Bri­tain’s na­tive or­chids

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - For more in­for­ma­tion on where to see wild or­chids, visit wildlifetrusts.org.

Wild or­chids

FROM MEAD­OWS TO MARSHES, moor­land to sand dunes, the UK is home to more than 50 types of wild orchid. While some va­ri­eties, such as the com­mon-spot­ted orchid (Dacty­lorhiza fuch­sia) – whose spear- shaped blooms come in del­i­cate shades of pale pink, pur­ple and oc­ca­sion­ally white – grow widely across Bri­tain, oth­ers such as lady’s slip­per (Cypri­pedium cal­ceo­lus) are so rare, they re­quire round-the­clock sur­veil­lance when flow­er­ing in the wild.

First de­picted ar­tis­ti­cally on an al­tar ded­i­cated to Pax, the Ro­man god­dess of Peace, or­chids have long been cov­eted for their sculp­tural beauty and mythical sym­bol­ism. The Vic­to­ri­ans, for ex­am­ple, were so en­am­oured with the flower, they coined the term ‘or­chidelir­ium’ to de­scribe the ma­nia that over­came col­lec­tors who sailed far and wide in search of new species.

Come May, as the days lengthen and the weather gets warmer, or­chids be­gin to emerge like splashes of wa­ter­colour on the land­scape. Hart­slock Na­ture Re­serve in Ox­ford­shire is a haven for this form of flora, with the mon­key orchid (Orchis simia), the hy­brid mon­key lady orchid (Orchis simia x pur­purea) and white helle­borine (Cepha­lan­thera dama­so­nium) all thriv­ing in its chalky soil. Fur­ther north on the Lin­colnshire-le­ices­ter­shire bor­der, Cribb’s Meadow is a Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est (SSSI), where swathes of green-winged orchid (Anacamp­tis morio) bloom dur­ing the early sum­mer months, while Clat­tinger Farm in Wilt­shire of­fers the chance to glimpse rarer va­ri­eties such as the burnt orchid (Orchis us­tu­lata), pic­tured.

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