Colour­less orchid that nests in fungi

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kent Business Update -

Pic­ture a beau­ti­fully man­aged chalk grass­land site stacked full of colour­ful pur­ple or­chids. Now pic­ture the op­po­site... a dark wood­land with a colour­less stem pok­ing out of the leaf lit­ter.

The lat­ter means you’ve come across an­other orchid species, but at the other end of the spec­trum to what you might be ex­pect­ing – the un­com­mon bird’s nest orchid.

This orchid is scarce in ma­ture wood­land across the Kent Downs and the Weald of Kent and is never seen in any large num­bers. You won’t come across it car­pet­ing the floor and due to its wood­land pref­er­ence is more of a chal­lenge to be found by botanists.

The orchid it­self is de­pen­dent on nu­tri­ents pro­vided by fungi in the leaf lit­ter to grow and so has no green leaves and lacks chloro­phyll. In tech­ni­cal terms it is myco-het­erotrophic which means it par­a­sites on fungi which are feed­ing on nearby plants or trees. The roots of this orchid form an un­tidy mess that re­sem­bles a nest of a pi­geon or a crow and so hence the name.

The bird’s nest orchid is pol­li­nated by in­sects and flies and if you come across any spec­i­mens on shaded road­side verges, or path­ways through shaded wood­land in Kent, do please let me know.

For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact Owen Leyshon, Rom­ney Marsh Coun­try­side Part­ner­ship, tele­phone 01797 367934 or log on to

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