Posts Tagged ‘orchids’

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:

xcommon_twayblade_a

The Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

An individual flower

An individual flower

Here today, Maybe gone tomorrow

The irony of discovery and progress.

Dutch botanists have made a remarkable discovery. The discovery was made possible by the logging industry on the island of New Britain near Papua New Guinea; the irony is that the very industry that created the opportunity for the discovery, may well be the author of its demise:

Botanists discover ‘remarkable’ night-flowering orchid

The Bulbophyllum nocturnum is the first orchid species, out of about 25,000, to only flower at night

A night-flowering orchid, the first of its kind known to science, has been described by a team of botanists.

Experts say the “remarkable” species is the only orchid known to consistently flower at night, but why it has adopted this behaviour remains a mystery.

The plant was discovered by a Dutch researcher during an expedition to New Britain, an island near Papua New Guinea.

The findings appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

“It was so unexpected because there are so many species of orchids and not one was known [to flower] at night only,” said co-author Andre Schuiteman, senior researcher and an orchid expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“It was quite remarkable to find one, after so many years of orchid research, that is night-flowering,” he told BBC News.

Papua New Guinea

The specimen was discovered by co-author Ed de Vogel during a field trip in a region of lowland rainforest on the South-East Asian island.

One-night stand

Its unique flowering behaviour only came to light after the specimen was taken back to the Netherlands.

Dr de Vogel took the plant home in an attempt to understand why its buds appeared to wither when they reached a size that would normally produce 2cm flowers.

To his surprise, he observed the flowers open a few hours after dusk and remain open until a few hours after sunrise.

The flowers opened for one night only, explaining why the buds appeared to be preparing to open one day, yet be withered the next day.

The specimen has been identified as belonging to the Bulbophyllum genus, which – with about 2,000 species – is the largest group in the orchid family.

While there are a number of orchids that do attract night-time pollinators, B. nocturnum is the first known species that exclusively flowers at night.

Double-edged sword’

Mr Schuiteman said the exact reason why B. nocturnum only flowered at night would remain a mystery until further field studies had been completed.

New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago (named after Otto von Bismarck) of Papua New Guinea

However, time may be against them as the location in western New Britain where the original specimen was found lay within a logging area.

“It was previously inaccessible but now the area has been opened by logging,” Mr Schuiteman said, adding that was an area that needed to be explored because there were probably many more species waiting to be described.

He said the logging activity was a double-edged sword because Papua New Guinea’s government had granted logging licences in the area meant that it created roads that had allowed the plant hunters to carry out their exploration, yet it was an activity that could threaten the long-term survival of the species.

Source: BBC News Read more

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