Sunday, 11 October 2009

Blood Orchid


I like to call this the Blood Spider Orchid, although that name is also used for a Western Australian species of similar hue. This one definitely has a dried blood or burnt red colour, and we always like to make orchids sound a little macabre. It smells, purportedly, like a hot motor.

Although we’ve left the Grampians, I did say we were travelling to Castlemaine, which is also good goldfields orchid country. Except for this blood orchid, better known as the Crimson Spider Orchid, the species are the same as we saw in further west.

Caladenia concolor grows sporadically around Victoria, and also into southern New South Wales where it’s only known today from granite country near Albury. My colleague there, Paul Scannell from Albury Botanic Gardens, is working on saving this endangered population.

In Victoria, it is apparently more common around Beechworth and Chiltern. There is a population near Violet Town (where I used to travel to as a kid from Euroa to go swimming) down to about four individuals and with a few distinctive characteristics.

The Castlemaine one is found in box ironbark forests in a couple of places around the town. There are only a handful of individuals in each population and weeds and passing foot damage are probably the biggest threats. The ‘midlands’ variant has also been mooted as a distinct species but I’m not sure of its current status. I should check the latest edition of the Victorian orchid book by Jeff Jeanes and Gary Backhouse...

My picture show a plant a little past their prime, but still picturesque (for an orchid lover). It’s becoming well known around the town and I even saw postcards of it for sale at the (locally famous) Wesley Hill Market.

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