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The Shy Limestone Spider Orchid

The Shy Limestone Spider Orchid (Caladenia bicalliata ssp. cleistogama) is a fascinating and rare member of the orchid family. It is closely related to the Limestone Spider Orchid (Caladenia bicalliata ssp. bicalliata), another small orchid found growing in the same locations. The Shy orchid shares many similarities with its cousin but is slightly smaller and paler in appearance.

Some spider orchids employ unique pollination strategies, often involving deception and mimicry. This subspecies, cleistogama, has an intriguing adaptation. Cleistogama refers to the orchid’s ability to self-fertilize within its closed flower. This adaptation ensures the survival and reproductive success of the Shy orchid, even in environments where pollinators may be scarce.

The Shy Limestone Spider Orchid is primarily found in a handful of locations along the south coast of Western Australia. A distinct population exists here near Leeman.

In terms of size, the Shy Limestone Spider Orchid stands between 10 and 25 centimeters tall, making it a petite and exquisite addition to the floral landscape. The flower itself is relatively small, measuring only about 25 millimeters in width.

It lives in sandy soils under the cover of dense shrubs. While this provides the flower shade and protection, it makes it much harder to spot!

Shy Limestone Spider Orchid

One of the remarkable aspects of the Shy Limestone Spider Orchid is the infrequency at which its flowers open. When they do, it is for a brief period, usually lasting only a few days. Further adding to the challenge of encountering this unique orchid in the wild.

This is a rare and tiny orchid, that hides in under thick shrubs and bushes, and only flowers for a few days of the year. No wonder it is called The “Shy” Limestone Spider Orchid.

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Arrowsmith Spider Orchid

The Arrowsmith Spider Orchid, scientifically known as Caladenia crebra.

The term “crebra” originates from Latin, meaning dense or abundant, describing the thick dark “hairs”

Belonging to the Caladenia genus, Caladenia crebra is but one of over 130 species of spider orchids found in Western Australia. Each species with its own features and adaptations.

The name Caladenia itself translates to “beautiful lip” in reference to its unique labellum. All orchids in the Caladenia genus, as well as several other orchids, possess a modified petal called a labellum. This labellum plays a crucial role in the orchid’s reproduction process.

The labellum of a spider orchid is hinged, and when an insect lands on it, the weight of the insect can cause it to tip, bringing the insect into contact with the pollen-bearing parts of the flower. This interaction enables the transfer of pollen.

Fun facts

Ah, behold the majestic spider orchid and its cunning plan to attract a winged suitor! Enter the dashing wasp, known by its fancy name Campylothynnus flavopictus.

Picture this: the wasp, mesmerized by the orchid’s charm, falls head over heels and can’t resist the alluring scent. Little does the wasp know, it’s being tricked by the orchid’s clever imitation of a wasp’s sex pheromone. Talk about the ultimate perfume scam!

Spider orchids have developed an uncanny resemblance to female wasps, both in appearance and fragrance. This orchid mimics the female wasp’s pheromones, exploiting their pollinators’ natural instincts.

When male wasps encounter these deceitful flowers, they mistake them for potential mates, inadvertently aiding in the orchid’s reproduction.

The specific species of wasp targeted by each spider orchid varies, as they have finely tuned their deceptive tactics to suit their preferred pollinator.

Through their devious tactics, spider orchids efficiently attract their desired pollinator, ensuring the continuation of their species.

Video by Rod Peakall at the Australian National University.

Campylothynnus flavopictus

A new born female wasp emerges from the ground, ready for some lovey-dovey action. She emits her pheromone, hoping to attract a mate. And guess what? It actually works! A male wasp swoops in, sweeps her off her feet (she is wingless), and takes her on a romantic adventure to feast on nectar-filled flowers.

But here’s the kicker: this is a one-way ticket. Once the mating is complete, the male gives the poor lady wasp a metaphorical “drop-off” and bids her farewell. Her task now is to dig under ground in search of beetle larva where she can lay her eggs.

And so the circle of life goes on. The female wasp’s offspring eventually hatch, carrying on the tradition of climbing and emitting seductive pheromones to find love.

Who knew the world of orchids and wasps had such romantic drama?

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The orchids so far…

Very good start to the year for orchids, with fifteen species locally, plus a couple from out near Moora.

In August already seeing some Arrowsmith Spider Orchids open, with more spiders hopefully out later in the month. Plenty of other spider orchid leaves are getting ready to open too.

If you see the Fringe Leeks, don’t forget to smell their sweet fragrance. Also go back later this month as more leeks like the Tall Leek often come up in the same place.

Orchids seen up to end of July

Sun Orchids

Early season sun orchids, Cleopatra’s Needles and Northern Queen of Sheba. Found with a little help from Ike.


The early season Autumn Leek orchid, and the Fringe Leek Orchid. The Fringe Leek flowers after a summer fire.

Hooded Orchids

One type of snail, one shell and two greenhoods!


Two types of Bunny Orchid, different ones grow in different places. But you can check the leaf to be sure.

Two types of Donkey Orchid. The Early Donkey Orchid has a longer “snout” with a different shape.

The oddly shaped Jug Orchid (actually in the same family as the hooded orchids above), brilliant Blue Beard and the tricky Hare Orchid. Find lots of their leaves but they can be shy about flowering.


At Moora managed to see some Moora Spiders and the Green Veined Shell Orchid. We where a bit early and missed the green and red versions of the spider as well as the Mini Donkey Orchid.

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September’s Orchids

August’s orchids was always going to be touch to beat, but I did manage quite a few different species in the end. Some familiar and a couple of new ones for me.

Some highlights were the Blue China Orchid and Lemon Scented Sun Orchids. I had never seen either of those before.

The Flying Duck Orchid I found was either triggered or had been fertilized. Never saw it open or found another one. Hopefully next year I can catch it open.

  1. Early Donkey Orchid
  2. White Spider Orchid
  3. Blushing Spider Orchid
  4. Cowslip Orchid
  5. Banded Greenhood
  6. Blue China Orchid
  7. Common Spider Orchid
  8. Sugar Candy Orchid
  9. Noble Spider Orchid
  10. Lemon Scented Sun Orchid
  11. White Spider Orchid x Blushing Spider Orchid
  12. Purple Enamel Orchid
  13. Clown Orchid
  14. Flying Duck Orchid
  15. Pink Fairy Orchid
  16. Carousel Spider Orchid
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August’s Orchids

I manage to find twenty five different species (subspecies and hybrids too!) this month. I travelled a lot of miles, Eneabba down to Perth and inland to Moora. Orchids seem to be popping up everywhere.

  1. Jug Orchid
  2. Rattle Beak Orchid
  3. Dancing Spider Orchid
  4. Common Donkey Orchid
  5. Tuart Spider Orchid
  6. Carousel Spider Orchid
  7. Pink Fairy Orchid
  8. Pansy Orchid
  9. Moora Spider Orchid
  10. Dainty Donkey Orchid
  11. Noble Spider Orchid
  12. Greenhood Orchid
  13. Blushing Spider x White Spider Orchid (hybrid)
  14. Northern Sandplains Spider Orchid (hybrid)
  15. Northampton Bee Orchid
  16. Northern Bee Orchid
  17. Arrowsmith Pansy Orchid
  18. Blue Beard Orchid
  19. Arrowsmith Spider Orchid
  20. White Spider Orchid subspecies Daddy Long Legs Spider Orchid
  21. White Spider Orchid subspecies Coastal White Spider Orchid
  22. Common Spider Orchid
  23. Cowslip Orchid
  24. Early Donkey Orchid
  25. Blushing Spider Orchid
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Bee Orchids

Went out around Eneabba on the weekend and saw heaps of different spider orchids. Had to cut the trip short because of a flat tire. Not a bad place to have a flat tire because while waiting I saw some Northern Bee Orchids, Northhampton Bee Orchids and an Arrowsmith Pansy Orchid. Had never seen these species before myself, and probably would not have if not for that flat!

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July’s Orchids

I located four different species of orchid in July, that’s a good start for me this early in the season.

  1. Banded Greenhood Orchid
  2. Arrowsmith Spider Orchid
  3. Northern Sandplain Spider Orchid
  4. Early Donkey Orchid
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Old Jetty Under the Stars

The old jetty under the stars in Jurien Bay. To make the stars form trails in the sky I took the picture over an eight minute period. The stars form trail because that is how far they move every eight minutes. I think it makes them look like falling stars.