The Species Orchid Society of Western Australia (Inc)

What are Elythranthera?

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Elythranthera Orchids
(Pink & Purple Enamel Orchids)

The name Elythranthera is derived from the Greek 'elutron' and 'anthera' and refers to the column wing, which acts like a hood over the anther.

The two recognized species of Elythrantheras are easily spotted in the wild by the glossy sheen on the sepals and petals, which tend to shine and appear to be made of porcelain, hence the common name of 'Enamel Orchids'. This unusual feature causes Elythrantheras to be very attractive, when seen in the bush.

Elythrantheras are endemic to the Southwest of Western Australia where they are quite common and widespread. Fortunately, they are not endangered despite much land clearing in their range, which is from Kalbarri in the North, to East of Esperance on the South Coast.

They are terrestrial orchids that, after flowering, become dormant during the hot summer months while the tubers survive below ground. Their growth begins again with the winter rains and flowering commences during the spring.

The solitary leaf, about 10cm long, appears at the base of the stem. The leaf, stem and the margins of the petals & sepals, are covered in small, dark hairs. (See pictures 13 & 15)

Elythranthera brunonis, the Purple Enamel Orchid, is usually taller, (to 30cm) than E. emarginata, (12-15cm) but has a much smaller flower. E. brunonis can have up to three flowers per stem that are around 2-3cm across. Elythranthera emarginata, the Pink Enamel Orchid, has flowers up to 5cm across and often has more flowers per stem than E. brunonis. There are also differences between the two species, in the way the labellum (lip) bends. (See picture 21 for detail)

Even though Elythranthera brunonis are purple and E. emarginata are pink, there have been Alba specimens of both species recorded, and also hybrids between the species.

As mentioned before, the front of the sepals and petals as well as the lip, have an enamel like finish, the backs, however are quite different. The background colour on the rear of the flowers is much lighter with dark pink to purple spots all over.

Although both species have much the same range, E. emarginata can usually be found in wetter areas, and also tend to form clumps or colonies. E. brunonis on the other hand, can be found in many different soil types and plants are often found singly.

Tony Watkinson