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Orchids in National Parks and Reserves

Home > Brisbane > Walks | Parks | Outdoor | Nature | National Parks
by Cris (subscribe)
I am an Organiser of the Group Hiking South East Qld and More on Meetup. Visit the website at https://www.meetup.com/HikingInSEQLDandMore/ is free to join all the activities posted on the hiking group.
Published November 23rd 2021
Orchids are plants producing the most beautiful and fascinating flowers appreciated around the globe. Orchids are the largest family of plants in the entire world with about 25,000 - 30,000 different species.

Orchids grow in different environments, like coastal heath, eucalypt forests, rainforests and mountains. They have very peculiar flowers, in many beautiful colours, except true black.

Orchids that grow in trees are epiphytes, meaning the orchids use the tree to anchor their roots. Some of the roots are exposed to absorb the nutrients from the air and to absorb water.

The majority of orchids grown by man are epiphytes. The orchids are grown mounted on wooden rafts, in baskets or pots extremely porous. Examples of Epiphytes are Cattleya, Phalaenopsis and Brassia.

Many orchids don't grow on trees but only on specific types of rocks. These plants are called lithophytes. Often they are found in crevices where pieces of debris collect. An example of a lithophyte is Sophronitis.

There is a group of orchids referred to as a terrestrial because they grow in the ground. They grow in very porous humus or leaf litter accumulated on the floor.
Examples of terrestrial orchids are cymbidiums and most of the slipper orchids.

The orchids described in this article are the ones I have encountered when hiking in the rainforests and in the mountains.

Orchids:

1. Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii
2. Orange Blossom Orchid, Sarcochilus falcatus
3. Christmas Orchid, Calanthe triplicata
4. Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid, Cymbidium suave
5. Black Bootlace Orchid, Erythrorchis cassythoides
6. Pink Rock Orchid, Dendrobium kingianum
7. King Orchid, Dendrobium speciosum

1. Ravine Orchid.

Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, is a lithophytic orchid endemic to eastern Australia. The Ravine Orchid grows mainly on rocks, where there is organic matter to obtain nutrients, where it is cool, moist and shady. It grows in ravines, gorges and on cliffs in altitude between 500 and 700 metres above sea level.

Orchid, rainforest, orchid, rainforest, Springbrook National Park,
Ravine Orchid, Araucaria Trail at Binna Burra. Photo by Author.


The Ravine Orchid in spring produces several long stems, each bearing up to 15 beautiful and fragrant flowers. It is a vulnerable orchid, with the risk of extinction due to low numbers and limited habitat.

The flowers of the Ravine Orchid are white with crimson spots in the centre. Rarely the flowers can be all crimson.

Orchid, rainforest, orchid, rainforest, Springbrook National Park,
Ravine Orchid, Araucaria Trail at Binna Burra Photo by Author.


I come across the Ravine Orchid while hiking in Lamington National Park, Binna Burra section, on the Araucaria Trail. The Ravine Orchids were growing in a patch on a rock where the sun managed to filter in a little bit from the canopy of the rainforest. I did smell the orchids but I could not detect any scent. A real highlight of the hike!

Orchid, rainforest, orchid, rainforest, Springbrook National Park, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic,
Ravine Orchid, Araucaria Trail at Binna Burra. Photo by Author.


2. Orange Blossom Orchid.

Sarcochilus falcatus is a native Australian species of orchid, known by its common name the Orange Blossom Orchid. It is a beautifully scented orchid that resembles the orange blossom.

The Orange Blossom Orchid grows naturally on trees, in moist areas. It is distributed in eastern Australia and it can be found from coastal areas up to the Great Dividing Range to an altitude of 1,200 metres above sea level.

Orchid, rainforest, orchid, rainforest, Springbrook National Park,
Orange Blossom Orchid, Springbrook National Park. Photo by Author.


The Orange Blossom Orchid is mostly epiphytic but can grow on rocks. The leaves are leathery, sickle shaped. The roots can branch out up to one metre from the parent plants. It produces up to ten flowers generally from June to October. The colours of the flowers can vary depending on the area.

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi
Orange Blossom Orchid, Springbrook National Park. Photo by Author.


I photographed the Orange Blossom Orchid in spring in the month of October on The Cream Track, which runs from Tallebudgera Valley to the Springbrook Plateau, Springbrook. The orchid was growing on a tree full of moss, denoting to be humid, under the shade of the canopy of the trees, with a floor full of ferns. The location of the orchid was about 900 metres above sea level, in a shady and cool spot.

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi
Orange Blossom Orchid, Springbrook National Park. Photo by Author.


3. Christmas Orchid.

Calanthe triplicata is commonly known as Christmas Orchid. It is a very large and tall plant, flowering in summer. The Christmas Orchid is a native terrestrial orchid that grows in the rainforest near creeks. It is very common in Queensland and in New South Wales.

Christmas Orchid, Calanthe triplicata, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus,
Christmas Orchid, Coomera Circuit at Binna Burra. Photo by Author.


The Christmas Orchid is an evergreen with ribbed leaves up to one metre long and 15 cm wide. The small, pure white flowers crowd on the top.

When I hike in summer in the rainforests, I come across the Christmas Orchids, especially near creeks. I photographed The Christmas Orchid in the photos on the Coomera Circuit in January, in the Binna Burra section of the Lamington National Park. The orchids were near a creek, in the heavy shade of the forest.

Christmas Orchid, Calanthe triplicata, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus,
Christmas Orchid, Coomera Circuit at Binna Burra Photo by Author.


4. Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid.

Cymbidium suave is commonly called Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid or the Snake Orchid.

The Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid can be found in moist forests and woodlands, growing in old decaying trees where its roots system can go deep into the heartwood.

It is an epiphytic orchid, forming a long-lasting clump of grass-like leaves. The flowers are green to dark or brownish-green.

Grassy Boat Lip Orchid, Cymbidium soave, Bally Mountain, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata,
Grassy Boat- Lip Orchid, Bally Mountain, Gold Coast. Photo by Author.


The Grassy Boat - Lip Orchid flowers from August to January, often bearing many flowers.

Cymbidium suave is one of the three unique Australian Cymbidium species. The orchid is endemic to the east coast of Australia, where the climate range is moist temperate to moist sub-tropical.

Grassy Boat Lip Orchid, Cymbidium soave, Bally Mountain, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata,
Grassy Boat -Lip Orchid, Bally Mountain, Gold Coast. Photo by Author.


I photographed the Grassy Boat Lip Orchid on the Bally Mountain trail when hiking to the summit. There was a big bunch of orchids in an old tree. There were more orchids high up on another tree. The photos were taken in late spring, in November.

Grassy Boat Lip Orchid, Cymbidium soave, Bally Mountain, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata,
Grassy Boar Lip Orchid, Bally Mountain, Gold Coast. Photo by Author.


5. Black Bootlace Orchid.

Erythrorchis cassythoides, commonly known with the name of Black Bootlace Orchid, is a climbing terrestrial orchid, leafless, with long black fleshy stems.

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi
Photo by Author.


The orchid feeds on decaying timber through its subterranean root system and relies on an association with fungi for its nutrition. It has long, dark brown to blackish stems and groups of up to thirty yellowish to greenish, sweetly scented flowers and is endemic to eastern Australia.

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi
Photo by Author.


While hiking the trail to Mount Norman in Girraween National Park, it started to lightly rain. It was then when I spotted the Black Bootlace Orchid. It was October, in spring. The orchid was climbing on a tree, bearing many beautiful flowers. At that time, there was a harsh drought. Generally, the creeks at Girraween would be flowing and all the plants in bloom but because of the lack of rain, the bush was dormant waiting for the rains. The Black Bootlace Orchid is unusual and interesting because it doesn't have leaves.

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi
Black Bootlace Orchid. Photo by Author.


6. Pink Rock Orchid.

Dendrobium Kingianum, commonly known as Pink Rock Orchid is endemic to eastern Australia. A small orchid, mostly lithophytic, is often seen forming large colonies on boulders and cliff faces.

Mount Cougal, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid,
Photo by Author.


The flowers are arranged on a raceme with between two and fifteen flowers. The sepals and petals are usually pink but may be pure white, dark purple or a range of intermediate colours

Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid,
Photo by Author.


I encountered many Pink Rock Orchids, especially when hiking Mount Cougal in the Springbrook National Park, Queensland. The orchids grew on cliff surfaces, in the moist and shady spots withstanding the cold of the nights. The Pink Orchids flower in spring producing beautiful flowers.

Mount Cougal, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid,
Photo by Author.


In the photo below is another Pink Rock Orchid. I found this orchid on the Araucaria Trail, at the Bower Lookout. The orchid was the only one flowering, in a sunny position, just on the edge of the cliff.

Araucaria Lookout, Binna Burra, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid,
Photo by Author.


7. King Orchids.

Dendrobium speciosum is also known as a King Orchid. It is mostly a lithophytic orchid, forming gigantic spreading colonies on rocks and cliff faces. They are often exposed to full sun, with thick, leathery leaves. Racemes are fragrant with white or pale yellow flowers.

King Orchid, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid, Erythrorchis cassythoides, Black Bootlace Orchid,
King Orchid, Bunya Mountain. Photo by Author.


Dendrobium King Orchids tolerate a wide range of temperatures and grow at high altitudes. Over the last twenty years, Australian native Dendrobium have been hybridised to create many new and amazing hybrids with large and coloured flowers.

The King Orchid is popular with cultivation, growing into large specimens that adapt well outdoors with mild winters.

King Orchid, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid, Erythrorchis cassythoides, Black Bootlace Orchid,
King Orchid, Bunya Mountain. Photo by Author.


In spring I spent a holiday in the Bunya Mountains National Park. Bunya Mountains is located about 1,100 metres above sea level. It is certainly cooler in the mountains and in the night we had a fire going in the cabin.

Bunya Mountains were practically decorated with stunning King Orchids. They were everywhere hanging down cliffs and growing on rocks.

King Orchid, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid, Erythrorchis cassythoides, Black Bootlace Orchid,
King Orchid, Bunya Mountain. Photo by Author.


King Orchid, Orchid, Ravine Orchid, Sarcochilus fitzgeraldii, Lithophytic, Springbrook National Park, Binna Burra, Araucaria Trail, Lamington National Park, Epiphytes, Terrestrial, Cattleya, Phalaenopsis, Brassia, Slipper Orchid, Cymbidium, Sophronitis, symbiotic relationship, mycorrhizae fungi, Sarcochilus falcatus, Christmas Orchid, Calanthe Triplicata, Cymbidium suave, Grassy Boat-Lip Orchid, Erythrorchis cassythoides, Black Bootlace Orchid,
King Orchid, Bunya Mountain. Photo by Author.


Life of orchids.

Orchids obtain nutrients from the air, rain and moisture in the soil. Some orchids are self-pollinating but most orchids rely on specific birds or insects for pollination.

At a certain point in the life of an orchid, its roots work together with a certain type of fungi called mycorrhizae fungi. The fungi grow partly inside the orchid roots, helping the plant to absorb water and minerals. The orchids and the fungi live in a symbiotic relationship. The orchid, in its turn, help the fungi producing some nutrients during photosynthesis that help the fungi to survive.

Unfortunately, the disappearance of many habitats contribute to make many orchids vulnerable to extinction. The fungi mycorrhizae is also vulnerable. The fungi require old trees and old forests to grow, Due to deforestation, old forests and old trees are not so available and put the life of mycorrhizae fungi in danger.

Most orchids depend on a single species of bird, bee or another insect for pollination. If these species are eliminated, orchids that depend on those species become threatened by extinction.

Habitat fragmentation and rainforest destruction may be devastating to a great number of orchid species in existence today.

How to help the orchids in the wild.
Do not remove orchids from their natural environment.
Appreciate viewing and taking photos of the native orchids but leave them in the wild.
Buy plants only from licensed nurseries.
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Your Comment
What a joy it must be to find these beautiful flowers int he wild.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9506) 3 days ago
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