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Orchids come and go!

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016
Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016

Orchids flower over quite a long period, with the dates of the flowering season varying somewhat with latitude. In Scarborough, I spotted (sic) my first Common spotted orchid – in the meadows of Scarborough Castle – on the 9th June this year (2016). See below.

Common spotted orchid coming into flower on 9th June 2016
Common spotted orchid coming into flower on 9th June 2016

There must be quite a lot of individual variation between flowers, as in any population, with some flowering early and others coming along later. There is an abundance of this orchid on the slopes of North Bay, Scarborough. One of the best sites I found was behind the public lavatory on the Royal Albert Drive! There was a profusion of orchids behind the building in early July when I took these picture (they are probably still flowing there now in late July).

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016
Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016

The Common spotted orchid flower is of course an inflorescence composed of many flowers on a spike. The individual flowers are made up of a three-lobed lip, two sepals on either side (a bit like ears!), and petals which make the hood above the reproductive bits! See below.

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016
Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016

These orchids rely on insects to pollinate them and the red markings on the lip are thought to be guides for insects to follow, towards the source of the nectar. The plants are hermaphrodites, meaning that they have both male and female reproductive organs; there is one stamen (male) and two stigma (female) on each flower. The shape of these tiny little organs looks rather suggestive, or am I imagining it? See below.

Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016 close up
Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) 3 July 2016 close up

Pyramidal orchids come into flower a bit later than Common spotted orchids. I photographed the one below in early July; it was just starting to open, from the bottom upwards.

Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) Scarborough early 3rd July 2016
Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) Scarborough early 3rd July 2016

Later on, they take on their more pyramidal shape, although they can also be quite rounded.

Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) on 19th July 2016
Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) on 19th July 2016

Small black pollen beetles can be see on one of these flowers (below).

Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) with pollen beetles on 11th July 2016
Pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) with pollen beetles on 11th July 2016

These common but nevertheless, beautiful orchids will all too soon be over, but they are perennials, so die back down to their tubers in the ground, ready to spring up again next year. Just an everyday miracle we call Nature!

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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