Listed as rare in Victoria, this Common Beard Heath (Leucopogon virgatus) was spotted in full flower on a roadside embankment at the foot of Junction Hill in Flowerdale this week. Not far from my favourite orchid patch, this find again highlights the value of our roadside reserves as areas of relatively undisturbed remnant vegetation.
On checking my orchid patch for the latest orchid to flower, David and Laurie (KPCEG members) identified a small colony of Nodding Greenhood Orchids (Pterostylis nutans) numbering around 15 individuals. On a short walk across a dry exposed slope later in the day, I found a Purple Beard Orchid (Calochilus robertsonii). These local orchids have evolved unique tricks to aid pollination. The Nodding Greenhood produces a pheromone that imitates a female fungus gnat. The attracted male gnat is fooled into approaching the flower and is swept up by the lower petal into the flower momentarily. In the endeavour to escape, pollen attaches to the gnat. The male gnat who is slow to learn, is attracted to the next deceptive Nodding Greenhood, transferring the pollen. In the case of the Purple Beard Orchid, the flower form appears to the scollid wasp male as a female wasp. In the attempt to mate with the deception, pollen is attached and then transferred to the next flower. I think this is pretty tricky, possibly immoral, but as someone close to me says ‘males are so gullible’
The Yam Daisy, Milkmaids and Creeping Bossiaea are also beginning to flower in my favourite orchid patch. Yam daisy, Milkmaids and the Nodding Greenhood Orchid are also Bush tucker, having edible tubers, the Yam Daisy in particular being a valuable bush food to indigenous people.