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N.B. I’m rarely absolutely confident in my identification. If anyone reading this reckons I’m wrong, please let me know!

These are the first orchids I’ve encountered since I began my blog. They are about two blocks from home, in hiding on a pile of dirt created by a clean-up a few years ago. They are quite tiny, and even though I expected them to be there it took me two or three visits to see them. I spotted them on September 12th, 2011 – I’m learning to record date and year, so flowering comparisons can be made from year to year.

I’ve learnt a few things about photographing plants for ID over the years: I need to have habit and habitat shots, as well as those voyeuristic peerings down the throat and the artistic shots. This time I manage to remember to capture the rosette of leaves that is one of the identifiers. It’s harder to capture the whole orchid from the ground up. I seem to run into as-yet-unsolved depth of field problems.

The next weekend I spend a few hours going through my orchid books, trying to find a name. I decide it’s time to get a bit serious about the naming of parts, so Jones’ detailed descriptions will make sense. I look at diagrams and try to memorise: dorsal sepal, lateral sepal, petal, labellum, column, ovary. All straightforward with a diagram: not so straightforward with a photograph or a 3D orchid.

I gradually narrow possibilities down, ticking off basal rosette, single flower, coastal scrub (almost), August to October flowering period, whole-of-NSW distribution, green and white at base, apex dark brown (you could probably say so). My best guess is Pterostylis pedunculata and my orchid-spotting companion agrees, with reservations.

I return to my orchids a week later, armed with camera, hand lens, improved knowledge, specific aspects to photograph and questions. This visit should nail ID.

The ground around the patch is black. The grass and leaf litter has gone. My orchids have been incinerated.

I spend a long time looking for survivors and I find one. It’s in a different spot. The leaf litter is untouched by fire and this one looks as if it died a natural death.