Sunday, 20 November 2016

Wild Blue Sun Orchids in Spring

One of those many, many reasons that I love living in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne is the countless spring wildflowers, and the blue sun orchids are maybe the pinnacle (along with other wild things like our rather-too-friendly marsupials). Thelymitra ixioides is also known as Spotted Sun Orchid and it makes me smile for another reason...when it actually opens, that is, and pollinates with other flowers in the species, when it's very sunny (otherwise it self-pollinates).

I smile because it grows on my bushland property (High 5!) and was identified by my botanist mother when we bought our patch of paradise 20 odd years ago...and she said (with some sort of pride, I think), that we had the rare unspotted form (High 5! I guess).  But J and I don't want to seem to boast, especially about this, and (until now!) have kept quiet about this piece of luck. (This blue sun orchid is spotted and I photographed it near home, when orchid hunting with friends - a surprisingly enjoyable pastime each spring.) Besides, it becomes a burden of responsibility, doesn't it - to keep out neighbouring cattle or horses, for example, to preserve the species (or subspecies) along with other people who own bushland (and appreciate it) and National Parks - if heavy-footed foreign creatures are kept out. One day we might put a covenant on our bushland with Trust for Nature to protect it forever, which will still allow us our cleared (non-bush) area for garden/ animals etc.
I forget exactly, but I think we've found 16 species of orchid in just 13 acres/ 5 ha (including an albino beard orchid). That's sure worth protecting. Forever.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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