I’ve been looking for the Cleopatra’s Needles orchid (Thelymitra apiculata) for at least five years and I’ve written about that search previously. It is only found in a small area and it is not very common. Its location is about a couple of hours drive from where I live so it’s not something you can do on an off chance – it is a dedicated expedition. Well yesterday I went out and after a pretty dispiriting hour I found plenty of orchids but not the one I was looking for. As I was walking back to the car I noticed a couple further up the hill who were paying close attention to an area around a small bush. I hoped they had found it and so I made a mental note of where they were and aimed to make my way up there slowly. You may ask why I didn’t just walk up and have a look. Well in Western Australia the orchid hunting community is quite secretive and often bordering on the paranoid. Sites are not shared and it is considered very bad form to crash somebody’s find. As I slowly sauntered through the scrub they called out to me asking if I’d found anything when I said no the young woman invited me over saying that they had not only found one plant, but three others. Orchid El Dorado!!!
I spent over an hour photographing the plants. I t was quite a challenge as the conditions were quite changeable, sunny one minute and overcast the next because Cleopatra’s Needles are in the “sun orchid” family and if the sun isn’t out then the flower can close up. It was also very sociable. The young couple were from Germany and had only got the orchid bug last year and she in particular was pretty elated to find Cleopatra’s Needles especially when she found out that I had been looking for so long. As I packed up and thanked them profusely for letting me in on their find and went home feeling very happy.