British Wild Orchids Gallery
Page 3


 Orchid Family

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Other Orchids
These species don't fit into large enough groups to be treated separately. For space reasons, I have been unable to represent all the remaining species on my web pages (sorry!)

Bird’s nest orchid
Bird's Nest Orchid
The Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) is a saprophyte (i.e. it lives on decaying organic matter) and it possesses no chlorophyll. Indeed, its leaves have been reduced to ineffectual scales. The plant can grow in the darkest of conditions (because it needs no light) and has a preference for the deep leaf litter found in beech woods in southern England.

The plant is so named because of its root's resemblance to a matted bird's nest.

Bird’s nest orchid close-up

The rear of the flower forms a nectar bearing cup. Although flies are pollinators, it is believed that most flowers are self-pollinated and may even flower and set seed entirely underground. This, and its efficient vegetative propagation, can lead to quite dense stands of these plants.

Both shots were taken at a Buckinghamshire reserve at the beginning of June.

Autumn lady’s tresses
Autumn Lady's Tresses
The flowers of this pretty and diminutive plant form a single tight spiral round the almost leafless flowering stem. Earlier in the year, all that can be seen of the Autumn Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) is a low rosette of leaves perfect for its favoured terrain of short calcareous grassland. This rosette dies away before being replaced with the flowering stem.

This orchid is not particularly common and its numbers are thought to be reducing due to habitat loss. However, the plant is known to be fairly resilient and there are examples of the re-appearance of flowers once grazing or mowing has ceased.

Autumn lady’s tresses close-up

This close-up shows the single spiral of flowers well. The flowers are tiny and tube-shaped and are adapted for pollination by aphids.

Both shots were taken on at a Oxfordshire reserve at the beginning of August.

Fragrant orchid

Fragrant Orchid
The flowers of the Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) are quite heavily scented, have spreading sepals and a very long, fine spur.

Like many orchids, it shows a preference for chalk and limestone but is also quite at home in damper, almost marshy conditions such as spring-line flushes.

Fragrant orchid close-up

The flowers are usually pink but pure white ones (rather than albinos) are also relatively common.

Both these photographs were taken at a Buckinghamshire reserve in mid-June.

Greater butterfly orchid

Greater Butterfly Orchid
The flowers of this attractive orchid are a greenish-white and sit aloft an often tall, sturdy stem with a single pair of broad basal leaves. The Greater Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) is a scattered resident of woods, heaths and grassland and is more common in the south of Britain. The Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) inhabits moorland but may sometimes be found with its larger relative.

The flowers emit a perfume at night that attracts their primary pollinators - evening and night flying moths.

Greater butterfly orchid close-up

A reliable way of determining whether it is the Greater or Lesser species (if the habitat is insufficiently distinct) is to examine the attitude of the pollinia. This close-up shows the pollinia, the darker 'clubs' in the throat of the flower, in the characteristic inverted 'V' of the Greater Butterfly; in the Lesser species they are parallel.

Both shots taken in a Buckinghamshire reserve in early June.

Pyramidal orchid

Pyramidal Orchid
The flowers of the Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) are a bright rosy purple and arranged in a dense pyramid. This photograph of a specimen in Montignac, France, at the end of May, overstates the typical height of British plants but it does illustrate the narrow, unspotted leaves at the base of the plant and the sheathing leaves up the stem.

This orchid is widespread in dry chalk and limestone grassland in south and east England and can be found in sand dune slacks in the west of the country.

Pyramidal orchid close-up

This close-up of a British specimen (taken at a Buckinghamshire reserve in mid-July) gives a better impression of the conical flower head that gives the flower its English name.

The plant is pollinated by a number of butterflies and moths and the flowers are adapted to the proboscises of such species - when the insect withdraws its proboscis the pollinia become attached and are subsequently transported to another flower.

Lizard orchid

Lizard Orchid
This unmistakable plant is very rare and sporadic in its appearance. It appears to be at the northern limit of its range and the best chance of seeing it is in tall grassland near the south Kent coast. In France, where these photographs were taken (just south of Caen, in mid-June) it can be a common wayside plant.

The flowers of the Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) are olive-grey and streaked with purple and they have an immensely long strap-like lip that often becomes entangled within the flower head. The flowers are claimed to smell of goats!

Lizard orchid close-up

This close-up illustrates the long twisted 'tail' and the two leg-like side lobes of the labellum that gives the flower the fanciful resemblance to a lizard.

Man orchid

Man Orchid
The Man Orchid (Aceras anthropophorum) has a long dense spike of manikin-like flowers.

It is an uncommon plant of chalk and limestone grassland in south, east and central England.

Man orchid close-up

The flowers can be quite variable in colour from greenish, though yellow to dark red (even within the same plant - the close-up shows a marked darking of the lip towards the top of the plant). The flowers are also quite unusual in that they do not have a spur, instead the nectar is held in a hollow at the top of the lip.

Both shots were taken at a Kent reserve at the end of May.

Not represented: Bog, Fen, Frog, Coralroot, Small White, Dense-flowered, Lady's Slipper, Common Twayblade, Lesser Twayblade, Summer Ladies' Tresses, Irish Ladies' Tresses, Creeping Ladies' Tresses, Musk, Ghost and Lesser Butterfly Orchids.

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Last Revised: June 28th 2013
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ÓCopyright Paul Nielsen 1997-2013