- Early Purple Orchid
- Man Orchid
- Common Spotted Orchid
- Pyrimidal Orchid
- White Helleborine
Gallery - British orchids
images for full size
- Common Twayblade
- Common Fragrant Orchid
- Lizard Orchid
- Broad-leaved Helleborine
- Early Spider Orchid
the Common Twayblade is found growing in dense shade which makes
it harder to get a sharply
focused photograph (depending on what kind of camera you have) but
at least some of the ones pictured
above were from a population growing in more open woodland/scrub -
click images for full-size.
beautiful and stately Lady Orchid is
found in woodland, especially on thin and
well-drained chalky soils and prefers
beechwoods. Although sometimes found in
quite dense shade, it prefers more open
and well-lit areas, such as clearings. It
flowers less frequently when shaded and
may suddenly spring into flower where a
tree falls, opening up the canopy.
The flower resembles a lady in her dress,
complete with bonnet. The shape of the
'dress' or labellum (lower petal) is
surprisingly variable. The purple spots are
actually clusters or tufts of up to a dozen or
so glass-like glandular trichomes (hairs or
papillae) filled with purple liquid. These are
thought to be osmophores - glands which
release aromatic volatiles to attract
pollinators (small flies, bees and digger
wasps) although the flowers have no odour
that I have been able to detect.
This orchid is usually tall and may reach
about 80-100 cm (32 - 40 inches) in height.
This orchid is a long-lived perennial,
flowering repeatedly during its life span
(polycarpic) which may be 44 to 60
helleborine is found in deciduous woodland and in the more open
areas on the edges of
woods. It favours the better-lit areas, such as along paths,
tracks and roadsides, in glades, along the fringes
of woods, etc. It tends to grow in the vicinity of beech trees.
This extraordinary plant has the labellum (lower petal) modified
to form a nectar cup. The nectar secreted
into the cup has been shown to contain a number of narcotic
compounds which have been shown to daze
pollinating insects (such as bees, wasps (e.g. Dolichovespula) and hoverflies)
which causes the insect to
stay in the vicinity of the spike for longer, which has been shown
to increase pollination success.
A tall and stately orchid, individuals have been recorded at about
120 cm (1.2 m, about 48 inches) in height.
Early Spider Orchid is a short-lived orchid. Most individuals only
flower once and then die (they are
monocarpic) and so most live around
3 years, though occasional individuals may flower more than once
live around ten years. A week later and this same individual had a
second flower higher up, as the growing
stem continued elongating from the bud which is visible in these
photos. This kind of growth, in which one
stem segment terminates growth (ending in a flower in this case)
and then growth continues from a bud is
and is also clearly seen in the Bee Orchid. Some orchids are
monopodial - producing
a single leading shoot which puts out lateral branches as it
grows. A mature Early Spider Orchid typically has
2 to 7 flowers, but up to 17 have been reported. However, the
lower flowers rapidly fade as new flowers
appear higher up. Early Spider Orchids grow on calcareous
grassland and have a preference for previously
disturbed soil which seems to aid the establishment of new
Early Purple Orchid is highly variable in coloration, though the
striking white and pink specimen shown above is
extremely unusual in having an all white labellum with a few
purple spots. This specimen was also rather large with a
tall spike. Some Early Purple Orchids reach 25 inches or more in
height (60-65 cm). (I found one which measured
half-way up my thigh). This orchid prefers calcareous soils, but
can occur in a wide variety of habitats, from
woodland top open grassland.
See more varieties of early purple orchid.
Orchid prefers open
well-drained grassland on chalk or
limestone, often at the foot of a slope.
Here they are seen growing on such
grassland but about half-way down a
impressively tall specimen was
about a foot (12 inches or 30 cm) in
height with some terminal buds still to
open. Rarely man orchids may reach
twice this height.
It is not clear why the labellum of the
Man Orchid is the roughly humanoid
shape that it is (is it mimicry to induce
pseudocopulation?). The colour is said
to vary, though in this population, at
least, it is apparent that newly opened
flowers have a labellum with reddish
limbs which pale and whiten in more
mature or older flowers towards the
base of the spike.
- Greater Butterfly-Orchid
Fragrant Orchid can by divided into three closely
related interbreeding species: Gymnadenia
(Common or Chalk Fragrant Orchid),
(The Heath Fragrant Orchid)
(Marsh fragrant Orchid).
These species have subtle differences in morphology
and scent and telling them apart takes considerable
practice! However, they tend to prefer distinctly
different (though overlapping) habitats. The
specimens here are expected to be Gymnadenia
and most of them show the classic key
feature: a squarish labellum (about as wide as long)
divided into 3 equal lobes. One, however, resembles
more closely - the labellum is wider than
long with an indistinct middle lobe and rather flared
like a ballroom gown. Can you see which one?
close-up of the clusters of purple
trichomes on the labellum.
often in populations of Lady Orchid few plants
set fruit and in those that do it's often only a small
number of flowers that set fruit. Luckily, this individual
closer look at Lady Orchid varieties
insectifera - Fly Orchid
Orchid, so-named because its small flowers like superficially
like flies, complete with eyes, antennae and wings. However, they
two pairs of 'wings' (true flies only have one). It is actually
male digger wasps, Argogorytes
The flower emits chemicals that mimic the pheromones of the female
wasp and the male mistakes it for such and inadvertently
flower when attempting to copulate with them (pseudo-copulation).
Note the pair of creamy-white pollinia: this flower has yet to be
by a suitable pollinator.
yellow 'pseudopollen' whcih is a decoy for
attracting pollinators, although White Helleborines in
the UK are almost entirely self-pollinating and the
flowers often do not open at all (cleistogamy).
bottom two photos are from the same location in the
UK as the top two, but several years later.
fuciflora - Late Spider Orchid
purple spots are tufts of purple papillae, as in the Lady
Orchid, and possibly secrete odorants to attract potential
pollinators (i.e. they are probably osmophores).
Orchis simia - Monkey Orchid
Dactylorhiza praetermissa - Southern Marsh Orchid