If yoo have been reading this blog for the last few years, you have probably noticed my unatural excitement at this time of the year. I love spring and I am fascinated with the plants and I try to understand the relationship of plants in the environment.
I have a real passion for wild orchids, which I found and identified when I lived in Ohio and New York State.
Here in this NorthEast Corner of the Dordogne, we have perhaps 18 distinct varieties of wild orchids and many natural hybrids. I have managed to find a specie I have never seen before each year and spend time on my bike seeking them out.
In the last year or so, as the grass around my house reverts to it's natural, unfertilized state, the soil has begun to yield a few species of orchids. For many years, cows grazed right up to the front door and the soil was overly cow enriched. As I cut the grass and take away the clippings, the soil becomes less enriched.
Orchids require poor soil. That is their survival strategy. The orchids of the world over live in diverse environments that have one thing in common, poor soil. Another thing that orchids all have in common is a symbiotic relationship with various related fungi that are neccessary for the existance of the plants. The seed will not germinate with out the proper fuungus and the relationship assists the adult plant break down the soil to release the nutrients.
There are a number of saprophytic orchids which do not manufature chlorophyll. They are totally purple or brown. There are a few varieties here.
Last year, in July, I was surprised to find Goat Beard Orchids growing near my vegetable garden. This year, plants began to grow near my barn and I have been very careful about cutting around them. I tried to identify what they were from the leaves, but ultimately, it was like a surprise package unwrapping as they started to bloom today. This is a picture of the first one. It is a Bee Orchid or an Ophrys Apifera. It is in the same general family as slipper orchids as far as flower shape and function. Here is a picture of the entire plant. It stands about 35 cm, but they can be up to 50 cm.
The name Bee Orchid is pretty evident by the shape of the "cup". There are also Spider Orchids and Fly Orchids. Again, the name of each type is based on the form of the "cup". I am not sure why these plants so exactly mimic insect forms. As far as I know, the fly orchids are not pollinated by flies, neither are the spider orchids pollinated by spiders.
I see the goat beard orchids coming up where they were last year, but they will be a few weeks yet. The Bee Orchids are about 2 weeks early. I have been in a lot of my favorite locations looking for plants, but I suspect that the warm micro climate and the unusually warm spring we have had contributed to these early blooms. I am happy to share them with you. Where ever you live on this planet, save the polar regions, there are orchids hidden to discover.