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Apostasia wallachii

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  • Peter Bernhardt
    Dear Friends and Orchid Colleagues: Some of you know that I flew to Cairns (Queensland) following the International Botanical Congress and stayed with my old
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 30, 2011
    Dear Friends and Orchid Colleagues:

    Some of you know that I flew to Cairns (Queensland) following the International Botanical Congress and stayed with my old friends, Gary and Robyn WIlson.  Gary is doing a PhD on Nepenthes at James Cook U. through the herbarium.  Thanks to Gary I saw much of the Queensland landscape during the last month of the dry season.  

    Much of the montane region around Cairns is covered with tropical forest and under some state protection.  Gary took me to one site where part of the forest had a boardwalk to avoid trampling and erosion.  It was Gary who pointed out populations of Apostasia wallachii on the forest floor.  There is only one Apostasia sp. in Australia. I would have missed these plants as they are small and easily misidentified as sedges or grasses when they are not in bloom.  We were very lucky.  One plant was in full bloom.  See the attachments for flowers and for scale.  Yes, I smelled the flowers but the day was rainy and I could not detect a scent.  Note that almost all the flowers on this little plant were open at the same time (a few had browned and withered).  

    As most of you know,  Apostasia was once considered the most primitive orchid genus in the family and it's easy to see why.  There's no lip petal and the "column" consists of two anthers fused to the neck of a lily-like style.  Modern molecular biology confirms that Apostasia falls down towards the bottom of the family and the subfamily Apostasioideae is usually considered the "sister" of our slipper orchids (Cypripedioideae).  No slipper orchid is native to Australia.

    Back in the herbarium I learned how lucky I was looking at the sheets of A. wallachii and pickled flowers.  There were 15 sheets of the plant picked while it was in bloom.  Most of the collections were made from January-June.  Checking the pickled flowers I saw no signs of a nectar gland and, as described in the literature, each anther opens via a terminal pore suggested the flower is shaken or vibrated by a foraging insect.  

    May I make a suggestion.  Dr Claire Micheneau is joining the herbarium at James Cook University.  Perhaps she will have a little time in 2012 to study the pollination biology of A. wallachii?  Of course, she will need a population that is not part of a tourist site but I'm certain that Gary Wilson, and the other Queensland botanists, would be happy to help her.  It would not be difficult to find insect taxonomists who could identify Apostasia insects, at least down to genus.  We all understand that Dr. Micheneau will have other projects but, perhaps, a little extra time could be found.

    If you want permission to use a photo please ask the permission of "Gary Wilson" <gary.wilson@...>, 

    Sincerely, Peter 
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