Pictured today is an uncommon spider orchid that has appeared near Raglan for the past two years.
This spider orchid is different from any others in the Ballarat district. The dark-red central "lip" is unusual as far as local spider orchids go.
It has been found in September. It had never before been known anywhere nearby - nor anywhere else in the wider Ballarat district - despite 70 years of constant observations in the area in which it was discovered by Mrs Jo Reid in 2019.
Most spider orchids flower in October, but this one is early - just before mid-September. This early flowering time, combined with its red centre, has been a help in narrowing down its identity.
It is known as the wine-lipped spider orchid (Caladenia oenochila), a species that is mostly found east of Melbourne, although there are sporadic records west to Ararat. Its preferred habitat is moist open grassy forest or woodland, and this matches its occurrence near Raglan.
The photo shows the flower slightly paler than the real thing, with the petals actually being very pale greenish rather than white, with a trace of red down the centre. The plant is slightly more than 20cm tall.
Identification was not easy, with a few other spider-orchids being very similar. Some are more "spidery", with longer, more tapered drooping segments, one is more rigidly cross-shaped, and another has swollen "clubs" at the tips of the petals. The tips of the pictured specimen are dark, but not swollen.
Identification of this specimen was also confirmed by the arrangement of the "teeth" on the central wine-coloured segment of the flower. Other species have fewer teeth, or their arrangement is different.
To add to the confusion, the petals of this specimen of wine-lipped spider orchid are shorter than many others of the same species. The wine-lipped spider orchid is a rather variable orchid, but it always flowers early.
Its origin near Raglan is a mystery, but its appearance for a second season was a pleasant surprise. A third appearance is now keenly awaited.
A new bird for the Lake Wendouree list last month was a crescent honeyeater.
The bird was a female, clearly seen in low willow branches at Convent Corner, in the same general area frequented for a couple of months by a few New Holland honeyeaters.
The crescent honeyeater is similar in many ways to the New Holland honeyeater, but it is an uncommon visitor to Ballarat. It can be found most of the year in the Wombat Forest, but is never common there.
NAtURE QUERIES ANSWERED
What is this small yellow fungus? I've never seen one before.
This is the egg-yolk fungus, or egg-yolk fieldcap, a small yellow-topped species only a few centimetres tall.
The moist yellow button cap of fresh specimens is prominent, and a strong clue to its identity. The stem is white, and the whole thing is rather brittle.
The cap expands to a typical mushroom shape - usually less than 50mm across - as it ages. The bright egg-yolk yellow fades to buff or off-white within a few days, although a yellow centre often remains for a short time. In dry conditions it may last only one day. The alternative name reflects its occurrence in paddocks and open places, especially in well-fertilised sites. It also occurs in gardens and in lawns.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.