. Only found some Common mignonette orchids and lots of the South African orchid (Disa bracteata) which is an introduced species that appears to occur in habitats that are disturbed or degraded from Geraldton to Israelite Bay during October and November. All the Sun orchids had finished for the season.


The final orchid hunt occurred on the drive back from Perth. Nearly 4pm in the afternoon we pull into our special place in the East Naernup Nature Reserve on Mills Road near Munglinup. This little patch of bush we search and the first find are more Common mignonette orchids, which seems to be the only thing left flowering. Whilst grabbing a photo of one of these orchids, something catches my eye.  Finally something different is found late in the season.  A very poor specimen of the Ravensthorpe rufous greenhood (Pterostylis leptochila) is found, which flowers late September to November in a restricted range, from Ballinup River to Munglinup.

As it was just past 4pm and the sun was shining brightly we decide to spread out our search. This proved fortuitous as we discovered a much better rufous greenhood specimen as well as other mignonette orchids.

This did prove to be our last orchid hunt of  the 2018 season.

Roll on March 2019 when the hunt commences for the 2019 season. 

Esperance Excellence

Helms Arboretum, Myrup, Within 20kms of Esperance


After our eventful trip along the Holland Track going back to everyday life is hard. Today though we get to babysit our grandson Oliver (Ollie) whilst his parents have a photoshoot. 

Location for the photoshoot is Helms Arboretum, so we may as well kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Orchid hunting, then babysitting, then more orchid hunting. Sound like a plan.

The arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) will always produce the goods. The question is will it produce any surprises. 

Just through the gates, we take the first track to the left and immediately we spy orchids. We had to be careful getting out of the Triton as there we Zebra orchids (Caladenia cairnsiana) growing right near the wheel tracks. These little orchids are found from Esperance to Lancelin growing August to November.

Larger orchids from the Caladenia genus were found on both sides of the track. The large orchids are none other than the Esperance king spider orchid (Caladenia decora) which flowers August to October in a small range from Bremer Bay to Cape Arid. Colours range from mostly red to greenish yellow and everything in between.

The final find before moving on to our babysitting duties was the small yellow Common Bee orchid (Diuris decrementa) which is found September to October in a large range from Gingin to Israelite Bay.

For the next 2 hours we look after Ollie, so Jace and Amber can get some classic photos prior to the arrival of their daughter, who is due within weeks.

Photoshoot over, so we say our goodbyes to the little family and continue with our orchid hunt. However to ensure we increase our chances of finding something different we decide to move onto our Myrup location. 

First orchids found were more Esperance king spider orchids, with many  in clusters. Variable in colour again, but oh so impressive.

Also found was the wonderful Cowslip orchid (Caladenia flava subsp. flava) which flowers over a huge range from north of Geraldton to Israelite Bay. There is great variability in the shape of these orchids and the amount and type of red markings. 

Pushing into the tea tree thicket we stumbled across a duo of another Caladenia genus orchid. This time it is a Short-sepalled spider orchid (Caladenia brevisura) which is found between Borden and Israelite Bay during the months August to October.

Then to our surprise we find a little Purple enamel orchid (Elythranthera brunonis) nearby. These guys flower August to October as well, though over a much larger range. Kalbarri to Israelite Bay in fact.

Then the final new orchid for the day is found. Appears to be the Western wispy spider orchid (Caladenia microchila) which flowers August & September in an easterly range from Hyden to Israelite Bay.

Western wispy spider orchid

Western Wispy spider orchid

There are so many Esperance king spider orchids in flower. To enable this to be appreciated I took a short video looking around. 

Also took some more photos of other orchids found. Previously mentioned in this post so will just let you enjoy some more orchids.

Seven species located today so all in all it was a successful day hunting. The Esperance region certainly is Excellent.

Leafless Orchid rediscovered

Helms Arboretum, Within 20kms of Esperance


What better way to start the day than with brunch out at the Esperance Bird and Animal Farm. We are joined today by our good friends Bob and Jan, who are heading off on a Aussie Adventure of their own in a few weeks.  

We make our way to Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE 35) and have a quick scout of the first track to the right. Seems very dry and nothing was found, so we lead the way to the spot we found Bunny orchid buds last visit. 

We are not disappointed. The White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus) is found flowering all over this location. These are one of the earliest flowering orchids starting in late March thru to May in a coastal range from Dirk Hartog Island to Israelite Bay.

We look further afield but do not find anything else in flower. After saying our goodbyes to Bob and Jan we make our way to the area we had previously found Hare orchids. Not even a leaf is found so we decide to take some tracks we rarely venture on just on the off-chance we stumble across anything. 

Nothing, located when just before we reach the main track out of the park, I spy a Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus) growing at the base of a tree. Excitedly I jump out of the Triton to grab a photo. Deb scours around the nearby area but no further specimens are found.  The Leafless orchid flowers March to May as well but in a smaller area than the White bunny orchid. The range is from Pinjarra to Esperance  growing in sandy soils in shrublands and woodlands.

More White bunny orchids however were found so I just had to get a few more photos.

So happy to have found the Leafless orchid again after having two years where we searched and searched but found none. 2019 is starting off great. 

2019 – So it begins

Day Trip, Dempster Head, Helms Arboretum, Road Trip, Within 20kms of Esperance


Well it had to start sooner than later.

What am I talking about?

The 2019 Western Australian Orchid Season of course. Well over here in Esperance it is starting, whilst in the deep dark South West corner of the state it appears to start earlier and finish when the next one has already started. Sounds confusing I know.

However,  it is today we are going to go on our first hunt of this season. First stop is our wonderful little Esperance Bird and Animal Park for a takeaway coffee, then on to Helms Arboretum (Mud Map SE35) which always proves fruitful. Well until today that is. 

Drove around and checked out some usual spots but only found some yet to flower White bunny orchids. The Leafless orchid and Hare orchid were elusive.

In bud

White bunny orchid

A little disappointed we leave and head a bit further north along the Esperance-Norseman Hwy to Fleming Grove Rd, where we have another site that may turn up some Hare orchids. Well so much for the Season starting. Nothing found here either. 

As we are picking up our little grandson this afternoon, we then head off to another site for one last search. We arrive at Rotary Lookout (Mud Map 34), park up, grab our picnic lunch and find a quiet spot on the granite to rest and eat lunch. 

Rested and fed, we now make our way down a small track towards the Water Authority tanks. It was along this track the Deb spies a 400mm high White bunny orchid in flower. I had walked right past it. Need to get my orchid hunting eyes into order as they must be rusty. Oh well can’t complain as our season has now officially started. The White bunny orchid (Eriochilus dilatatus subsp. dilatatus) flowers March to May is a large coastal range from Dirk Hartog Island to Israelite Bay. Within 2 mtrs on the other side of the track Deb spies another flowering plant that I also overlooked.

Well this is a better result, so with added enthusiasm we trudge onwards. We make our way back from the Water tanks to the walk track proper and slowly make our way around the rock. Stopping for the beautiful view before finding our way back near the start.  

No orchids but the views are to die for

Lovers Beach

Deb walks back to the Triton, while I push down the hill via more tracks in the vain hope of finding something. Nothing more found , however the season has now well and truly started.

Here’s to many fun filled, exciting adventures this year.