All Aboard the Orchid Bus

Orchids come in many shapes, sizes, colours and some of them are even found underground – as budding botanists from the NACC NRM Region discovered earlier this month.

On 27-28 August more than fifteen local community members attended an orchid identification field trip lead by expert Andrew Brown who has spent over 40 years researching Western Australian Orchidaceae species.

The orchid enthusiasts all jumped onto the 4WD bus – driven by the team at Kalbarri Adventure Tours – as Andrew led them on a guided tour of some his most treasured sites in the region.

Participants were informed how Western Australia’s orchids are highly adapted and incredibly diverse having coevolved to the unique conditions of the local environment – some of these incredible adaptations include needing a fire event to flower, pollination by a single species and essential relationships with soil mycorrhizae and bacteria.

As part of the event, participants learned how to use orchid specific dichotomous keys. One species keyed out by the team included a Spider Orchid known as Caladenia longicauda subsp. minima, recently identified and named by Andrew himself.

Andrew said that this was a wonderful two days out in the field with a dedicated and knowledgeable group of wildflower enthusiasts from Geraldton and surrounds.

“Apart from seeing many local orchid species in good flower we discussed topics including what morphological features are unique to orchids, what features can be used to differentiate one orchid species from another, how to use orchid keys, the association orchids have with Mycorrhizal fungi, what pollinates orchids and how pollinators are attracted. Some of those present were lucky enough to observe orchid pollination first hand when a male thynnid wasp was seen pollinating Smooth-billed Duck Orchid.”

NACC NRM’s Bushcare Officer Jarna helped organise the event and thanked Andrew for making the journey to Geraldton and informing the participants about orchid identification.

“On behalf of NACC NRM and others on the bus trip, I would like to thank Andrew for sharing his knowledge and pointing out hidden treasures along the way with many orchid species seen in perfect sunny weather.”

Jarna added that “the two day trip was a great success and altogether we saw more than 20 species of orchids some of which are threatened.”

“It was also a wonderful opportunity for local volunteers to connect with a botanical expert from the city and create working relationships into the future.”

The project was supported by NACC NRM and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions through funding from the State Government’s State Natural Resource Management Program.

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