The bizarre-looking Elbow Orchid is one of Australia’s most unusual orchids. Its strangely-shaped, straw-coloured flowers imitate the appearance and scent of female thynnid wasps, thereby attracting male wasps which will pollinate the flowers in their attempt to mate with the orchid’s labellum.
Elbow Orchids are endemic to south-western WA and are very common and widespread south-west of a line from Kalbarri to Israelite Bay. They usually occur in mossy soil pockets on granite outcrops, although they have also been found growing in shallow sandy soils at the northern end of their range. Due to their ability to propagate vegetatively, the orchids often form dense clumps.
During the peak flowering season in late spring and early summer the leaves are already withered and the surrounding vegetation is often completely dry. Elbow Orchids manage to thrive in these hostile conditions by storing nutrients and water in their thick, fleshy flower stem, while the base of the stem is already hard and dry by the time the flowers emerge.