The Slender Hyacinth Orchid is truly a wildflower. Orchid enthusiasts have tried to cultivate it, but have been unsuccessful due to its unique growing conditions.
Dipodium variegatum is leafless and the only part of it that appears above ground is the stalk and flower. It is a saprophyte meaning that it is not capable of creating its own nutrients. It can’t photosynthesise like most plants.
Most orchids require fungus to germinate but after growing leaves, become less dependent on the fungus. In this case the orchid consumes fungus, but not any old fungus will do and for that reason, it only populates certain environments.
Found in open eucalypt forest with a heathy understorey
The Slender Hyacinth Orchid favours gravelly soils in areas of open eucalypt forest. Botanists believe that the fungus it uses for nourishment is one that is particular to a combination of certain tree species but as yet, they have been unable to isolate the exact components of that combination.
They grow all along the East Coast of Australia.
Spring, Summer and Autumn flowers
The flowers of this unique orchid appear sporadically in warmer weather. I have found that I can reliably find them in our gully a week or so after stormy weather. In mid-November we had three stalks growing vigorously in a small area.
The flowers are only 12-25mm and grow on long stems with up to 50 blooms at a time.
If you have any bush area on your property, it’s worth going to have a look after rain to see if you have any of these crimson-blotched delights! I’ve even seen one from the car while driving up Tamborine Mountain.
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This was first published in the Tamborine Bulletin in December 2021.