Friday, 27 July 2012

Vanilla surprise

A Bodmin orchid spotter has discovered a rare specimen that has been in decline for more than a century.

The greater butterfly orchid has greenish white-coloured flowers and a vanilla scent that becomes more perfumed at night to attract moths. It was spotted around Bodmin Beacon.

Cornwall Council is delighted and has said it would work to ensure the flower would thrive, according to the press.

In recent years, conservation has been carried out by Bodmin Town and Cornwall Council, who manage the site together.

While so many of Britain's orchids are threatened, it seems good land management practices are critical to reversing this trend.

Wildlife fans will be pleased to note that other rare species in the area include snipe and climbing corydalis.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Fine weather for … orchids

Despite the monsoons, the bee orchid is thriving in the UK.

Indeed, many of the nation’s rarest wild flowers are relishing the rain, according to The Guardian, coming after a mild winter and dry spring.

Meanwhile, the rare Red helleborine, Cephalanthera rubra, has bloomed in Cotswold woodland. It is typically found in Europe, although classed as ‘vulnerable.

It is only seen on three sites in southern England, and was once on the verge of extinction. Seven years ago there were only three plants at the National Trust site in the Cotswolds. Thanks to conservation, there are some 30 plants at the site.

Its appearance is something of a mystery as as the particular bee that normally pollinates it in Europe is not found in the UK.

The distribution of many of such orchids is changing fast and records of some of its stranger forms are needed. The National History Museum is asking for information from volunteers. Let scientists know when you have seen any via the museum's ID forums.

Meanwhile, other plants to thrive this summer are the small restharrow, distinctive for its pink and white flowers, and nitgrass.


Rare orchid stolen

One of the UK’s rarest plants decided to take root in the middle of one of Europe’s largest roundabouts near Cardiff.

The species was so at home that two crimson and purple rhodochila variants of the normally pink common spotted orchid (pictured) blossomed at the Coryton interchange.

Then, to the surprise of members of Cardiff Naturalists Society a few years ago, two crimson and purple rhodochila variants of the normally pink common spotted orchid blossomed at the Coryton interchange – and were thought to be the first examples of the orchid ever to take root in Wales. But now it seems the stunning plants have been stolen.

Used only to seeing the hybrid in English counties such as Wiltshire and Kent, people drove from as far afield as Somerset to visit the surprisingly rich nature reserve, also home to rare insects.

On July 1, an experienced botanist, reported ‘the best rhodochila variant I have ever seen’. The hyper chronic form of the common spotted orchid with its excess of pigment and colour in a solid blotch of beautiful crimson spikes is apparently very rare. Perhaps in a colony of hundreds, you might just get a single one.

According to local naturalists, he is said to be devastated to discover that both plants had been dug up – and inexpertly at that, so it seems the specimens were unlikely to survive.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Sir Winston’s ‘lost’ orchids
Some said that if Sir Winston Churchill had chosen painting instead of statesmanship, he would have been a great master.
Some of his works these days fetch serious money, such as a previously unknown oil on canvas by the wartime leader, Still Life With Orchids.
Churchill gave away the work to Margot Sandys, the young wife of his daughter’s father-in-law, was the recipient in 1936.
The depiction of orchids is described as ‘technically accomplished’ by experts and is going on public view this month.
A Royal Horticultural Society source suggests that they are Cattleyas with a Miltonia.
The 46 x 38cm painting is on show at the Masterpiece London exhibition at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea and is expected to fetch about £495,000 when it is sold via private bids.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Bee orchid buzz

Maltese botanist Stephen Mifsud has discovered a unique plant new to Malta.

Common in the Med, the temporary name given to this unique plant is ‘the small bumblebee orchid’ or Ophrys Bombyliflora f. parviflora.

The orchid was discovered in 2009 during the course of Mr Mifsud’s work for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and now has been given a formal recognition in international journals.

Forty out of 26,000 are native to Malta. Although closely related to the common bumblebee orchid, the newly discovered orchid is 30 to 35% smaller in size, its colour is brighter and the shape of the flower is slightly more oblong in shape. Generally, orchids grow in garigues, phrgana and in xeric grasslands. The small bumblebee orchids have so far been found in Pembroke and in Mġarr.

Meanwhile, Blackpool Zoo is celebrating a rather different type of arrival. The large mammal team at the East Park Drive attraction discovered a rare bee orchid behind the Active Oceans Arena, a flower which has never been seen on the site before, according to the press.

The orchids have been protected with fencing and staff at the zoo contacted the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to ascertain how rare they are.

However, in the Florida Everglades, the forested water course known as the Fakahatchee wetland, local biologists fear the future of 39 different orchids, all threatened.

One in particular is the rare cigar orchid. Wildflowers everywhere need bees and other insects to help them reproduce. Some rare orchids have fragrances that attract only a single type of bee. Insects that used to pollinate the cigar orchid have disappeared, since the climate has changed and the Everglades have been drying up.

The birds and the bees can’t be relied upon for the survival of this plant, so local experts are pollinating the orchids manually, says a report. Once the seeds are harvested, they’re taken to a greenhouse and grown into plants for repopulating nature.