by Ian Walters

        Wal has gone.  I doubt there are many orchid growers now to mourn his passing, and even fewer to remember him as the years slip away.

    His friendship was a learning time for me, as I recall.

    But perhaps I should start at the beginning, and carefully recall those times that were so different, for so many reasons, a long time ago................

   The covered ute rattled along the strip of bitumen euphuistically called the Bruce Highway towards Cardwell. Wally and his wife in the front, me and a school mate in the back, not comfortable, but who cared about that in anticipation of exciting adventure.

   Old Franz had told me " Ian, I know there is heaps of Phaius tankarvilleae growing up Sunday Creek, you can get all you want." Well, Wally was a keen orchid grower who grew his few species with a keen appreciation of the special nature of these orchids, and was only too pleased to share that with a youngster finding the marvels of orchids for the first time.

   So we were on our way to Sunday Creek, 2 school boys, Wally and his missus.

   With all the energy and disregard for distances of youth, we walked and waded up Sunday Creek, the banks lined with rainforest. In the trees, out of reach of floodwaters, grew elkhorns and ferns. It didn't occur to me until I reached Wallys age, just how fit he was, keeping up with teenagers 40 years his junior.

   In some of the trees were large plants of Dendrobium smilleae, and other plants that looked like Dendrobium discolor. The tea trees on the flats held Dendrobium canaliculatum (photo)and irritable antnests, draped with the Dischidia button orchids.

   We worked our way up to the base of the mountain range, then started to ascend the bolder strewn creek, eyes peeled for anything resembling a Phaius. The trees held tassel ferns, elkhorns and a few Dendrobium tetragonum, but the banks were bare.

    I learnt later that Phaius tankervilleae was a grower in the water seepage areas. It grows along small creeks, where water seeps, and where fires do not reach very often. The species can be seen in flower at the right time at Stony Creek Falls on the way to Kuranda, where the tourist train stops to view the falls. The plants cling to the slopes, where water seeps down from the higher range. It grows there with
Spathoglottis Paulineae ( Photo).

   The bulbous plants grow in rich leaf-mould and silt, and do well as specimens in large containers, well drained. It is ofcourse seasonal in growth, to fit in with the norths wet season. In the cooler drier months, water should be withheld, but never to the extent of drying out the plants.The plants, once established, will tolerate a sunny spot, but the leaves are soft and protection is needed to prevent sun and wind burn.

   Spikes can get to six feet high, with many 4 inch or more mahogany coloured flowers, the labellum usually a rich wine red, but often lighter in colour. The outside of the flowers is powder white.

   A beautiful orchid in flower, but this species was nowhere to be found in Sunday Creek. We gave up, and headed home.

     I remember Wally Parks, old time Townsville orchid grower, past TOS member, a friend who was always happy to talk about orchids, show me how he grew them, and teach me to appreciate the species orchids. He was a quite man, who grew his plants for his own private pleasure and appreciated them for what they were. He has gone, but the Phaius remains to remind me.

May be reproduced provided source acknowledged. Ian Walters, Burleigh Park, Townsville.