Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Searching for British orchids

As a welcome break from this winter weather, John Tilt gave us a hint of summer in a most interesting talk, accompanied by some stunning photographs, on his search for the 51 British orchid species. Finding the smaller ones in long grass is no easy matter as some, such as the musk orchid, are only 5 cm tall. However, common spotted orchids can be present in large numbers and the lizard orchid grows to a height of 90 cm.

Orchids are extremely dependent on ground fungi. Their seeds are tiny, like clouds of dust, providing little protein, so specific fungi are necessary for their germination. The widespread use of fungicide in gardens and the countryside has, therefore, been a real threat. Orchids are protected by law but those that are illegally removed rarely survive because of this fungal dependency. In culturing British orchids, Kew Gardens is doing much to ensure that rare species do not become extinct.

Orchids have three petals; the markings on the lower one, the lip, aid identification that otherwise can be very difficult, particularly as some species readily hybridise.  Orchids grow most often in calcareous, flower-rich meadows and, therefore, these meadow-types need protection.
early spider orchid (c) John Tilt
 John described a number of sites around the country, each with its own orchid species. Early purple, common spotted, heath spotted and less common species can be found in Worcestershire at Grafton Wood, Trench Wood, Hipton Hill, Castlemorton Common, Bredon Hill, Big Meadow (Knapp & Papermill) and Eades Meadow. A little further afield are Cleeve Common, Hornsleasow Meadow, Cricklade Hill and Fish Hill. However, the orchid capital of the UK is Kent where the rare lizard and monkey orchids can be found as well as fly, man and lady orchids.

In conclusion, there is much that is not understood about this beautiful plant and more recordings and biological records are needed.

The next meeting of the Malvern Group is at 7.30 pm on Thursday March 7th at Malvern Evangelical Church. Iain Green, wildlife photographer, will give an illustrated talk: On the wild side: from Downing Street to our local high street.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Derek, Malvern Local Group

No comments:

Post a Comment