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