Friday, 15 January 2016

Orchids in the Touraine 2015

2015 was quite a good year for orchids, although one or two species struggled once it got very dry. This post shows many, but not all of the species I saw during the year. There are several species, in including one I have growing in the orchard, that I somehow failed to get decent pictures of.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia, April, on the roadside at Humeau.
Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula, April, on the roadside at Humeau.
Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes, May, in our orchard.
Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, May, in our orchard.
Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera, May, just coming out in our orchard.
Small-leafed Helleborine Epipactis microphylla, May, on private land at Les Reuilles (Chaumussay). A rare and discreet little species, very difficult to spot.
A male digger wasp Argogorytes mystaceus attempting to copulate with a
Fly Orchid Ophrys insectivera, which has fooled the wasp into thinking its flowers are female wasps by emitting a pheromone that closely matches that of the female wasps. This wasp is a well known and important pollinator of Fly Orchids, but not very often observed and even less often photographed in action, so I am quite pleased with this photo. May, on private land at La Muanne, near Chaumussay.
Perhaps the most exciting orchid event during the year was the visit of three National Trust wardens who were researching Red Helleborine Cephalanthera rubra. The species is critically endangered in Britain and the National Trust, Natural England and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, are working to re-establish them. They came here to see colonies of the orchid where it thrives, to gain insights into its habitat requirements so they can improve the species survival and reproduction rate in Britain. Even here the species is rare and protected, so it was a real privelege to be involved with the research. The project is ongoing, with botanists from Kew planning to visit in 2016 for the next stage of field work.

A very distinctive Downy Oak Quercus pubescens marks the spot where a healthy colony of Red Helleborine grows, photographed in May when my orchidophile friend Marc Fleury and I went to check out suitable sites for the British research.
Violet Limodore Limodorum avortivum, May, on the Puys de Chinonais.
I was intrigued and slightly concerned to see Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum being used in a church flower arrangement in Azay le Rideau, June.
Two National Trust wardens working in the field at la Croix Sourd (Chaumussay).
Military Orchid Orchis militaris, June, near Chaumussay. My impression is that this already rare orchid is declining (partly because it hybridises with the Ladies and the Monkeys so easily).
The lovely object of our research: Red Helleborine Cephalanthera rubra, June, near Panzoult.
Common Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea, demonstrating considerable natural variation in colour, June, at la Croix Sourd (Chaumussay).
A Common Twayblade Neottia ovata, nearly finished flowering, and developing seed pods, is joined by a Fragrant Orchid friend, June, la Croix Sourd (Chaumussay).
Broad-leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine subsp helleborine, showing the effects of the dry weather. You can see the little buds nestling in amongst the foliage, but the tips of the leaves are brown, a sure sign of drought stress. In the end this plant did not successfully flower. July, in our orchard.
Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis, the last species to flower in the Touraine. This one, in September, is the lawn at the home of friends near Bossay sur Claise.
Au marché hier: It started to drizzle with a cold fine rain while I was at the market yesterday. The fishmonger, a jolly young woman, called over to the rabbit and chicken producer, 'Hey, Papa Lapin, it's started to rain and your basket of eggs is getting wet!' 

The elderly lady customer in front of me at the rabbito's requested that he remove the eyes from head of the rabbit he was cutting up for her. He gouged them out, then skilfully chopped and sliced the rabbit into about a dozen pieces, including the head, which all went in a bag for her. Others in the queue commented that it was a lot quicker than doing it yourself.

I bought rabbit mince.

And speaking of lagomorphs, before the market I went to the pharmacy because I run out of lip salve. When the pharmacist asked me what I wanted I said I needed something for mes lièvres. In a completely matter of fact tone one of the other customers corrected me. 'Les lèvres', she said. For some reason I frequently use the wrong word for 'lips'. What is odd though is that I have never to my knowledge used lèvres when talking about hares.
Loire Valley Nature: A new entry has been added for the popular edible Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera.
A new entry has been added for the aptly named Pear Fibrecap mushroom Inocybe pyriodora.
A new entry has been added for the delicately pretty mushroom Stocking Webcap Cortinarius torvus.
A photo has been added to the Association de Botanique et de Mycologie de Sainte Maure de Touraine section of the Resources entry.


  1. "What is odd though is that I have never to my knowledge used lèvres when talking about hares"....
    that's 'cos you're always rabbiting on!! "
    Sneeee! Wot's up, Doc!!?"

    Actchurly, the reason you said hares was caused by the drizzle... the wet was short circuiting the little grey cells...


    Nice post....
    "so I am quite pleased with" the wasp....
    I should coco!!
    I'd be jumping up and down to have got a shot like that...
    a very nice 'spot' on your part!!
    I love your Red Helly shot, too.

    1. Thank you. Red Helles are very photogenic which helps.


  2. As I said before, I am a city boy and I had no idea there were so many wild orchids growing in France and, much less, having seen one in person. The only time that happened was years ago in the woods of Michigan when I was confronted with the beauty of what I was told was a Pink Lady's-slippers (Cypripedium acaule). The only orchids I had known before were the beautiful tropical ones in conservatories, mainly.

    As usual, your photos are extremely good and give such a good idea of what those plants are.

  3. People are always surprised to encounter wild orchids in France (and frequently unimpressed, if their idea of orchids is the big showy tropical ones).

    1. Wild ones are much nicer....
      The ones in garden centers....
      especially the big Cymbidiums....
      this Christmas had had their flowers "glittered".....
      daft or wot?

    2. Don't diss Cymbidiums too much :-) We had wild native ones on our farm when I was a kid.

  4. We had wild lady's slippers in the woods when I was a kid, and on the state conservation list. They were among my favorites, but I didn't know then that they are orchids.
    I did your word mix-up in Spain at one point, confusing huevos and ochos, so that I went into the tienda and tried to buy some ochos. Much merriment ensured.

    1. The thing that interested me about my word mix up was that merriment did not ensue. It was all dealt with as part of the normal conversation, completely matter of fact.