Then I realised that what I had thought was a silvery blaze of creeping willow leaves was in fact thousands of orchids. The Marsh Helleborines were clearly thriving in a large dune slack and it was certainly a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees
Dotted amongst the predominant Marsh Helleborines I found a few other orchids - Common Twayblade and Early Marsh Orchids. There were a lot of Bumble Bees taking advantage of the mass of flowers. The nature reserve at Formby Point Lancashire is so full of flowers that even on a grey summer's day it feels colourful.
Perhaps Marsh Helleborines are the most striking flower native to Britain even when seen on one plant; the spectacle of thousands is very impressive . They are very particular about their growing conditions and flourish in calcareous damp conditions such as fens and dune slacks.
Marsh Helleborines are readily recognisable as an orchid because they are the British native orchid that most resembles the dense flower head of Cymbidium orchids that florists use. N.B. despite the presence of large colonies, don't be tempted to pick them. The orchicds growing in Britain have legislative protection and Marsh Helleborines are one of the species with additional protection because they are declining. (Explanation of legislation coming soon.)