Common Spotted Orchid
Tufted Vetch and bedstraw
Tufted Vetch and bedstraw
Tufted Vetch and bedstraw
Tufted Vetch and Hairy St John's-wort
Hairy St John's-wort
Tufted Vetch
Roadside Wildlife
Marbled White
Monacha snail
Above: Common Spotted Orchid
Dactylorhiza fuchsii) may reach
about 40 cm in height. (Family:

These orchids were growing on a
calcareous sloped roadside in Kent
(Britain) along with many other
flowering plants, some of which are
illustrated below.

Left: The Tufted Vetch (
) may grow up to 2 m
supported by its branched tendrils.
(Family:Fabaceae, the Pea Family,
formerly Leguminosae). As a
member of the Pea Family it forms
mutualistic symbiosis with
nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root
nodules which supply the plant with
nitrogen in a usable form.

Here it is growing among bedstraw,
which has 4-petalled white flowers
(based on the locale and habitat
this is probably Hedge Bedstraw,  
Galium mollugo, Bedstraw family,
Rubiaceae) - a close examination of
the leaves would enable the species
to be confirmed.
The Tufted Vetch was also growing among Hairy St John's-wort (Hypericum hirsutum, St John's-wort family,
Clusiaceae) below. St John's-worts can be recognised by their 5 usually yellow petals and many stamens.
This particular species has pale yellow petals, a hairy round stem and stalked black
'dots' along the edges of
its sepals.

Hypericum is a rich source of hypericin, a chemical with the unwieldy systematic name of:

or hexahydroxy-dimethyl-naphthodianthrone and which is manufactured by several members of the
genus. We shall call is simply 'hypericin'.

This chemical is produced in black nodular glands,
chiefly in the black stalked 'dots' visible on the sepals
and bracts in these photos.
Hypericin is a pigment which undergoes a
photodynamic reaction with visible light and
oxygen. This gives it antibacterial and
antiviral properties, as it kills these microbes
in the presence of light by oxidising their
components. Hypericin also causes
hypericism in animals which consume too
much st john's-wort. this causes skin
irritation as the hypericin reacts with light
and oxygen in the skin and also causes high
body temperature and sometimes also
death. Hypericin is presumably toxic to many
insects too, although the  beetle
specialises in feeding on
Hypericum hirsutum and has taste sensors
in its tarsi (feet) which can taste hypericin.

Hypericin preferentially accumulates in
cancer tissues and has potential therapeutic
value as an anti-cancer agent: the cancer
could be loaded with hypericin and then
illuminated to kill it.

Hypericin also has potential as an
anti-retroviral agent, inactivating HIV
for example (by apparently oxidisng the p24
capsid protein, in the presence of light, and
preventing uncoating). It has also been used
as an antidepressant.
This Common Spotted Orchid (left)
was visibly different from the others - it
apparently has a reduced central lobe
on its labellum (lower lip) on at least
some flowers reminiscent of the Heath
Spotted orchid (
). The two species also
produce a sterile hybrid on occasion.
However, since Heath Spotted Orchid
occurs very rarely in this region of
Britain it seems unlikely that this plant
is anything other than a Common
Spotted Orchid. There is always
considerable variation within species.
The Marbled White (Melanargia galathea, subspecies serena) butterfly above, frequents calcareous
grassland. It lays its eggs amongst grasses, upon which the larvae feed the following spring.
Snails thrive on calcareous grassland since they need plenty of calcium carbonate (chalk) to build
their shells. This snail belongs to the genus
Monacha and is probably either Monacha cantiana (the
Kentish snail) or the similar
Monacha cartusiana.
Article created: 23/9/2016
Further Reading

Duran, N. and P.-S. Song, 1986. Hypericin and its photodynamic action. Photochemistry and
43(6): 617 - 680.

Ciccarelli, D., A. C. Andreucci and A.M. Pagni, 2001. Translucent Glands and Secretory Canals in
Hypericum perforatum L. (Hypericaceae): Morphological, Anatomical and Histochemical Studies
During the Course of Ontogenesis.
Annals of Botany 88: 637-644.

Curtis, J.D. and N.R. Lersten, 1990. Internal secretory structures in Hypericum (Clusiaceae):
L. and H. balearicum L. New Phytol. 114, 571-580.

Gitea, D., M.Sipos, M. Tamas and B. Pasca, 2011. Secretory structures at species of hypericum
genera from Bihor county, Romania. Note I. Vegetative organs.
FARMACIA 59: 424-431.

C.J.C. Rees, 1969. Chemoreceptor specificity associated with choice of feeding site by the beetle,
Chrysolina brunsvicensis on its foodplant, Hypericum hirsutum. Era. exp. & appl. 12: 565--583.

Degar S., A.M. Prince, D. Pascual, G. Lavie, B. Levin, Y. Mazur, D. Lavie, L.S. Ehrlich, C. Carter and
D. Meruelo, 1992. Inactivation of the human immunodeficiency virus by hypericin: evidence for
photochemical alterations of p24 and a block in uncoating.
AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 8(11):1929-