a french garden

May orchids at St-Maurice-de-Tavernoles

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Path to orchids

It was a warm sunny day with a partly covered sky when I finally went to see the path of the orchids at St-Maurice-de-Tavernole.  I’ve had the intention of going since I was given the beautiful guide “Les Orchidée Sauvage” of the Haute-Saintonge which is available free, thanks to the funding from the Communauté de Communes de la Haut-Saintonge but I always seemed to miss the season.

The path did not look too promising and the whole area was deserted.  So I thought it unlikely that I could find any, armed only with the small guide.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

Anacamptis pyramidalis

In fact, my greatest problem was trying not to stand on any!  I had seen pyramid orchids before, one had even appeared in our own garden.

Neotinea ustulata

Neotinea ustulata

I think this is a burnt orchid, named for the dark colour at the top of the flower but I am only using the guide as I have no experience.

Orchis purpurea

Orchis purpurea

I think this is a purple orchid but naming orchids is not really for beginners.  In addition, it is a frequent occurrence that orchids form hybrids in the wild.

Orphys scolopax

Orphys scolopax

This looks like Woodcock orchid which is very similar to Bee orchids except for the little green beard or mucron.  They can form hybrids with other orchids such as the bee orchids, fly orchids or spider orchids.

Orphys insectifera

Orphys insectifera

I had always wondered what a fly orchid looked like and I think it is a good enough lure to attract flies or other insects to attempt a copulation and thereby allow them to dump their sticky pollen sacs onto the insects head.

Orphys aranifera

Orphys aranifera

I was a little disappointed with the spider orchid as I had expected it more “spidery” but I must admit that the lobe of the orchid does look like the body of a spider.

Orchis anthropophora

Orchis anthropophora

The “hanged man” orchid has a very sinister name for such a beautiful flower.  I have to point out that these names are direct translations from the French common names and could quite well have different common names in other languages.

Unknown

Unknown

I could not find a name for this one.  Maybe I am not looking closely enough or perhaps it is a hybrid.

It was an amazing visit even seeing the masses of orchids was something I had not thought possible – and we were all on our own.  Perhaps there are more visitors during the weekend but it seemed a site worth sharing.

View from the Orchid Path

View from the Orchid Path

The path seems more like a long thin island with the vestiges of nature clinging on to their permitted territory but surrounded by fields tilled by man for man.

I had noticed a lack of insect activity which I put down to the isolation of the natural area but as I was leaving I came across two bees that made my day.

Eucera longicornis

Eucera longicornis is a beautiful bee and the male has extremely long antenna and it was interesting to find him with the orchids as he is reputed to be one of the bees duped into pseudo-copulation with the bee orchid.

Shrill Carder bee

I also heard the Shrill Carder bee queen – something I had wanted to hear since reading “A Sting in the Tale” by Dave Goulson (See Chez Les Bourdons).

Our bee orchid

To complete the day of surprises I got home to find a Bee orchid (Orphys apifera) struggling over the top of the stone edge to the front border, fighting its way through emerging (unwanted) Lily of the Valley.

Covered bee orchid

I was also able to find another that had appeared last year struggling through some spreading bulbs.

Uncovered bee orchid

I did mark my last year’s orchid but obviously it needs a larger marker but now I have given it some light I hope it will survive.  It does show that they are coming up every year in the same place (unless I choke them) and also there is a new one that has seeded itself.  Strangely, I did not notice any bee orchids on the Orchid Path.

I must re-visit the Orchid Path to see the later orchids and bring a picnic as there was a small picnic table available.  There was also much more to see in the way of other wild flowers.

 

 

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

28 thoughts on “May orchids at St-Maurice-de-Tavernoles

  1. How wonderful. We visited a similar site near here a few years ago; but as it was on private land it was an organised walk and I haven’t seen it advertised since. We did see lots when we went up into the mountains. Always very special to see them; well done with the IDs as you say they aren’t easy.

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  2. I love these wild Orchids so much more than the ornamental types, there’s no comparison really. Your walk looks so lovely Amelia and what a joy to see so many species and to have the walk to yourselves, even more joyful. I have seen Bee Orchids here but not a Woodcock Orchid, I wonder why the common name. We went on a Wildlife Trust walk last year and much was made of the one Spider Orchid we saw, but like you I had expected more!

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  3. What treasures. Stunning.

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    • They are being preserved like treasures but I found them sad to be so abundant on this narrow stretch of untouched land surrounded by the land taken over and cleared by man. Amelia

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  4. Hello Amelia,
    What fabulous photos, and such an array of orchids. Amazing diversity in just one location, and on one visit. Interesting that there was no one else there …but that’s often the case with walks around here … it seems a forgotten pleasure for many…
    Best wishes
    Julian

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  5. They’re beautiful and you’re lucky to have seen them!

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  6. What a fabulous post. Thank you. No plant excites me as much as wild orchids, I love them. What heaven to have a walk with so many different ones. And to have bee orchids in your own garden must be wonderful too.

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  7. Your IDs are all spot on. Orchis purpurea is called Lady Orchid in English, as the individual flowers look like a lady in a bonnet and crinoline. The ‘hanged man’ is called Man Orchid in English. Your ‘unknown’ is also Orchis anthropophora — easy to ID because it is the only one with no spur (éperon) at the back. I was very pleased to get a photo of a digger wasp Argogorytes mystaceus pollinating a Fly Orchid last year. I’m off tomorrow to go orchid spotting with a client in the Brenne. It’s a new site for both of us so it will be interesting. We have at least 10 species flowering at the moment in the Claise Valley where I live, and more to come in June.

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    • Thanks for the ID. What a triumph getting the wasp and Orchid! I would love to get a Bee on an Orchid. I did get a picture of a bumble bee with orchid pollinia stuck on its head a few years ago. Good luck with the orchid spotting. Amelia

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  8. Love the orchids! Especially the Orphys. You are so fortunate to have such a variety. Are there any Cypripedium in France?

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  9. How wonderful to have a walk with such varied orchids near you. We had a field near our previous house which had cowslips followed by orchids.

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  10. You heard a shrill carder! Very special.

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  11. What a wonderful place and how good to see the two special bees as well, I dont think the Eucera are out here for another rmonth and then only in very restricted locations. Some years ago when I lived in Kent I remember going to a nature reserve with orchids, the rare ones had little wire cages over them to prevent damage.

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  12. That sounds… and looked a wonderful walk…orchids en-masse are a truly gorgeous sight.

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    • I suppose it is a bit of a drive for you if you would like to see the spot but at least you know there is plenty to see. Amelia

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      • It is a bit of a long way… but we’ve got the area that Susan refered to…just over the hill!!
        And we’ve got Spider, Bee, Lizard [too many], Greater Butterfly [one] and Pyramidal Orchids in the garden….
        all except the Lizards were either here and mown over…
        or have blown in on the wind… then three years ago we had a Spring that didn’t allow me to mow and we began to spot all these other flowerspikes coming up…
        so I invested in coloured flags on metal rods….
        now everyone is asking why we’ve got a pitch and putt course!!

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        • That is a lot of wild orchids, lucky you. But not really as it is also perseverance to protect them. We also had a pyramid orchid in the grass out the back which has now disappeared 😦

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  13. Fantastic. I should love that. I get excited enough seeing common spotted orchids on the garden meadow AND a small clutch of early purple orchids on the drive. What an amazing spot. Very jealous.

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  14. Very jealous, and pleased for you, that you heard the shrill carder bee. Can you describe the sound? I love the orchid photos, these flowers always look like strange little animals to me.

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