Looking for a man!

OK, I couldn’t resist that title …. but it really should read man orchid (Orchis anthropophora, recently changed from Aceras anthropophorum on DNA evidence).

The man orchid is a UK native, hardy orchid, which favours sunny conditions on free-draining, calcareous grassland. Luckily for me, there is an abandoned chalk quarry at the edge of the village that has become a haven for several different kinds of hardy orchids, including this very species.


Track down the edge of the old chalk quarry

I have a flag in my head that labels June/July as the time to go to the quarry looking for these orchids, but last year I was disappointed to see that the only sign of the man orchids was their spent flower spikes. I was just too late. So this time I went a month earlier and can happily report that there were loads to see. (The other types were there too, but are only just starting to extend their heads really.)


Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora

As you can guess from their name, this orchid’s flower is humanoid in shape. The flower spikes can get relatively tall (20 – 40cm) and are packed with as many as 50 little green hooded or helmet-ed man figures dangling directly from the stalk. In fact, the local examples show a very strong tendency to purple edgings, which exaggerates a certain warrior-like hooded appearance:


Bit of fun showing the hooded man-like appearance of the flowers

Looking at the flowers closely it becomes clear that the flowers are actually growing upside down and looking side on to the flower it is possible to see the twisted ovaries.


Twisted ovaries and upside down flowers

So here are a few photos from the quarry. Enjoy!





About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Nature, Uncategorized, Wildflowers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Looking for a man!

  1. Tina says:

    Enjoy, I did! Your title certainly caught my attention! I’m glad you found your man. Men.

  2. sharonfreedman says:

    I think you are not too far from me (Hitchin). If possible can you say where the quarry is, even if I can’t get there it would be interesting to know.
    I spotted Jack-go-to-bed-at -noon yesterday (tragopogon pratensis) . I might easily have missed it were it not for your interesting post about it the other day.
    As usual great photos and interesting information.

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    These are delightful, as are the rest of the flowers. What a nice day for a walk!

  4. And what a handsome man you found! Great place for wildflowers and wildlife to have on your doorstep.

  5. Cute!
    Although to me they look a bit more like women in hoods (the big hoods I imagine in The Handmaid’s Tale). Having said that, in the days when the orchid was first named I expect they didn’t know women had legs, as they were always covered in long skirts…
    Best wishes πŸ™‚

    • I didn’t know The Handmaid’s Tale, so had to check. Yes, I see what you mean. There are some very interesting/peculiar looking orchids out there and the naming seems half the fun.

  6. Great orchid shots. Just spent the day photographing lizard orchids but I can’t get the photos off my husband’s camera!

  7. Sam says:

    What a great spot to have nearby. Great photos (as always).

  8. Sally says:

    What an intriguing orchid β€” who knew! Thanks for the extra closeup shot. πŸ™‚

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