Greencomb Spider Orchid, Arachnorchis sp. showing lateral ‘combs’, and calli & labellum positioned below the yellow pollinium.

Ben & Olwyn took a small group of us on a two-hour wander through some of their rocky outcrop country at Toorour, east of Strathbogie Township. The bush was in great condition and may of the shrubs and little herbs were in flower. But no time for them!! We were there to look for orchids and 14 ‘species’ were found. The day was warm and the light was quite harsh, making photography a little difficult (especially for beginners), so not all images are the best.

Orchids have famously intricate and sophisticated life-histories, particularly the bits relating to sex. Many species are pollinated by one or a few species of insects, often wasps, and the flowers and chemistry are all about luring and fooling these insects into mating with the flower, then transferring pollen from one plant to the next. 

And judging by the many and varied flower shapes, designs and colours of local orchids, there’s plenty of interesting sex happening in the Australian bush. Perhaps most interesting is the unseen chemical wizardry used by many orchids to deceive wasps in helping out in this amazing ‘game’. On a warm day some orchids have a strong scent, if you get on your hands and knees, perhaps indicating their ability to find a pollinator. It used to be wasps, now it’s us!

Many thanks to Ben & Olwyn for showing us their very special rocky hillside (and we’re just the latest in a long line of visitors!).

Floraphoto website has images of the pollinators of several orchid species, including a Spider Orchid similar to the one we found.