Do you remember all those rosettes of orchid leaves that came up in the orchard? About 250 of them, and I decided they must be Lizard Orchids. Lately I've been looking at them and having my doubts - the leaves didn't seem to be getting big enough. I began to wonder if at least some of them were Monkey Orchids.
Well, I'm wondering no longer. They have just started to flower and it looks like I have a substantial colony of Early Spider Orchids Ophrys sphegodes (syn. O. aranifera. Ophrys araignée in French). I never expected that!
The genus they belong to, Ophrys, is one of my favourites, so I am very pleased indeed.
They will continue to flower for about a month now, then set seed and disappear for a few months. They like calcareous grasslands in full sun and roadside embankments. The orchard is a sunny flower rich grassy slope, on argilo-calcaire (clay mixed with degraded limestone) soil, so perfect for this species. However, the neighbouring land has Lizard Orchids, and I fully expected these to be the same. The Claise valley is one of the areas where Early Spider Orchids are common though, so perhaps I should not be so surprised.
This species is easy to recognise, although it is rather variable in appearance. The lower petal varies in shape as does the H shaped mark on it, and the rest of the flower is sometimes pink rather than green.
If you are in the area, interested in orchids and want to see them, please email me (via my profile on the right). I am very happy to show them off to visitors.