Posted 28th Mar 2018
Orchids provide the English countryside with a certain glamourous and tropical appeal
Of the 50 or so species to be found in the UK, some are the most sought after rarities, which are found in only a few special places. Others are still common and widespread, although you need to know where (and even more importantly, when) to look for them.
As its name suggests, spring flowering of the early purple orchid will represent the start of the orchid season. From April through to the end of June, the lush carmine purple flowers and broad, dark-spotted leaves of the early purple orchid which are a feature of sunny ancient woodlands (typically flowering amongst the carpets of bluebells), limestone dales and chalk grasslands, and are widely distributed from the Channel Islands to the isle of Unst and most places in between too. Pollination will be carried out by the buff-tailed bumble - once this is complete, the flowers start to smell like territorial tom cats!
How to do it
Take your camera: orchids can be a very photogenic subject. Be sure to check the weather forecast, so ou can dodge those April showers (however, you should take your umbrella, just in case).
If you can't get to the special places listed below...
You could be under the impression that orchids are a rarity and only found in a few secret spts. While this is true for a few species, there will be plenty of common and widespread species that can be found on road verges, in woodlands and marshes, on coastal clifftops, sand dunes or even popping up in garden lawns. All you need to do is get out and look.
For what must count as one of the finest shows of early purple orchids, visit the limestone dales along the Wye valley in Derbyshire where it flowers in large numbers amongst the carpets of cowslips at Chee Dale and Miller's Dale quarry.
Avon, Folly Farm
Cambridgeshire, Hayley Wood
Dorset, Hibbit Woods
Essex, Shadwell Wood
Gwent, New Grove Meadows
Gwent, Springdale Farm
Norfolk, Lower Wood
Nottinghamshire, Kirton Wood
Wiltshire, Vincients Wood
Text and information courtesy of the Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Philip Precey