The Queen of Sheba orchid, one of the most highly prized finds for those who have a penchant for orchid hunting, and for good reason with their striking colours and scarcity. These flowers above are all Thelymitra speciosa, the eastern queen of sheba variety.
Notice the amazing variety in colour and patterns of the flower, even their shape and form varies, with sepals and petals ranging from short and wide through to elongated.
If you look closely you can see the almost crystal crown on her head.
Though undoubtedly the highlight of the Queen is not her crown which you can barely notice with the naked eye, but rather her vivid colouring, and the variations in that colouring.
Deep mauves and almost royal blues with dark spots and yellow fringing, through to oranges.
Each flower as individual as a human face or fingerprint.
You really can’t miss them when they are out in bloom with their iridescent colours a beacon amongst the low scrub.
Their stems are often a beautiful purple colour as well.
Many orchid hunters might never see a Queen of Sheba orchid throughout their whole “career” out hunting, on this particular day I was lucky enough to find over 100 of them through a reasonable small area, perhaps the area of a football field.
The other aspect that makes them so special is their spiral leaf. I didn’t really get a great shot of the leaf as I was to bedazzled by the flowers, but this gives you an idea.
Unfortunately they aren’t very common and they’re getting harder to find each year partly due to orchid hunters trampling the known growing areas while trying to find them. This is especially bad in some areas, a spot near Bunbury is known to only have a handful of plants left.
A survey in 2022 of the southern Queen of Sheba, Thelymitra variagata Growing near Albany found that the local populations have declined markedly.
The southern Queen of Sheba is quite different to the eastern variety, with longer petals and sepals and not so much of the orange/brown colouring
I only managed to find a handful of these and one place I visited last year had evidence that a plant had been dug out sometime over the past 12 months. Its a shame that the location for these orchids are so close to Albany and so well known, people flock to the area to see them destroying the plants and their habitat. I was parked on the side of the road and walked off down a little track to a semi-secret spot I knew. When I returned to the car there were 5 other cars parked around mine. We might be loving these beautiful things to death.