During October and November of this year the Board engaged a contract weed team from Bushland Restoration Services (from the Tweed / Northern NSW area) to assist in the ongoing weed eradication program on the island.
One of the team members, Reece Taverner, is a keen botanist, and while searching for weeds on Intermediate Hill he spotted an unusual plant on a cliff.
On close observation it turned out to be the Yellow-flowered King of the Fairies Oberonia complanata (although it may need flowers to confirm it actually is this species).
Oberonia complanata is a small orchid which grows on trees or rocks. Each plant has one to many shoots in a tight, iris-like clump, with 3 to 8 leaves per shoot. The leaves are spear-shaped, 3-15cm long, 10-15mm wide, and yellow-green in colour and somewhat fleshy (they are used as water storage). The plants produce about 150 to 300 tiny cream to yellowish flowers, crowded on erect to drooping stems up to 15cm long, in spring and summer.
Oberonia is a large genus of 150 or more species, distributed from East Africa to Samoa, and from northern India to Australia, but especially in tropical Asia.
Oberonia complanata is found in Northern NSW from Coffs Harbour into Southern Queensland (with several other closely related species). On Lord Howe Island it may only occur on this one isolated rocky outcrop. Quite a few of the Island’s orchid species are found like this – restricted to a very small area.
Renowned English botanist and orchidologist, John Lindley, described the genus Oberonia in 1830. It was named after Oberon (king of the fairies) who was most famously portrayed in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
‘As Oberon, that little King of the Dryads, prince of the northern hobgoblins, rides about on the branches of the trees, hiding his many-formed countenance amongst the leaves, so our little herbs, not less changeable in form, lurk in the forests of India and ride triumphantly in their leafy chariot’.
Officially an endangered species
The NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage has officially classified Oberonia complanata as an endangered species.