Colourless orchid that nests in fungi
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 www.rmcp.co.uk