ORCHIDS NAMED AFTER INSECTS
Each of these species has evolved a flower structure that is designed to mimic and attract specific insects, but they are members of two distinct families - Ophrys and Platanthera:-


BEE ORCHID
Ophrys apifera

  • Despite the mimicry of the flower, the Bee Orchid in Cumbria is close to its northern limit and is not pollinated by bees. Plan B operates and seed is set by self-pollination. Vegetative reproduction may also occur.
  • A species of open calcareous grassland, it readily colonises the bare ground of man- made sites such as spoil heaps and quarries. Its stronghold in the county is in the south west around the Duddon Estuary (Hodbarrow may have hundreds in a good year) and the Furness Peninsula, but declines have occurred as quarries have been taken for other purposes. It also occurs at a handful of sites around the Kent Estuary.
  • Flowering is typically from the third week of June; each stem holds a handful of flowers, rarely ten or more.

 


FLY ORCHID
Ophrys insectifera

  • The mimicry here is perfect to attract male digger wasps, even to the extent of producing imitation folded wings, antennae and a pheromone scent.
  • A species of limestone pavements and roadsides, it is found around the head of Morecambe Bay, for example on Whitbarrow, and on the limestone at the head of the Eden Valley (where it is at the northern limit in Britain). Surprisingly it is not recorded in the south west of the county where the Bee Orchid thrives.
  • Flowering can be a month earlier than the Bee Orchid, typically from the third week of May; each stem holds a handful of small widely-spaced flowers, rarely eight or more. It can be very difficult to spot at first, but often several other spikes then become apparent in the vicinity. Occasionally, it can grow very tall to 60 or so centimetres, when it can be easier to locate.

 

GREATER BUTTERFLY ORCHID
Platanthera chlorantha

  • Named after the beautiful and slender shape of the flower, this orchid is actually pollinated at night by moths, which are attracted to the luminous flowers and strong scent.
  • It is found in Ash and Hazel woodland on limestone and in haymeadows. In the former it can be dormant and non-flowering, reappearing when coppicing or clearance takes place. In the latter, "improvement" of meadows has brought about a serious decline. However, it is easily the most widespread of the four species on this page, being found all round the county where the limestone places a ring between the Lake District fells and the coast.
  • Flowering is typically from the beginning of June; each stem holds upto 20 flowers but where growing in some shade the flower spike is generally more sparse.

 

LESSER BUTTERFLY ORCHID
Platanthera bifoli
a

  • Like its larger namesake, this species is pollinated at night by moths. It is distinguished by the two pollinia being parallel, whereas the Greater Butterfly Orchid has the pollinia converging together from base to tip until they almost touch.
  • It is found in more acidic habitats, in both grassland and bogs. In Cumbria it generally occurs in boggy ground in scattered populations throughout the county, although it is sparsely represented in the west and south west.
  • Flowering is typically a couple of weeks later than for Greater Butterfly Orchid, typically the last two weeks of June; each stem holds fewer, generally smaller flowers, than its cousin.

 

LINKS TO PAGES

BEAUTIFUL DEMOISELLE
BEE ISSUES
CHICK FLICKS
DAFFODILS (wild)
DOWNY EMERALD DRAGONFLY
FUND RAISING
HEDGEHOGS
LADY'S SLIPPER ORCHID
LICHENS
MONTH BY MONTH
NATTERJACK TOAD
PIED FLYCATCHER et al
REED WARBLERS et al
SISKIN et al
SWALLOWS et al
TERNS
TREE PIPITS
TREE SPARROWS
WAXCAP FUNGI