Drakonorchis

Drakonorchis is a name applied to terrestrial tuberous plants in the Orchidaceae family from Western Australia. Hopper and Brown (1992, 1998) proposed this name for a new genus, but then in 2000 reclassified it a subgenus of Caladenia. D.L. Jones and M. A. Clements in 2001 elevated it again to genus status. Whether to consider it a genus or subgenus has not been resolved. Originally thought to include just one species, the Australian Orchid Name Index lists four species. These species are pollinated by male thynnid wasps. The labellum resembles a female wasp and the plants excrete the scent of this wasp thus attracting the male wasp. They are commonly known as Dragon Orchids.

The Species Orchid Society of Western Australia hosts a lot of information online about Australian orchids here.

The Australian terrestrial orchids are notoriously challenging to grow, although some enthusiasts are starting to achieve success by cultivating the symbiotic fungus that many of the orchids require in order to grow. Very careful fertilization is required to keep the fungus and orchid in balance. There's a good discussion of the relationship here.


Drakonorchis barbarossa syn. Caladenia barbarossa is found in well-drained to moist soils in many shrubby and forested habitats. It has a hairy basal leaf and a single flower that is greenish with red markings and a wide hairy lip that looks like a female thynnid wasp. The plants photographed below were growing under she-oaks near a river bed in the Stirling Range National Park. We saw quite a number of them in this habitat. Photographs taken September 2007 by Bob Rutemoeller and Mary Sue Ittner.

Drakonorchis barbarossa, Bob RutemoellerDrakonorchis barbarossa, Bob RutemoellerDrakonorchis barbarossa, Mary Sue IttnerDrakonorchis barbarossa, Mary Sue IttnerDrakonorchis barbarossa, Mary Sue Ittner

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