Thursday, 17 March 2016

Orchid Leaves

I am slowly building up a library of pictures of orchids when their first leaves appear, and then again when flowering is over and fruits appear.  They are though very hard to see on the ground in either condition and some prior knowledge of past flowering locations is fairly essential.   Today we went looking for a couple of species that I had not seen before at this time of year.

A fellow member of the Wychwood Flora Group (the successor to the Cotswolds Rare Plant Group) owns several hectares of pasture near to Leafield where she raises a few Dexter cattle, but with the primary aim of creating a worthwhile flora. It's a delightful spot especially on a sunny day.   This morning she showed me an area where she has around 150 Green-winged orchids (Anacamptis morio is I think the current preferred name, though it might have changed yet again before I have finished writing this piece), and sure enough after a bit of searching and passing by the superficially similar plants of Ribwort plantain, we found a few rosettes.  The orchids were on quite a steep east-facing bank and should be coming into flower at the end of April.    She also has Common Spotted-orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), but despite a hands and knees search we found none.    Overhead we had a couple of buzzards, a red kite, kestrel, and we heard a green woodpecker and tawny owl in woodland nearby.

After lunch we went a few miles away to the BBOWT reserve at Westwell Gorse, where eventually we found around 20 plants of Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula).   Surprisingly these were in some rather dry areas rather than the damper woodland in the reserve.   These will probably be in flower in mid-April.  Non-botanical interest included a roe deer.

Finally to Chadlington where there are scattered colonies of the Grape Hyacinth, Muscari neglectum. There are several colonies near the village  but the main site on the village green was damaged some years back by housebuilding.  The plant is regarded as a native or long naturalised but is rare, its staus regarded as vulnerable on the red data list.  It was more widespread in Oxfordshire but most sites have been lost to ploughing;   intriguingly a few gardens in Hook Norton have the plant.    Besides Oxfordshire the only other sites for the plant are in East Anglia.

It is much more striking than the more common garden plant, (M. armeniacum) with its dark navy fertile flowers tipped with white.    Another distinguishing feature is that the leaves are narrower and curl inwards.

It would have been a perfect day were it not for a far from perfect lunch - refer to Tripadvisor!

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