Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Orchids in an Orchard

First of all I must add a disclaimer..... I am merely interested in many things. I love nature and am fascinated by orchids but am a humble peasant when it comes to exact scientific knowledge.
I stand in awe of those who have expertise.

I felt very privileged to be in an orchard where the Early Spider Orchids (Ophrys Sphegodes) have appeared somewhere near us in France. Evidently they flower for only a few weeks at the end of April or at the beginning of May. I read on the internet that in England they are rare and the best sites are in Dorset. I stood tall against these tiny plants, some taller than others, between 50 and 120 mm in height. We had to tread carefully so as not to squash the little beauties. I can't quite understand why they are called Spider Orchids when to me they look like bees, but I suppose that in some ways the flower, which is brownish-purplish in colour could look like a large spider! When the petals are pink the orchid is a Bee orchid. It is the male bee that attempts to copulate with the bee-like flower that allows the pollination of this orchid in the orchard. In the centre of the flower there is a marking that looks like a letter H or an X. It was difficult to get this part in focus for the photographs.

Susan from Days on the Claise also had a Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea) in flower. She, the orchid, posed much more happily for the photo shoot.
This rare orchid looks very different with lots of flowers on the single stem. In England they are more common in Kent. The dark sepals and upper petals make a shape like a lady's bonnet, below which the lobes look like two arms and then the dress of a crinoline! You need imagination! The colours are a dark, reddish-brown with pale pink lobes covered in crimson spots. Sometimes these flowers can be white.
You could try this site to discover where orchids in the Indre et Loire region of France may be in flower and read more at Loire Valley Nature where you can read about Orchids in this area from a very knowledgeable expert.

We have also confirmed that the orchid that we rescued from being chopped in its flowering period by the community verge cutter is an Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula).
It has dark spotted leaves with a lot of pinkish-purple flowers in a loose spike. Of course it is wrong to move orchids as they grow on specific terrain, but in our case we felt justified because every year our verges are trimmed for the annual AccA baltrap (clay-pigeon shooting) competition, and in this case the orchid has flowered every year after we rescued it instead of being cut down in its prime.

Orchids are fascinating plants. I remember one time going to a field where Suffolk Wildlife Trust had invited the public to view the rare orchids flowering in that particular year. It was a long time ago so I cannot remember the name of the orchids. In those days we had no camera capable of macro photography but the Orchids were numerous and beautiful and the weather was hot, hot, hot, unlike that of today, yesterday and tomorrow, when the Northerly winds blow strongly to remind us that Winter hath been and will come again and that Spring and Summer are but fleeting memories to lure us into optimism!

I can recommend this extensive website to discover more about Orchids in Great Britain... which is really not so far from France!


Susan said...

I'm glad you came to see the orchids and loved them as much as I do. Your photos turned out well too, despite the wind.

*Ulrike* said...

Such an interesting post! Orchids are so pretty. These almost looked like lady slippers! I found your blog from A Breath of Fresh Air, and thought that I would come by for a visit. I am slow on posting and reading lately since gardening season has started! Hope you have a wonderful day!

Mary said...

Hello Sweetpea - what an absolutely fascinating blog - I've read all the way back while enjoying my morning coffee!! Love that you found me and left a comment......it's been a delight coming here and learning more of your life in France, obvious love of Nature - great pics - and your foray into rehabbing and decorating a French village house. Way to go - I'd be your neighbor given half a chance as I'd love to move there!

My family (brother, SIL and niece) live in Caunes-Minervois, a small village about 20 mins. from Carcassonne........ they spent several years renovating the corn merchants beautiful house after moving permanently from North London. I see you are in central France, an area I have yet to visit.

Well, as you know, I'm off on my very exciting African safari next week (Wed.) and have loads of odds and ends to clear up........no time for decorating right now but must leave the garden in good shape as DH doesn't have a clue! I'll leave a few pre-scheduled posts for while I'm gone, cannot take the laptop so will be snapping wildlife pics and keeping a little journal so I have things to share on my return.

See you then.........and by the way, I'm from Torquay and was there this time last year.....the prettiest Spring I can ever remember. Gamboling lambs, brilliant rapeseed fields, rainy Dartmoor walks, Tobay ferry crossing to Brixham in sunshine and a stiff breeze, I smell the salt air as I write. I still get so homesick even after all these years!

Lovely to meet you.
Mary - A Breath of Fresh Air

P.S. My previous 3 yr. blog was Across The Pond where you can see the pics of my travels if interested - you can link to it from my new blog or here -

Mary said...

OOPS! Gave you the wrong link address there, been a while since I went to the old blog - it's actually http://devondesigns-mary.blogspot.com/

Guess they call it a senior moment, ha! ha!

Enjoy your day - Mary

Brenda@Cozy Little House said...

I have always thought of orchids as single plants people nurture in their homes or hot houses. I never realized they grew like this. I have learned something new! You have a very interesting blog and I shall return for more.

JJ said...

I too came to visit from my friend Mary's blog, we were at school together in Torquay many years ago.
Regarding the orchids, as soon as I saw the photos I thought Bee orchids as they are very similar to those found over here.
See this link

As a child in Somerset I got such a thrill out of spotting an orchid in a filed or on a grass verge. They were less common then as many plants were destroyed with pesticides.
A purple spike with spotted leaves in the middle of a field of buttercups was a sight to behold.
Best wishes