Even though I am very familiar with the terrestrial genus Thelymitra from plant walks in the Blue Mountains of N.S.W., and despite my realisation long ago that orchids are not delicate creatures, I was very surprised to learn that several species of orchid had been recorded on Maatsuyker Island in the botanical survey. The plant list I found before I went to the island for my artist residency listed both T. pauciflora and T. megacalyptera.
Great excitement on Dec 10 (2011) when caretaker Roger told us about an orchid he had found on the track under the lighthouse. I immediately went in search and found 3 specimens close to each other – 2 on the side of the track, the other right in the centre. I photographed them, but the day was overcast and the flowers were all closed. The track under the lighthouse is on a steep slope which faces south-west and bears the full force of the legendary prevailing winds. This photograph (right), looking back up the slope to the lighthouse and Q1, was taken standing at the spot where the orchids were found. And this photograph (below), also taken on a stunning day, is looking in the opposite direction, to the south-west.
The characteristics of the flowers I observed include:
- leaf length 15 cm
- flower stem 14 – 18 cm
- sterile bracts 2
- # flowers more than 6
- flowers max 25mm wide
After reviewing my macro photos, orchid specialists suggest the specimens I saw on Maatsuyker Island are probably Thelymitra nuda but also offered that they are difficult to identify, even with full specimens of fresh material at hand and detailed locality information.
I thoroughly enjoyed doing a detailed graphite drawing of the orchid (magnified) and then a watercolour painting. Getting the beautiful blue/purple colour accurate was a real challenge. I did quite a few studies before I was finally satisfied.