NSW Rock Lily

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NSW Rock Lily

Spring is a time when exotic bulbs and blossom trees flower. However, nearly all the Australian wildflowers also flower in spring. Peter Valder looked at one of the most spectacular, the NSW rock lily. This is not a lily at all, but a type of orchid.

Plant details

Common name: NSW rock lily (although NSW rock orchid would be more appropriate as it is a native orchid)

Botanic name: Dendrobium speciosum

Description

An Australian native orchid that grows on rocks or trees. It has sprays of small, creamy-yellow flowers, thick, leathery leaves and swollen, bulbous roots (called pseudobulbs). The flowers appear in spring. A third petal in the centre of each flower is known as the lip, which serves as a landing strip for insect pollinators.

Best climate

The NSW rock lily grows best in frost-free areas of Australia. It grows naturally along the east coast from Gippsland in Victoria to northern Queensland.

Uses

rockery plant container plant native garden

Good points

easy to grow attractive spikes of creamy-yellow flowers drought tolerant

Downside

New growth can sometimes be seriously damaged by the black and orange orchid or dendrobium beetle (Stethopachys formosa). The best method of control is to keep an eye out for the beetle in the evening and early morning and remove manually when seen.

Rock lilies flower best in full sun or part shade. Do not plant them in garden soil. Instead, attach them to rocks (tiny hairs on the roots will soon cling to the rock and help support the plant), put them in rock crevices or small pockets of soil in rock gardens. Other common orchids, such as the crucifix orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense) and cymbidiums (Cymbidium Hybrid) will also grow well in these sort of situations. For further details about growing orchids refer to the books ‘Orchids in Your Garden’ by Robert Friend and ‘Field Guide to the Orchids of New South Wales and Victoria’, by Tony Bishop (details below). Rock lilies are easily propagated by dividing the pseudobulbs. (Note: do not remove native orchids from the bush.)

Further reading

‘Orchids in Your Garden: Growing Orchids the Natural Way’, by Robert Friend. Halstead Press – August 2000, $29.95 (ISBN: 1875684484).
‘Field Guide to the Orchids of New South Wales and Victoria’ by Tony Bishop (Second Edition) UNSW Press, $37.95. (ISBN 0868407062).

Getting started

NSW Rock lilies are available from some nurseries, or try specialist native plant nurseries, such as:

NSW

Annangrove Grevilleas Native Nursery, Kenthurst. Phone: (02) 9654 1380
Cranebrook Native Nursery, Cranebrook. Phone: (02) 4777 4256
Sydney Wildflower Nursery West, Marsden Park. Phone: (02) 9628 4448
Sydney Wildflower Nursery South, Heathcote. Phone: (02) 9548 2818

QLD

Fairhill Native Plants, Yandina. Phone: (07) 5446 7088
Nielsen’s Native Nursery, Loganholme. Phone: (07) 3806 1414

VIC

Kuranga Native Nursery, Ringwood. Phone: (03) 9879 4076
Mt Cassell Native Nursery, Pomonal. Phone: (03) 5356 6351

SA

Nellie Nursery, Mannum. Phone: (08) 8569 1762

WA

Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale. Phone: (08) 9454 6260