Archive for June 15th, 2014

Nature Ramble

When one thinks of orchids, usually one thinks of exotic climes, damp rainforests and the like.

One does not usually associate England with orchids.

Orchids hidden in a chalk pit

Barton Hills, Bedfordshire: In the thyme-scented bowl of an old chalk pit, we were overwhelmed by abundance

A twayblade orchid: ‘The flower holds an exquisite detail.’ Photograph: Sarah Niemann

A great green tide had advanced partway up these Chiltern Hills, low trees and bushes stealing up from the valley floor to claim the downland slopes as their own. Along the upper boundary of this creeping copse was a strandline of fresh hawthorn sprigs. Leafless, gnarled, sun-bleached stumps looking like planted driftwood were evidence of battles fought every winter to stem the tide and hold back natural succession.

On an early summer’s day, the war looked well worth fighting. Though the hills appeared green from far away, close to, the grass was full of colour. There were yellow rosettes of rock rose pressed down on the turf, sun-bright beds of horseshoe vetch and purple patches of milkwort. There were many ghosts of flowers, too – the frilly seed clocks of pasque flowers, a plant that dares to combine yellow and purple in a single bloom.

In a gully sheltered from the wind, inconsequential flickering shapes could be pinned down during brief rests with binoculars. A brown argus butterfly showed a fringe of startled orange spots. A dingy skipper revealed itself as anything but, wings fizzing with tawny streaks and flashes a whiter shade of grey.

In the thyme-scented bowl of an old chalk pit we were overwhelmed by abundance. Here were orchids showing their flowering spikes in a spectrum that ranged from white through pink to mauve. We stopped for a break, sitting carefully to make sure we crushed nothing, and then realised there were other orchids around our ankles, under our bent knees, between our stretched fingers. The invisible orchids were twayblades, named for the pair of broad oval leaves (the twayblades) at their base. These dowdy plants lack the colourful showiness of their cousins, for they only bloom green, but the flower holds an exquisite detail. I looked down to see each floret in the shape of a cherubic angel raising its tiny wings to heaven.

Source: The Guardian

Here’s another view:


The Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

An individual flower

An individual flower

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