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