Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Looking for the smallest orchid in Britain, the Bog Orchid (Hammarbya paludosa), is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Reaching a maximum of 12 cm high and often as small as 3cm high it is hard to spot, particularly as the whole plant is green.
From experience it is best to see this plant with a knowledgeable guide. Last year I tip toes around some likely bogs with a bird watching friend and my dog. The dog pranced around and found it particularly exciting when he landed in unexpectedly deep pools of water. I found a few interesting species including Dorset Heath, but no Bog Orchids.
This year I signed up to join in surveying Bog Orchids with the Dorset Flora Group. By the time my day for surveying was due good weather meant all the surveying was completed. However the organiser kindly gave me specific directions for where to find these tiny orchids.
Bog Orchids flower from late June to late September flowering earlier in hot summers and later in cool summers. Sun light electrifies the green plants and makes them stand out against the surrounding vegetation which is usually Sphagnum moss. Bog Orchids grow in bogs where there is some flow of water, not in stagnant water. Around the edges of the leaves there is often a fringe of minute green bulbils. These will detach and in ideal conditions develop into new plants.
Bog Orchids are found in Wales, Scotland and Ireland and in a few locations in England restricted to the south west and very north. Growing in bogs it is best if you wear wellingtons when you look for them unless you love getting wet feet.