The story of a summer-flowering orchid up Naracoorte way…
The Naracoorte region is home to one of our rarest and most visible native orchids in the South East, the Bell-flowered Hyacinth-orchid. It is currently flowering throughout its range and, as a beautiful and highly noticeable species, has created a lot of interest in the town Naracoorte itself. The dedicated landholders with this species on their properties contribute to its recovery, removing invasive weeds (like Bridal Creeper) and/or caging some individuals to prevent them from being grazed.
The Bell-flower Hyacinth-orchid is unusual as it doesn’t have any large leaves to photosynthesize with, but rather is ‘saprophytic’ – gathering most of its energy from rotting vegetation using a partnership with a mycorrhizal fungi (around its roots). Each year the orchid emerges from an underground tuber, looking very much like an asparagus stalk when it first emerges. The orchid then flowers for several weeks in mid-summer, is hopefully pollinated to produce seed, and then disappears under the ground again until late next spring to repeat the visible part of its life-cycle.
If you would like to find out more about this Hyacinth-orchid, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources produced a fact sheet about the species, which can be accessed here. I was also recently interviewed for a short piece that featured on ABC radio in the South East, which can also be listened to directly here.
Like the Bell-flowered Hyacinth-orchid, many species of native orchids are threatened and are protected under either State or Commonwealth legislation (or both), so it is important that if you find one of these amazing flowers you leave them for the next person to admire in their native habitat.
It just so happens that for the people of Naracoorte, sometimes that native habitat is almost literally by your front door!