Some early summer orchids and other floral delights

David Beeson 07/06/2021

I have been looking in three spots for plants, on one occasion as John wielded his camera in pursuit of butterflies. Spot one was in my own garden: spotted, southern marsh, twayblade and lesser butterfly orchids are currently in flower. Location two was alongside the A303 road, the route from London to The West Country and Devon. And, finally, Salisbury Plain.

  1. In the garden. The spotted orchids brought themselves here, yet I transported additional orchids from a garden about to be bulldozed. The latter reside in the flower border. The lesser butterfly orchids are from French seed, and have been flowering for around six years. A near relative, in bud but not flower, the greater butterfly orchid set itself into our main lawn. The southern marsh are seedlings from a couple of donated plants, that first arrived at least 25 years ago. Twayblades have spread in themselves and so enjoy it that they have moved far and wide. Our soldier x monkey and green-winged orchids have failed to flower this year, while the pyramidals are gearing up to show their colours.
Twayblade orchid
Southern marsh orchid
Southern marsh orchid
Spotted orchid
Spotted orchid
Lesser butterfly orchid
Lesser butterfly orchid. The greater and lesser forms differ only in the shape of the pollinia (stamens)

2. The edge of the A303. The interchanges are the places to seek out orchids. In this case I parked beneath the A303 on a sliproad. Bee orchids are due to flower shortly, with the pyramidals in advance of my own because of a warmer soil on the chalky slopes.

Growing on a chalky slop: pyramidal orchid just opening its first flowers.
Over 50 tall white helleborine orchids are here enjoying the woodland edge alongside the A303
The highways people cut the edge almost too late this year. It is a continual problem! They probably chopped up many orchid flower spikes. Note the bare soil on the other side of the slip road.

Fragrant orchid growing on almost pure chalk

Site three is on Salisbury Plain.

Woops, did that mean me? Surely not!
Open grassland that is used for tanks and army games.
Burnt-tip orchids growing on an Iron Age (around 1000 BCE) burial mound. They appear like diminutive lady orchids.

To explore further about UK orchids refer to a book. I use: Orchids of the British Isles by Foley and Clarke. There are others … and remember, if you are short of cash, pick one up second hand via eBay or similar.

Hayloft Plants (www.hayloft.co.uk) are offering three UK orchid species by mail order.

http://www.nwhwildlife.org – 100 ad-free education. Go to the home page for access to all articles.

Rockroses and milkwort
Silver weed
Sorrel

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