Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lady Orchid

The Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea) is Nationally Scare and very much a Kent speciality. So I went to Kent at the weekend to join in a walk with the BSBI (Botanical Society of the British Isles) to see the Lady Orchids, as well as some other interesting species which thrive in the North Downs.

Lady Orchids flower from late April to June and are currently blooming furiously. The hood of the flower is coloured by dense dark lines and the white lip is marked by dots which on closer observation are clusters of coloured hairs. Most flowers had dark maroon hoods. Some were such a dark shade of purple that they were almost black. Some had paler markings in shades of pink to white.

The height of the flowers varied from below knee height to 100cm high. We saw them in two different locations both were a combination of light shade and grassy surround near trees. Lady Orchids are generally found in open woodland or along the margins of woods.

A few flower spikes had clearly been nipped off leaving a stump of the flowering stem and the leaves. Hopefully this had been done by slugs or deer rather than someone picking the whole flowering stem of this rare British flower. There was one spike snapped off on the grass. It could have been trampled by a deer. Though given the number of orchid twitchers and photographers tramping along the woodland paths it seems far more likely that it was a careless step or foolishly placed piece of equipment.

Lady Orchids are reputed to smells of vanilla. there was a consensus among the group that while the flowers had an aroma which was not unpleasant it was certainly not vanilla.

No comments: