JEWEL ORCHIDS IN THE WILD
A search of two creeks
As though guarding the portals, large dark green leaves of the
stinging tree, gympie-gympie, hung over the little lowland creek. It was dark under the canopy, water trickling down among the rocks of the creek bed, and for the unwary, trailing wait-awhiles raised another barrier.
It was many years since I had been into this creek, and time had changed it. The creek was overgrown with palms and lawyer vine, the climbing difficult, wet and treacherous.
Jewel orchid search
We had come to look for a seldom seen Jewel orchid, a small growing species of the lowland rainforest, that I had found here long ago. The plant consists of a creeping, caterpillar like rhizome, topped with 3 or 4 green leaves, each to about 5 cm long, the centre of the leaf feathered pale green to whitish green.
A tall spike, produced with the new growth, bears small white intricate flowers with a distinctive two lobed labellum.
A little gem, hidden away in the rain forest. In the darkest part of the creek, growing in the moss and leafmould in rock crevices just out of reach of the water, we did find the Jewel orchid, Cheirostylis ovata, sometimes called the caterpillar orchid. The species extends from northern New South Wales to far north Queensland, a plant of the rainforests, representitive of a genus with about 15 species world wide from Africa to Asia , New Guinea and Australia.
From Rainforest to Casuarina
Our second foray was a creek on top of the range, threading its way through rainforest and then down to the drier flanks of the range, where casuarina replaced the
rainforest. The creek was rich in ferns, and Bulbophyllum species, including the strange plant of Bulbophyllum evasum , were abundant, with plants of Dendrobium adae and tetragonum var hayesianum growing in the trees along the banks. Calanthe triplicata grew in the leafmould on the forest floor.
Jewels and miners
Deep in the rain forest, miles from human activity, it was a surprise to find an old tin race, cut through the rock bed of the creek, the rocks lined up along the banks like some fortress wall. As visitors to the rainforest, looking for Jewels, we could only contemplate the lives and work of the long ago miners, scratching out a living in the green and wet and almost silent rainforest.
A typical habitat of the Jewel, Anoectochilus yatesae, sheltered, ferns and moss and moisture in abundance, but this species was nowhere to be found in that creek. Further down the creek, in the casuarina forest along the creek banks,were countless plants of Dendrobium agrostophyllum, Bulbophyllum newportii, Dendrobium speciosum, and Dendrobium ruppianum, the latter even growing almost as a terrestrial in the thick covering of casuarina needles on the ground. In the rock crevices in the creek, out of the water, but where they would be certainly covered by floods, were plants of Pterostylis hildeae, a dainty little greenhood.