Rare orchid flowers following fire

Autumn orchids are flowering across the Surf Coast including a rare species which rarely flowers unless stimulated by fire.

The Fringe Hare Orchid (Leporella fimbriata) sighted in Anglesea, flowering well after fire, is found in sandy soils and flowers mainly from March to May. Photo: Margaret MacDonald
The Fringed Hare Orchid (Leporella fimbriata) sighted in Anglesea, flowering well after fire, is found in sandy soils and flowers mainly from March to May. Photo: Margaret MacDonald

Anglesea, Aireys Inlet Society for the Protection of Flora and Fauna (ANGAIR) sighted a number of orchids during their nature ramble walk, including the Fringed Hare Orchid (Leporella fimbriata).

Orchid expert Gary Backhouse said while the species is common in Western Victoria, with some colonies containing many hundreds of plants, the Fringed Hare Orchid only flowers under special conditions.

“It flowers well only after summer bushfires, with only a small proportion (sometimes none) in flower in the absence of summer fire.”

ANGAIR member Yvonne Coventry said she was one of five who had sighted the orchid.

“The area has undergone a burn in the last 12 months so there were a number of different plants coming up including a small patch of Fringed Hare Orchids.

“The Fringed Hare Orchid is very beautiful and very rare,” she said.

Mr Backhouse said the Fringed Hare Orchid does not only flower in specific conditions, but requires specific circumstances for pollination as well.

Winged male ants pollinate the plant by attempting to mate with the labellum (part of the petal that forms a lip) as they are attracted by the orchid’s scent which mimics that of a female ant.

“The winged males usually emerge from their nests only in warm, humid conditions, often just before rain, and have a very short flight period.

“There may be some years when orchid flowering and male ant emergence do not coincide, and very few, if any, flowers will be pollinated.”

Fringed Hare Orchid 2

Other orchids spotted by ANGAIR members this month include over thirty Fringed Midge Orchids (Corunastylis ciliate), a species which had not yet been sighted this year and the Parson’s Band Orchid (Eriochilus cucullatus).

ANGAIR and Friends of the Eastern Otways member Margaret MacDonald said there are 110 species of orchids in the Anglesea area and that there were many things we don’t yet understand about the plant.

“All orchids are rare and protected and they interest me because of their beauty, uniqueness and complexity.

“People can get involved by joining the Australasian Native Orchid Society which is based in Geelong or by contacting ANGAIR and arranging a walk,” she said.

ANGAIR holds guided walks every second Monday of the Month.  To learn more about orchids on the Surf Coast or to get involved please contact the ANGAIR office on: 5263 1085 or visit www.angair.org.au.  

This article appeared in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast Column.

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