So to cheer myself up, I went on an orchid quest …

Having accidentally found a patch of bee orchids in a meadow full of ox-eye daisies the other day,

orchid quest1

I realised that now is the perfect time to be looking out for other native orchids. What better way to put aside the melancholy caused by our recent referendum. I’ve seen enough analyses of who voted for what and read the worrying forecasts from the scientists, researchers, businesses, banks etc. and I’ve signed the protest petition. So now seems to be a good time to adjourn to the great outdoors and lose myself in flowers.

Fortunately for me, the best place to search for orchids nearby is the old chalk quarry at the edge of the village and, apart from getting completely drenched while I wandered around looking for the best shots, it was a spectacularly successful walk.

orchid quest2

Orchid filled chalk pit (sorry about the rain on the lens)

The ground was covered by the best display of common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuschii) that I have ever seen there. They weren’t just more numerous, but also, I think, on average they were taller and more vigorous.

orchid quest3

Many of them were quite pale, but others had beautiful strong colour and markings.

orchid quest3

The pit is also filled with twayblades (Neottia ovata), but since they are predominantly green they don’t stand out in general photos of the ground.

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In fact, they are hard to see even when you are looking directly at them. Up close, the flowers are distinctly shaped like little people.

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Twayblades take a long time before they are mature enough to set seed (7-20 years), but they will often form clumps via vegetative reproduction and they can survive for over 40 years.

There is another native orchid which is even more human-shaped, this is the Man orchid (Orchis anthropophora) which does also grow in the local chalkpit, but it was very under-represented this year. I did see a couple of spent spikes and they do flower somewhat earlier than the others, so I am hoping that they just withered and disappeared in the damp conditions.

Bee orchids were there too and I am pleased to have seen them in reasonable numbers in the pleasure grounds at Wimpole Hall as well. So that is three places, with good populations, within a few miles of here.

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Did you know that in the Language of Flowers the bee orchid stands for error and industry? Not sure that you’d want to see that in your bouquet!

The final orchid I will show in this post started flowering over a month ago. I returned to Fox Covert near Therfield to look for a colony of white helleborines, Cephalanthera damasonium, that are known to grow there. White helleborines flower typically from early May to the end of June.


White helleborine under a beech canopy

I visited a few times in May, but the flowers only started to open up towards the end of the month this year.

orchid quest8

In this photo you can just about make out the individual spikes popping up out of the beech kernel-covered floor of the wood. The beech canopy has filled out completely and the whole atmosphere in the wood is slightly murky and green. In fact the degree of shade means that this orchid is often the only plant growing beneath the dense canopy.

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Back in the April post on beech this same shot showed almost no green


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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10 Responses to So to cheer myself up, I went on an orchid quest …

  1. Gillian says:

    Lovely photos of some gorgeous orchids.

  2. Tina says:

    It’s certainly interesting times…wish I could sign the petition. Glad you got out to enjoy and rest. I’m not at all familiar with twayblades, so thanks for the photos.

  3. Chloris says:

    Wonderful post. I wish I could have come too. Nothing delights me so much as discovering wild orchids. We need a bit of cheering up, the news is unutterably depressing. I signed the petition too, I don’ t suppose it will make much difference, but one has to register a protest. I have a friend who has Pyramidal orchids in her meadow. What a privilege.

    • Unfortunately we are even more in need of cheering up now. I can’t quite believe the chaos. I hadn’t seen any pyramidal orchids until you mentioned them. How lucky for your friend!

  4. Sam says:

    A wonderful antidote to the worrying past few days. Thank you. There are pyramidal orchids on the cliffs up the road here, but I’ve not seen that many this year.

    • And we are waking up day after day to more surprising announcements and news. It is unpleasant feeling so powerless and frustrated. Happily you can always go outside to focus on something rewarding.

  5. Your orchid study walk is such a tonic, thank you. Like so many others the news on Friday cast a shadow over the summer for me and this is exactly the sort of thing to lift one’s spirits. Oh, and so well done with the ‘tway blades’, unless you’ve seen one it’s hard to understand how tricky they are to capture.

    • Think I must have just switched off after this post for a bit! Every day is still bring surprises. Thanks for your comment on the twayblades. I take alot of pictures. Thanks heavens for digital cameras and the delete button! It must be similar to photographing grasses which you do so well. I often resort to ‘against the sky’ shots.

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