Friday, May 08, 2009

Bee Orchids!

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.


nunya said...

I like your blog. I learned something, thank you :) I did not know that orchids require poor soil, nor did I know about the aphid infestation that made using American vines necessary.

microdot said...

Nunya, thanks for your comments.
I try to share my interests as well as ideas.
I checked out your blog, politickybitch and I liked the focus very much...
I will probably be dropping by when I am back here after the empamphrage...I love using that word.
Tell Jeanette how fat and useless she is while I'm gone. I plan to tonight!

mud_rake said...

Fascinating reading once again, microdot. Your care and concern for the environment is outstanding and the fact that you are allowing a section of your property to go natural is worthy of praise.

Perhaps you recall the pristine natural area in Lucas County Ohio called the Oak Openings- a natural area of sand and bog laid down by the receding waters of Lake Erie.

There is a strong effort to reclaim this natural wonder [along with its wild orchids] before it has all gone to housing developments.

One can only hope that there are enough dedicated people left to fight for nature over development.

Enjoy your vineyard trimming time.

microdot said...

Mudrake, I was in Toledo for a few days and one day I went to Secor Park and saw the photo exhibition of Clyde Butcher, a fantastic black and white landscape photographer who prints on a heroic scale. It takes 2 or three prople to handle the prints.
Before that, though, before it got warm, I went with an old friend to Oak Openings. I love that Park, it is one of the last remaining Temperate Savannah environments in North America. I saw how huge sections of the recently planted pines were beiong taken out and the old forest/fossil dune environment was being re established.
As we drove into the Park area, my friend cautioned that we could see wild turkeys if we were careful. Seconds later, we saw a flock of 12 that I could count! They melted into the landscape before our very eyes.

I think you should check out Nunya's blog!