Along the edges of the track, standing tall and graceful, the blue,
lavender blue and violet blue Thelymitra sun orchids raised
their faces to the sun.
Nine miles from the turnoff, Billy Gray told me, and nine miles and 35
years down the track they still stood there, gems in the peaceful bush.
And as exquisite, were the gems that Bill cut, by hand and eye, from the
rough stones of Agate Creek, amethyst from the Don River, topaz from Camel
Creek, sapphires from Tomahook, and a myriad of others from Australian
gemfields. His was a love of the hidden gems of the bush, the native orchids and
later the crystalline gems cut from rough stones.
Further along the track, where the country was more open, more sandy, there
grew Bill's "double tails", the
little yellow Diuris aurea, its petals erect, like ears,
the Donkey Orchid. A single grass like leaf with an erect spike of half a dozen
yellow flowers spotted brown, dotted through the short grass along the sides of
An old time Cape York prospector, living off the land , collecting Cooktown
orchids on horseback, "a shilling a dozen", when prospecting was poor. A
bush carpenter, a sawmill hand, Bill grew orchids and nurtured a fledgling
Townsville Orchid Society, a studious Technical Adviser with the progenitors of
Along the track of Bill's "nine miles", growing in the shelter of large
rocks, were the little "pink fingers", the delicate Caladenia
carnea, with its single flower of bright pink purple, the sepals and
petals fanned out like fingers. Another single grass like leaf, an orchid
invisible except in flower.
Cryptostylis subulatus grew in a small creek, wide
leaves in the grass, its green and yellow orange and red brown flowers
bewitching amorous male wasps into pollinating the flowers, imitators of female
ichneumen wasps. They flowered in October, while the sun orchids, double tails
and pink fingers flowered in August, after winter rains.
In the rough barked, bull oak casuarina trees grew plants of Dendrobium
ruppianum, (photo D. fusiforme as it was
then), Cymbidium madidum, and rarely seen plants of Dendrobium
bairdianum, and up on the rocky ridge, out of reach of fire, the
rock lily, king orchid, Dendrobium speciosum clung to the
Along the track, nine miles from the turnoff, the sun orchids, the double
tails and the pink fingers grow and flower, always to bring to mind the memory
of a longtime friend, orchid grower, rock hound, and past T.O.S. member, VALE
Bill Gray, June 1996.
Ian Walters, Burleigh Park, 54 Hammond Way, Thuringowa. 4815. May be reproduced provided source acknowledged
Nervilia Care & Culture And Sunday Creek