Orchids

Wednesday 12 June 2013, 13:13

Springwatch Guest Blog Springwatch Guest Blog

Guest blogger: Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife

It's common, it's spotted and it's an orchid. Doing exactly what it says on the tin makes common spotted orchids no less spectacular than other, rarer, orchids. It's the one that you're most likely to be familiar with, but this familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. On the contrary, it's a personal favourite of mine amongst all our 53 species of orchid. Why? Because each plant is unique.

Take those cheerfully spotted leaves for example. I like hunting out plants with so much spotting the leaves are nearly black, or those with feint, ghostly spots or, best of all, those with pale centres giving them a leopard-spot look. Then there are the flowers. From deep, fuchsia pink through to white, they are dotted, striped, lined and looped in so many unimaginable ways. With their lateral sepals held out sideways like wings, they remind me of a tropical bird in flight. The plants I get most excited about finding, the rare jewels amongst the many, are the albinos with pure white flowers and emerald green leaves.

Albino common spotted orchid Albino common spotted orchid, copyright Plantlife

As with so many plants this year, common spotted orchids were about three to four weeks late. Their flower stems start to elongate, packed with tight spikes of flowers that start opening in June.

Have a look for them on lime-rich soils along roadside verges and hedges and in meadows and open woodland. See if you can find pure white ones, or those with leopard-spotted leaves.

More about common spotted orchids on the Plantlife website.

Comments

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    I can't find the link to post a new topic on your blog page, so I've posted this on ducks in our garden. This is related to your nesting duck and is an exception to the story that drakes take no part in raising the family after mating.

    Picture of duck with ducklings hatched in our garden and swimming in our pond.
    1. Duck obviously mated with a domestic drake and a mallard drake - 13 ducklings, 6 little yellow jobs, 7 stripy jobs.
    2. Same duck, now faithful to one drake in the following year, swimming with all mallard ducklings. Drake swimming with them, a proud father.

    www.flickr.com/photos/97441964@N03/
    Originally posted at 11:43AM, 13 June 2013 PDT (permalink | reply | edit)
    backbeauty@btinternet.com edited this topic 42 seconds ago.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    Lots of Ragged Robin now in flower along the motorway path at Brockholes Nature Reserve. Bee Orchids showing leaf and Common Spotted Orchids usually in flower next month. Take a walk at 1.30 on Sunday with a reserve guide to see lots of wlld flowers around the reserve

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1.

    In East Lancs, the Common Spotted Orchids will probably be more than 3-4 weeks late. They barely have basal rosettes yet. I can be quite sure I haven't overlooked them, as they're a favourite of mine too. I found some of the old stems and seed pods from last year, so I could locate them in the thicker vegetation. No sign of the other flowers which usually accompany them at this time of year like Ragged Robin.

    There's a patch I know where they hybridize with some Marsh Orchids. Definitely some Southern Marsh Orchids, and probably some Northern Marsh Orchids. I gave up trying to separate them, because the variety is bewildering. Sadly there's a lot less since some idiot from the council cut them all down the other year. Some grow truly huge in some fen vegetation I know. I photographed one last year that came midway up my stomach, and I'm 6 foot 2.

    Great to see these troopers being featured rather than the rarities, which people are unlikely to see. It's surprising how members of the public overlook them. I did have a project of trying to photograph all their variety. A lot of members of the public would ask me what I was photographing. Surprisingly nearly all of them didn't realise they were Orchids, and hadn't even noticed them. I think they are a great banner plant to get people to look closely at our wildlflowers. A publicity campaign highlighting the could I think yield good results. They are plant most people could find, with just that extra bit of specialness to make it interesting.

    The biggest problem is obsessive verge cutting. I don't mean just road side verges, but on cycle paths, and little tracks on local nature reserves. They insist on cutting down a 2 metre strip around all paths. Sadly this is where the Common Spotted Orchids are concentrated. The other year I reckon my local authority, or rather their contractrors cut down about 60% of the Common Spotted Orchids in the area, just before they came into flower. It is very difficult to contact someone responsible, and I can't find anyone that has a clue about wild flora in the council. Good on Plantlife for highlighting this destructive madness. This obessive cutting has got much worse in the last 4-3 years. I don't understand with the supposed cutbacks how they can afford to spend so much money on such a wasteful and destructive activity. They cut much more than they used to, often every few weeks.

 
 

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