Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ladies Tresses

Spiranthes sinensis subsp. australis (Spiranthes australis)

These lovely little orchids were flowering in the grasslands at Goomburra National Park last weekend.
Ladies tresses is a plant which spends much of its life dormant as an underground tuber, but can spring up to at any time from early spring to late autumn, if conditions are right. This recent rainy weather has obviously suited it very well.

You do need an eye for tiny details to appreciate it. Note that, just like so many of its large and showy relatives, it has a frilly white labellum designed to attract its little pollinators.
The other five “tepals” (a word used for petals and sepals, in plants like this one where the petals and sepals look alike) are a pretty, bright pink. The botanical name comes from the way the flowers are arranged spirally around the stem.

As the name “sinensis” tells us, the genus grows in China. Actually, it can be found from East European Russia to Vanuatu, but we do have our own subspecies here in Australia. If internet photos are anything to go by, it is a brighter shade of pink than other subspecies.
This is said to be an easy plant to grow, even becoming a weed in shadehouses. Now that’s a weed I’d like to have!

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