Dipodium pulchellum (Rosy Hyacinth Orchid)


    A leafless saprophyte, this terrestrial orchid is listed as ocurring in the Border Ranges area on basalt soils and has a DEH rating of 'Rare'. However, there is also a record of it in the Toowoomba area, and it has now been reported from six localities stretching 30km along the D'Aguilar Range at altitudes between 125m and 450m. Between November and May it produces a green flower stem up to 80cm tall bearing a dozen or so flowers with deep pink blotches, each about 30mm across. Not to be confused with the locally occurring and more common Dipodium variegatum, D. pulchellum has paler, pink flowers, the ovary is not humped and both the ovary and pedicel are uniformly coloured. (D. variegatum has much darker, maroon flowers, has a humped ovary, and has spotted pedicel and ovary.)

The striking pink of the flowers makes them a stunning sight in the bush and in good light they are visible from quite a distance.

Like all such saprophytic orchids, it cannot be successfully transplanted or cultivated in the home garden. In the absence of chlorophyll in the leafless plant itself, it survives by living in a complex symbiotic relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus in its roots which provides the necessary nutrients for growth and reproduction. The fungus itself derives nutrients from a nearby source, probably the roots of a nearby, mature Eucalyptus tree. If you are lucky enough to have any such orchid growing naturally, treasure it; it is the product of ecological complexity beyond any orchid-loving gardener!


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January 2004