a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

The orchids of Saint-Maurice-de-Tavernole


There is a small nature reserve at Saint-Maurice-de-Tavernole dedicated to wild orchids, about half an hour away from us.

We have already visited this special site in May of 2016 and I made my first tentative identifications.

Orphrys passionis (1)

This time we visited on April 4 to see if we could see any early orchids.  This was a new one for us and I think it is Orphrys passionis or Passion orchid.  The name, perhaps, is derived from a flowering near Easter time.

Orphrys aranifera

These look very similar but have a yellow border which may be, Orphys araneola, the Little Spider Orchid or Orphrys aranifera, the Spider Orchid.

Despite a cold wind it was well worth the visit.

Anacamptis pyramidalis 1

It took us to 4 May for our second visit and by then the Pyramid orchids were out in force.  You should really visit every 15 days to properly appreciate the progression of the orchids but spring is such a busy time in the garden and with the bees that we have missed our chance this year.


I also missed my chance to see a Eucera bee on a purple orchid, this was Kourosh’s capture.  Not a very good specimen for the orchid but that’s bees for you.

Purple orchid

This purple orchid is in better shape.


I think this is the Orphrys scolopax with its little green point at the end of the flower.  But I cannot quite see the resemblance to a woodcock’s eye.

Fly orchid (2)

On the other hand, if you squint and use your imagination, you may be able to see where the fly orchid, Orphrys insectifera gets its name.

Iphiclides podalirius

These short visits really drive home the point that it is all about environment.

This Scarce Swallowtail butterfly, Iphiclides podalirius, was flying around and I was able to capture it, even if time was pressing to catch lunch before the restaurants closed.  Yet it is a threatened species in many European countries.

polyommatus bellargus Adonis blue

Likewise, the Adonis blue butterfly, polyommatus bellargus, was feeding on the bird’s foot trefoil.  This is a butterfly on the decline in the U.K. due to habitat loss.

This strip of land is protected yet hanging on against the encroaching agriculture and loss of habitat.

Viw from path

This is what you see from the path as far as the eye can see.

Vines near orchids.JPG

So is it a choice between the vines, a bottle of wine or a glass of cognac?

Orchid meadow

Or is it a narrow meadow full of orchids and wild flowers?

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.

15 thoughts on “The orchids of Saint-Maurice-de-Tavernole

  1. You’ve got the orchids! We have quite a lot on our property here near Carpentras, but most of them are what I think is Himantoglossum robertiana, which I may be spelling wrong. But that’s okay! At least its orchids! That I didn’t buy at the supermarche!
    bonnie in provence

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely to see your orchids. We saw ones like this in the Gargano in Italy last month with Christina from My Hesperides Garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This little reserve cannot be compared to the orchids you saw in the Gargano. I only wish it could have been bigger as we always see interesting bees and butterflies when we go there. It is so sandwiched in by vines that I am amazed that it can survive. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Swallowtail is the European Swallowtail [Papilio machaon subsp: gorganus] which is way less bright than the UK’s Swallowtail…
    I have always put this down to diet… the UK one eats only Milk Parsley, the European one has much more cosmopolitain tastes…. including my carrots and celeriac tops… but they do little harm, seemingly preferring the older leaves…
    I much prefer the French name for the Scarce Swallowtail… le Flambé, which describes the appearance of flames perfectly.

    Your big purple orchids are both Lady Orchid [Orchis purpurea] l’Orchis pourpre in French….
    I would have logged your O.passionis as a Spider Orchid because it has no yellow border…. but you are right in the middle of its zone of distribution.
    I use “Ben & Jerry’s” for most of my idents…. http://www.orchidsofbritainandeuropetest.uk/Ophrys%20passionis.html
    They are actually John & Gerry… but being terrible with names, I have to try and remember things in a different way!

    “So is it a choice between the vines, a bottle of wine or a glass of cognac?”…. no!!
    A strip of land like this of yours should be protected at all costs…. we cannot, as a society, expect to keep on building capital upon capital at the expense of the environment.
    The narrow meadow has a lot more biodiversity than a vineyard!
    Lovely post, Amelia, lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing all of those beautiful pictures. I felt like I had taken a trip after going through your post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a nice picture of the Eucera. As for whether we continue to have nature reserves near monoculture farmland, I sense in the UK that there will be a conservation battle over how much land we apportion for wildlife in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Are vineyards moving in because they are being displaced by urban sprawl elsewhere?

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is not a lot of urban sprawl near here. This area has been protected otherwise it would be used to grow vines on. The area under vine is increasing at the moment around us. They sell both the grapes and the baby plants they have cultivated. Cognac must come, from wines grown in these areas. The sale of Cognac, worldwide, must be good at the moment. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I had not seen that. We went back to this orchid site on Friday with some friends visiting from the U.K. We saw more species of orchids but in all the time we were there I saw one bumble bee. The lack of insects in a countryside setting was remarkable. The fields under cultivation are increasing and the general awareness of the French population concerning nature is very low. Amelia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s