Winter-green Orchids

David Beeson

We have a wide variety of UK orchids in our garden. Most have arrived quite naturally and have increased in number. Others have been introduced by seed or with tubers. Not all those species thrived, as one might expect as the soil or climate was perhaps not ideal. For example, we had a single Lizard orchid flower for three years (French seed sent to us from someone’s garden) but it is no longer seen. Bee orchids arrived by wind-blown seed and two plants flowered for just a single year before we lost them. Some potted Lady Slipper Orchids grew well until vine weevils suddenly consumed their roots and tubers.

This is our original monkey x military orchid plant. It has flowered for several years and looks to be trying again.
The leaves are not the same shape as those above. Colour and texture differ too. Yet it does not quite look like a pyramidal orchid. I will have to wait and see what, if any, flower develops. Is it a new cross? Yet, probably a pyramidal! Cowslip and betony leaves also on show.

Twayblade orchids moved in by wind-blown seed and have spread around the garden, although they prefer the damper, shaded locations. Pyramidal Orchids are now almost weeds and have spread widely in the more open grassy spots. Marsh Orchids fluctuate in numbers and, as their name suggests, dwell mainly adjacent to our pond. Spotted Orchids do not like us much, but a good handful flower each year, however, one I planted in the garden soil is increasing in size yearly. Greater (seed-blown) and Lesser Butterfly Orchids (French seed) hold on but are reluctant to spread. And a single Green-winged Orchid that I grew in a petri dish is holding on. I introduced Marsh Orchid seeds two years ago and I’m hopeful they will show before we sell Forest Edge and move on. Today, I purchased three Lady Slipper Orchids from Hayloft Plants for £45.

Most orchids have a rosette of leaves with parallel veins are they are monocots.

Several pyramidal orchids showing here, plus cowslip leaves.

Mediterranean orchids (those whose distribution is centred there) have spread, quite naturally, to the UK and have been established here for hundreds of years. With their natural ‘warm wet winters and hot, dry summers’ they show winter-green foliage. This means that their leaves will be first visible in October or November, only dying at flowering in early summer. Cooler climate orchids are hidden from view over winter and their leaves only appear in spring. Now, that is really too sweeping a statement, but it is ‘in the right direction’ as there are always exceptions.

At the moment I can spot, what I believe to be, Pyramidal Orchids, Monkey x Military Orchids and what I guess are a number of Bee Orchids in green leaf. The other species will start to show their leaves over the following months.

A new plant. If you compare this to the cross shown above I believe you will see distinct similarities. If so, is it from our own seed or from the French seed sown 20 years ago?
I suspect this could be a bee orchid. There are two simar sets of leaves nearby, but less leafy and are unlikely to flower. Compare the colour, shape, form and texture to the plant above.

For a wide-ranging, excellent article see:

One thought on “Winter-green Orchids

  1. Hello,
    we are a couple in love with orchids. we are about to travel in Crete, when is the blooming time expected in 2023? doyou suggest early April or mid April? we hope to photograph Ophrys cretica.. thank you. Annalisa Tommasoni (Italy)


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