Thursday, 18 June 2015

More Orchids

Flower of a Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Flower of a Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
I heard of a Greater Butterfly Orchid in High Elms Country Park last year, but was unable to find it.  It turns out I was looking in the wrong place, but this year I had better information.  It's not colourful, but many find the delicate white shapes of its flowers delightful.  I think they are fascinating, but they look to me like wide-open vampire's mouths with long tongues.

Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Greater Butterfly-orchid, Plantathera chlorantha.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
(Less so from a distance.)  There seems to be only one specimen in High Elms.  At night, it has a strong scent and is pollinated by large moths.  Those fang-like objects inside the flower are pollinia, clumps of pollen on stalks, and they become attached to the eyes of the moths when they approach for a drink of nectar. 

Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
Fragrant Orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea.  Downe Bank, 11 June 2015.
This Fragrant Orchid is a much more colourful species, but is also pollinated by moths.  Those long, curved nectar tubes are designed for insects with long probiscides.  It has quite a strong floral scent.

Lastly, something unusual:

Variegated Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
Variegated Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine.  Orchid Bank, High Elms Country Park, 11 June 2015.
It's too early for this Broad-leaved Helleborine to be flowering, but it's worth showing because it is naturally variegated, which is scarce.  I saw a normal Broad-leaved Helleborine in the same spot last year and it is possible that this is the same plant, somewhat changed, probably by a virus infection.  Virus infections that produce similar effects are also known among cultivated orchids.

Variegation reduces the viability of plants because they have less of the green chlorophyll that produces the food they need. A virus can also reduce the strength of a plant in other ways, though this one seems to be quite robust. It will be interesting later on to see if the flowers are affected.

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