In Kildare College’s native garden, the Wirra, we have some stunning ones in flower currently, like the donkey orchid seen in the photograph. This photograph was taken last week from the Wirra.
In South Australia, there are more than 350 species of native orchids. They play an important role in nature – knowing how many there are and where they are found can give us an indication of the environment’s health.
However, some of these fascinating plants are endangered, including this delicate looking donkey orchid. With its two big ‘ears’ (which are actually flower petals), you may be able to see why this species is known as a donkey orchid.
Around the world, most orchids grow on rock surfaces, trees or on other host plants. The technical name for this trait is ‘epiphytic’. SA orchids are unusual though, because they grow directly in the ground.
Orchids can be pollinated by native bees, native wasps, native flies, ants and fungus gnats, or they can self-pollinate, which means they don’t need assistance to reproduce.
Different orchids flower at different times of the year. But with some species being as small as 2 cm, you could easily walk straight past them – or even worse, tread on them by accident.
At Kildare College, we have our own Orchid Club which meets each Friday at lunch to maintain the orchids we have in a purpose build shadehouse. One of the best orchid experts in Australia, Les Nesbitt, has mentored our students for the past six years in learning how to propagate and care for orchids. We also collaborate with the Adelaide Botanic Gardens in saving some of the most endangered orchids in the world from extinction. We have been collaborating in this project for over five years now and we have had amazing success.