I like tongue orchids. They announce their presence by very distinctive leaves – a maroon underside – although fallen eucalypt leaves often cause confusion.
One of our local colonies in Bodalla State Forest shares a hillside with greenhoods and caladenia, one of those slightly ruined hillsides that undermine the notion of orchids as delicate plants. The colony on J’s block is far more attractive to wildlife and rarely reaches flowering.
I monitor those leaves obsessively one year and am rewarded by a number of patches of tongue orchids in full flower.
It’s not until I watch David Attenborough’s The private life of plants that I become interested in the pollination of orchids. In the case of a tongue orchid, pollination requires sophisticated deception. The male wasp Lissopimpla excelsa has to be convinced to the point of copulation that the labellum of the orchid is a female wasp. Jones assures me that this is easily observable on warm days.
Some excellent photos, unfortunately taken by someone else!