27 June 2009

Scottish wild orchids

Today I have been doing a survey of wild orchids at our local country park. This site is well known locally for the wide range of orchid species present.

The rarest of these, and the subject of our most detailed survey, is the Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride). Not only is this orchid usually green or brown, but it is also rather small and very difficult to spot. This photo was taken there today.

Some of the other species present are much easier to see, including the very common Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata). The photo was taken earlier this week at another site.

The Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) also grows in our garden (as in this picture) where we have around 500 flowering spikes.

The Northern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella) is a very deep purple colour and tends to grow in damper areas. It very often hybridises with the previous two species. This one was growing in woodland which we passed when visiting another site this week.

The Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) is easily identified by its scent, and also by its lack of spots and its long spurs. This species was also growing at another site which we visited on Thursday.

Common Twayblade (Listera ovata) grows in certain areas of the site we visited today, and this picture was taken last year.

The much smaller Lesser Twayblade (Listera cordata) is hard to spot as it mostly grows under heather or on moss in woodland. A few years ago I found one plant at the site we visited today, but this picture was taken 2 years ago at another site.

Another showy orchid is the Greater Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha) and we also have about a dozen of these growing wild in our garden.

It is hard to distinguish between the Greater and the Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia). The latter species does not grow at the site we visited today, but has been the subject of a survey for the past three years. Most of my visits to other sites this week have been to count this orchid. The two species can be distinguished by looking at the pollinia inside the hood of the flower. In the Greater Butterfly Orchid they diverge and are far apart, but in the Lesser Butterfly Orchid they are parallel and close together. This photo of a Lesser Butterfly Orchid was taken on Thursday.

Another species found near to the site, and also in our garden, is the Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine), but that is not yet in flower.
For two other Scottish orchid species see June Flowers

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