BioBlitz 2016 - Orchid Hunting

Orchid Hunting with Craig Broadfield

Survey leader Craig Broadfield identifying an orchid. Photo: Helen Cushing

Craig’s reputation preceded him. Over lunch we were told of his enthusiasm for orchids. We gathered around the bearded man to be given the instruction “eyes on the ground people”. He explained that all but two orchids in Tasmania are terrestrial, with just one epiphyte and another that grows on rocks.

We took the track that would lead us the long way back to Temma (where our buses were parked). And we were to take it slowww. Three meters from our briefing site an orchid was spotted. A sun orchid, Craig declared, named after their tendency to open for pollination by insects on sunny days. Craig prised it open to identify it and a small purple orchid was revealed. Small spots could be seen deep down between its petals. The treasure hunt had begun.

We ambled along the track, some took the scrub beside to get a different perspective. While we walked Craig talked. He told us the fires of last summer had created perfect conditions for orchids, clearing the competition and releasing nutrients back into the soil. Craig spoke of the finds he had made throughout the Tarkine in recent times and promised to take the lucky few on his bus to visit them. When an orchid was spotted we would clustered around the tiny treasure to adore it, hear more about it and take photos. They were so hard to spot, blending into the leaf litter and sometimes growing within a tuft of grass. Luckily there were some sharp eyes and diligent types amongst the group.

Together we spotted more species of sun orchids, a relative of the famous lady fingers and lady fingers herself were found. A bearded orchid was found, its green petals sporting a maroon beard. I was quite taken by this little number and wondered if the bearded Craig felt some kind of affinity with it.

Towards the end of the walk we were starting to get our eyes in. “Another sun orchid!” you could hear people call. On the last little stretch a humble little white orchid was spotted. Craig looked quite excited. It was an endemic to the Tarkine he explained, never before recorded in this stretch of coast. I peered under the shrub and marvelled at this special little plant, so modest I would have completely missed this special species. So interesting to see the world through the eyes of a passionate scientist.

Jillian Smith

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