Tall spikes of Pink Hyacinth Orchid (Dipodium roseum) are blooming all over Pilyara’s shady messmate gullies at this time of year. It is by far the most spectacular and abundant ground orchid on the property. As a Saprophyte, it has no leaves or green colour at all, hence no way to photosynthesise. Each stout reddish brown stem bears a spike of up to fifty delicate pink flowers, that resemble Hyacinths.
The Hyacinth Orchid relies on mycorrhizal fungi growing in association with eucalyptus tree roots to provide it with all the nutrients it needs. The plant reverts to dormancy as an underground tuber in late summer, when its life-cycle is complete. Seed capsules are sometimes produced and can be seen for several more months.
I am always fascinated by these sorts of symbiotic relationships. They demonstrate the vital, but often invisible interconnectedness of living things in our world. Any foolish person who tried to grow this showy orchid in their home garden would inevitably fail. It can only live in association with its specific fungus, and therefore cannot be cultivated.
Common Fringe Lilies (thysonatus tuberosus) are flowering now at the edges of Pilyara’s shady messmate gullies. Their botanical name tuberosus comes from their edible root. These lilies should be given a new everyday name though, as there is nothing common about them. They are wildflowers of exquisite charm.
Fringe Lilies grow on low stalks, that bear a few slender, basal leaves. The flowers appear at the end of short branchlets. Each purple petal is edged with a delicate, feathery fringe, highlighting the bloom with a halo effect. In between each petal is a sepal of deeper mauve, like a narrow satin ribbon. Their perfection is ephemeral – each flower lasts just one day. So lovely, yet so fleeting. The plant itself flowers for several weeks though, so there is plenty of time to catch the beauty of a new bloom.
This watercolour painting of a Fringe Lily is part of the Ducie Collection of First Fleet Art. The artist’s name is George Raper. He was a naval officer and talented illustrator. Unfortunately he was only twenty eight years old when he died. (1769-1797) The image is courtesy of The National Library of Australia. It proves this lovely little lily was one of the very first native flowers to attract international acclaim. How fortunate am I to be able to see them flowering in the wild, just metres from my house!