Ophrys apifera

July 28, 2013

Otherwise known as Bee Orchid


40-odd years ago, there was a school class competition to identify as many wild flowers as could be found. A copy of the Rev Keble Martin’s ‘Concise British Flora in Colour’ was the ‘Bible’ to rule out garden escapees. I later was given a 1/3rd size paperback copy of the book, which I still have.

Then you were supposed to pick a flower to show you had found it – mostly illegal these days, but also just about everyone has a camera with their mobile phone (as the picture above) so there is no need to pick the flower (although I have seen evidence of picked flowers).

Over that weekend, my family went to what is now my favourate location, and there, in the middle of the path, was a Bee Orchid. I could not believe it, but nor could I say anything about it.

The path had been diverted away from where the orchid had been many years ago, and in any case there were many years in between when wild flowers that I knew used to be there – cowslips, for example – had disappeared.

After the death of my mother, my brother and I went for a walk there, partly as a memorial walk. Walking along what is a new path, provided by the landowner in order to enclose much of the land, I suddenly noticed a rather familar form – it was a bee orchid, post flower, with seed pods – again, in the middle of the path.

So last year, at about the expected time, and now spending time at the weekends rather closer to it than in the week, I made weekly visits. So, at the appropriate time, I found eight plants – the one in the path, and another seven around or just beyond the fence put in by the landowner.

This year was different. The one in the path has disappeared; the other seven were again flowering (as above), but a load of bushes have been planted staight through where they were in order to form a future hedge. But further along, on the fence of the next field, I found two more.

BUT last week I found only one. All those others that had flowered had disappeared. I had checked my location carefully, as I had recorded their location by landmarks – well, fenceposts.

I had kept quiet about this while the plants were thriving, but it seems that they have been removed – before the seeds could have ripened.

Because of an expected rainstorm – which came rather later than predicted – I didn’t visit the site this week.

There are plenty of other orchids in the area in the past few years – Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii and Pyrimidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis, again they appeared to disappear for so many years after those visits 40-odd years ago, but there were hundreds if not thousands of these at this site.

I do remember another site, where we were taken by my father, where a crowd of people were watching a farmer plough up a meadow full of orchids, but I have no idea where that was, it is just a memory of sitting in a field surrounded by orchids while the tractor got closer.

However, I do wonder if these flowers (and the cowslips that are present again) are not botanical analogues to the Red Kites that circle around above – recent re-introductions from populations from other countries.


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