Species Orchid Society of

Western Australia (Inc)

WA terrestrial orchids in situ – a four-day field trip to the Mid-west


One of the major attractions for some of the interstate and overseas registrants for the WA Orchid Spectacular was the opportunity to see West Australian terrestrial orchids in their natural setting. Two four-day field trips to the Mid-west were offered to registrants, and were sold out with the maximum number of 20 persons for each signing up. The tours were led by Andrew and Garry respectively, and left Perth at 8.30 on the Monday and Tuesday mornings after WAOS.

Tour 2 group - Photo Chris
The tours included all transport, accommodation and all meals. The first night was spent in Dongara, the second in Kalbarri and the last night back in Dongara. Each day, the groups made 4 or 5 stops to see WA terrestrial orchids in flower, in bud and some that were leaf only.
Andrew and Garry had visited most of the proposed sites the week prior, and had abandoned some planned stops as there were few or no plants in flower, and even fewer in bud that were advanced enough to be open a week later. However, they man-aged to find other locations that provided exactly what the tour participants wanted - lots of orchids in flower!
I was fortunate to be on the second tour which benefited from the regular daily communication between Andrew and Garry about what was in flower and where it was. Our group included three New Zealanders and two Queenslanders, two Victorians all of whom thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The rest of us came from WA.
Over the 4 days, we saw thirty seven different species and four hybrids in flower, many of these in more than one location. Garry was able to identify the species for us, and after we left each location, would tell us what we saw so that those members who wanted to be able to label their photos could do so. Garry has also provided us with maps showing where we stopped each day, and a list of the orchids that were sighted at each location.
For many of us, this field trip was our first opportunity to see the Queen of Sheba in the flesh rather than in pictures. On the last day, at our last stop, this ambition was realised as we sighted two flowering plants of Thelymitra pulcherrima, the Northern Queen of Sheba. We had help from Andrew who marked to location the day before, and a colleague of theirs who sighted the first plant and gave them a GPS location. A member of our group then found another nearby. While it was a quite a walk into the location through soft sand, everyone was
delighted once we got there and found the orchid in flower on a somewhat overcast day.
Andrew's group the previous day had not been so fortunate with the weather, and it needed a little 'hot' Andrew breath for the Northern Queen of Sheba to open up for them. The low scrubby habitat looked most uninviting compared with some areas that we visited, but delivered exactly what we all hoped to see (although there were relatively few plants readily sighted).


So, let's start from the beginning. We left Scarborough a little after 9.00 as the bus had a flat battery (which had to be changed and did not bother us again) and headed up through Wanneroo to Mogumber where we made our first stop where we sighted 7 species in flower, Diuris brumalis, Diuris refractor, Diuris brumalis x Diuris refractor, Pheladenia deformis, Pterostylis orbiculatus, Pterostylis platypetala and Pterostylis brevisepala ms [Pterostylis spp short sepals].
After 45 minutes or so, we travelled further north to Bulbarnett Reserve where we also saw 7 species in flower, Caladenia dundasiae, Caladenia longicauda subsp. (sp Bullbarnett), Diuris refractor, Pheladenia deformis, Pterostylis orbiculatus, Pterostylis platypetala, and Pterostylis scabra. After collecting lunch in Moora, we visited Candy's Reserve where we saw 4 species in flower, Caladenia exilis subsp. vanleeuwenii, Diuris recurva, Pterostylis scitula and Pterostylis scabra.

Then back on the bus before stopping briefly at North West Road where we saw only one species in flower, Diuris tinkerii. Our last stop for the day was Coomaloo just outside Dongara where we saw 3 species in flower, Pheladenia deformis, Pterostylis dilatata and Pterostylis orbiculatus. Our overnight accommodation at Dongara Motel was excellent, with a great meal and comfortable rooms. A few of the orchids we saw on day 1 were:

Caladenia longicauda ssp Bullbarnett

Caladenia dundasiae

Massed Pterostylis scabra

Garry advising the orchid hunters

Continued from November
Once again, our overnight accommodation at Dongara Motel was excellent, with great meals and comfortable rooms. After breakfast and a slightly earlier start to our final day, we set off with high expectations that we would be able to see the flowering plant of Thelymitra pulcherrima that had been sighted by the Tour 1 group the previous day. As the weather was fine and warmer than the previous day (although somewhat overcast), Garry thought that we had an excellent opportunity to see this species in flower. Our first three stops for the day were along Coolimba Road, Eneabba. While we sighted a few orchids in flower, they were somewhat scarce. With the majority in bud or just leaves, there were not as many as the previous day, however we did see Cyrtostylis huegelii, Caladenia crebra and Pterostylis microglossa in flower. Garry showed us that Caladenia crebra is generally found growing in thickets of Eucalyptus erythrocorys.

Cyrtostylis huegelii

Caladenia crebra

Pterostylis microglossa

Eucalyptus erythrocorys

Our second last stop for the tour was Cockleshell Gully Road where we saw Caladenia longicauda subsp. borealis, Caladenia occidentalis, more of the very common Pheladenia deformis and Pterostylis platypetala.

Caladenia longicauda subsp. borealis

Caladenia occidentalis

Our final stop was along the Brand Highway near Waddi Road. As we had hoped, we saw Thelymitra pulcherrima in flower. Thanks to one eagle-eyed members of our group, we sighted not one, but two plants of Thelymitra pulcherrima. We also saw a few plants of Caladenia flava subsp. flava and Pterostylis dilatata.

Thelymitra pulcherrima (photo Manee Poffley).

Thelymitra pulcherrima

Thelymitra pulcherrima

Looking for the Queen of Sheba

Despite concerns prior to the WAOS that the lack of June rain would substantially reduce the number of orchids that we would be able to show tour participants, thanks to Andrew and Garry's careful planning and reconnaissance the week before the show, a good number of orchids in flower were sighted and tour members were well pleased with the experience.

Following our success in Ecuador in being selected as the host for the 2023 World Orchid Conference in Perth, we plan to schedule this international event in mid-September 2023.
This timing will enable us to offer both pre and post conference tours to the South West where participants are most likely to see larger numbers of Western Australian terrestrial orchids in flower. The timing will also allow us to stage a massed display of terrestrial orchids.

To facilitate the massed display, Professor Kingsley Dixon, who many of you will know from his time at Kings Park Botanical Gardens and as much published author is a member of the successful bid committee. He and some of his research assistants at Curtin University will now accelerate the flasking of WA terrestrial orchids to be made available to orchid society members to grow on and flower for the massed centrepiece display at the WOC in September 2023.
If you are able to assist with this initiative, or need more information and advice about being part of it, please let us know. We anticipate being able to make plants available in 2019-2020. Similarly, if you have seed pods on your terrestrial orchids that you are prepared to donate, please let us know as they can be germinated for this purpose.


Ken Jones