Three birds and a helmet! Rare orchids found at NGT Reserves

What have three birds and a helmet got in common, you may ask? They are all native orchids, and were recently recorded at two NGT properties. 

A few weeks ago, Dale and I were out at Mt Burr Swamp doing some woody weed control. Just as we were about to climb over a fence, I happened to notice the tell-tale paired ovate leaves of a certain group of orchids. On further inspection, we found more paired leaves and closed-up pollinated flowers of Chiloglottis cornuta, the Green Bird-orchid – an endangered species in South Australia. We were just a few days too late to see the flowers open! They are called bird orchids because the flowers resemble baby birds with their beaks open, waiting to be fed.

When I had more time the following week, I returned to the area for a more thorough search. This time I found more Green Bird-orchids as well as a second related species, the Large Bird-orchid (Chiloglottis valida). This species is quite rare in South Australia, although more common in Victoria. 

Further searches on a different part of the property turned up even more Green Bird-orchids, but the find of the day went to a third Bird-orchid species: Chiloglottis trapeziformis, the Dainty Bird-orchid. The patch I found is just the third known location for this orchid in the whole of South Australia! It is listed as endangered in this state.

Another day last month, Dale and I were doing some track maintenance at NGT’s Hutt Bay Reserve and this time spotted some Coast Helmet Orchids (Corybas despectans). This was another exciting find, as the closest known population is in Discovery Bay in Victoria.

And that’s my tale of three birds and a helmet! I am sure there will be plenty more orchid discoveries to be made on our properties, so stay tuned.

Coast Helmet-orchid. Photo: Sheryl Holliday

Sheryl Holliday