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Wild Orchids

Written by John James, posted on Thursday, July 4, 2019

One of the biggest successes of our policy of reduced mowing and strimming within Christ Church Meadow has been the appearance of various species of wild, native orchids. These are not plants we have sown or planted, so they must have been there, biding their time and waiting their chance to flower having previously been mown off before they had the chance to flower.

Although we have only spotted isolated single specimens these are quite well spread out and the hope is that more will gradually appear over the coming years. This is the first full growing season that the reduced mowing programme has been in force and it may take several years for some to appear and, as some are quiet subtly coloured, they are tricky to spot anyway, so there may well be more than we realise.

Those spotted so far in the Meadow are Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsia), named for its leaves which are spotted with dark purple blotches, with pale pink flowers, Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) with very strong pink almost purple flowers, and probably most exciting, we have seen one specimen of Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera). We have been monitoring the specimens as best we can without drawing attention to them, but sadly some have gone, presumably having been picked, but pleasingly the Bee Orchid specimen is doing well and appears to be setting seed which is promising for the future.

In one of the college garden areas there is actually a thriving colony of the Common Spotted Orchids with upwards of 20 plants flowering well including some of the more unusual white variant, we are keeping a watch on these and will be protecting them from upcoming building work.

In previous years we have noted a couple of specimens of the Pyramidal Orchid under the Plane Tree in the Pococke Garden, but we have not seen them this year, but that may simply be because they have not flowered this season, which make relate back to last year’s extremely dry summer.