Recently I had the pleasure of finding a plant not often seen. In fact I had never seen it before but knew its ilk. I am talking of Caladenia filamentosa var tentaculata or Wispy Spider Orchid. (Pictured)
Many of us have seen and enjoyed Spider Orchids. They have a fine structure that invites a closer look and then an ever closer look. The details shout out; “get your hand lens out!” Well the Wispy Spider Orchid is impossibly fine in real life, verging on the ridiculously fine.
Our party had stumbled upon a small group of these plants quite by accident, albeit a happy one while on a day trip in one of our local parks. If we had stopped for lunch another twenty or so metres further on we probably would have missed them. As a ground dwelling plant beneath the understory of dense vegetation on a lonely track going nowhere in particular it would be quite likely they are not seen very often at all.
The leaves are fine and give nothing away at all, so finding them on purpose when they are not in flower would be just about impossible. This begs the question, how much else do we miss? How much do we miss even in our own gardens? When was the last time you got on your hands and knees (or more to the point when was the last time you could actually get back up again unaided from being on your hands and knees?) to have a close look at something in your garden?
Perhaps it is time to put the PC on standby, turn off the telly and wander outside with the insect repellent on and a magnifying glass or hand lens to simply slow down and have a close look at what is about. Instead of “smelling the roses” (or as well as) take a really close look. Australian plants, especially dry land Australian plants tend to have many quite small flowers. Sure, they can look spectacular massed, but try plucking a single flower say from a Grevillea and simply look at the magnificent detail that makes up this flower. We all take Eucalypts for granted, but upon closer examination the beautiful detail is staggering. I guess this attention to detail inspired May Gibbs in her work.
Who knows, you may find an endangered or even an un-named plant down at the back of the block.
This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © January 13, 2011.