There is a certain mystique about orchids. For me it is the fantastical, almost alien shapes and stunning colours. As a kid my father used to grow tropical orchids in a gas-heated glass house in the backyard. When they flowered he used to give them away to the neighbours. He was the toast of the town.
Orchids are one of the two largest families of flowering plants in the world. There are more than 800 species of Australian orchids, most of them only found in this country—and there are more discovered each year. During the drought and pre-bushfire years the number of native ground orchids we found on our property you could count on the fingers of one hand. However since the rains and fire that number has dramatically increased. This year looks like it will be a bumper year, if the number of orchids leaves popping out of the ground is any indication.
The first to raise its head this season is the Green-comb Spider Orchid (Arachnochis dilatata), pictured above. It was previously known as Caladenia dilatata. The photo shows the origin of the name—green comb-like structures on either side of the flower. The Indigenous name is koolin, and its tubers are considered a food source.
In the upcoming weeks the orchids will start flowering (if the rabbits don’t get them first). As showy as the lilies are at the moment, for me the orchid reigns supreme.