What a blessing, when the northern hemisphere is struggling to find two green leaves to rub together, to find these gorgeous flowers in the bush!
I was feasting my eyes on these flowers when realised that the stalk they grow from doesn't have any leaves. Nothing. Just a single stem rising from the ground, and the flowers themselves. I wondered whether the leaves grew at a different time of year - otherwise how could the plant photosynthesise and make food for itself?
I looked them up in a field guide and found no mention of leaves, at any time of year.
Then, in another book, I saw they were described as 'saprophytic' and wondered if that was a clue...
Thank God for wikipedia, which told me that a saprophyte is a plant that gets its food from decomposing organic matter in the soil (usually in symbiosis with a fungus), rather than from the sun's rays.
How cool! I thought. And the even cooler thing is that these orchids are so good at obtaining food this way, they are able to store the excess in long tubers packed with starchy carbohydrate. Now, as anyone who has lived on bush tucker for any length of time will tell you, carbs in the bush are worth their weight in gold. So knowing about these orchids could really come in handy and even save your life in a survival situation.
Of course, these plants are protected and it's absolutely against the law to pick them, unless your life depended on it. But good to know, nonetheless. And they were a staple in the diet of many Aboriginal mobs in the areas where they were abundant.
Right now, I'm just happy to feast on their beauty.
Speaking of which, Happy Feasting to all you folk out there this holiday.
If you haven't already, check out our Tribal Gathering (Jan 16 -18th) in the 'Family' section.
And stand by for news of our upcoming series of Rewild group workshops in March 2012.
Happy Holidays from the Bluegum Mob!