Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Try growing: native orchids

We've been wondering for a while about the strange browny-yellowy growths that came up in the back garden on a site where a camellia used to be, and then stuck up two long yellowish stalks. What were they - some sort of asparagus? Rogue watsonias?

The appearance of buds on the stalks has made identification a lot easier: they've got to be hyacinth orchids. 
Flowers of our hyacinth orchids just starting to open
Further investigation allowed us to narrow down the options: these plants appear to be the slender hyacinth orchid (Dipodium variegatum). Hyacinth orchids are unusual because they do not produce their own chlorophyll - hence the absence of green in their leaves. They are known as 'saprotrophs', meaning that they live on dead organic matter. Exactly how they do this I don't know, but they appear to have a special relationship with a fungus that lives in their roots and helps them to generate carbon - more here if you're really keen.
About the best closeup I can manage
Thanks to the Nature of Robertson and Retired Aussies websites that helped us confirm the identification. Both have some really good-quality close up shots, much better than I can manage.

Unfortunately, when it comes to growing hyacinth orchids on purpose, rather than have them pop up at random, it is apparently just about impossible. They can't be propagated. But if you live near bush where they grow already, i.e. much of the Illawarra and indeed much of the eastern coast of Australia, they might just move in of their own accord.

In other garden news, the native violets are flowering again, and not just the familiar Viola hederacea with its pretty white and purple flowers. The Viola betonicifolia or showy violet looks much more like its European cousin:
Showy violet flowering among eucalpytus litter
This plant's quirk is that it can produce seeds without flowering, or at least without appearing to flower. It does this by producing small self-pollinating flowers that don't open. Clever stuff!

What's in flower at your place?

2 comments:

  1. Our hedged grevillea 'Flamingo Pink' has been flowering profusely, and so has our pretty red callistemon. Both these plants have been attracting so many beautiful birds. A real treat has been the return of Rosellas to our front yard. I'm definitely planting more natives!

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  2. Your garden sounds amazing Mandy! I hope the rosellas stick around...

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