a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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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.

Eucera.JPG

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.

becasse.JPG

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?


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May orchids at St-Maurice-de-Tavernoles

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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Off the well trodden paths

When I visited Minerve in the Languedoc-Roussillon last week we parked in the visitors car park outside the village which must be reached on foot.  The car park was well designed and the light stream of visitors parked and followed a well-trodden path for their initial view of the beautiful village.  Afterwards they followed the paths to the village pausing to take in the scenery and the atmosphere.

Osmia bee on Cistus

Osmia bee on Cistus

Alongside the path the wild flowers were growing in abundance and the wild bees were out in their numbers.  I think this is a Cistus incanus which is a Mediterranean plant so I’m not sure whether it has arrived here by itself or it is indeed native to this area of southern France.  It is so beautiful and provides the perfect foil for my bee which I think is the same Osmia cornuta which is nesting in my bee hotel in the garden.

Osmia collecting pollen

Osmia collecting pollen

The Osmia do not collect pollen on their legs.  The female Osmia have a brush of pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of their abdomen.

I was engrossed in my bees when I heard a voice from a party returning to the car park and explaining to a child that “The lady was taking pictures of the flowers”.  The child was obviously more interested in what I was doing than admiring the view and I’m sure would have been fascinated with all the bees.  It made me wonder how many people tread the well-trodden path and do not look any further.

After we left Minerve we followed a descending road but stopped at a marked view point.  The view was truly remarkable but when we looked a little further we found an abundance of wild flowers.

Wild thyme

Wild thyme

The bees have plenty of forage at this time of year and were visiting the wild thyme.

Yellow orchid

Yellow orchid

Just off the path were yellow orchids,  Ophrys lutea, I think.

Another yellow orchid.

Another yellow orchid.

Close by was another which I think is the Spider orchid Ophrys aranifera, which doesn’t look to much like a spider to me.

Spotted orchid

Spotted orchid

I’m not even going to try naming this one as orchids are extremely difficult to identify.  Lady Orchid, Orchis purpurea (Please see Susan’s comments beneath.)

Lathyrus cicera

Lathyrus cicera

This beauty was pushing up here and there, not as large or rambling as the sweet peas but just as attractive.

A peach tree had already set fruit testifying to the mild climate of the area.  An almond tree was also in fruit with some of last years fruit still on the ground and edible.

Still, like good tourists we pressed on to our next stop and took in the views until the bees called again.

Honey bee

Honey bee

The cow parsley was attracting lots of bees and other insects.

Nomada sp.

Nomada sp.

This is a cuckoo bee, I cannot be more precise for the species.  These bees do not build their own nests but lay their eggs in the nests of other bees.  Their young will be nourished on the pollen and nectar set aside by other bees, quite like mining bees of the genus Andrena.

I was lured back to the straight and narrow by the promise of an ice cream in the village, so I left the bees and my photographing.  It made me wonder though, how often we follow the well trodden paths and how much we miss in doing so.

Returning home on the motorway we stopped just outside Agen.  The weather was fine and we really needed to stretch our legs.  It was the usual petrol station/restaurant set-up but they seemed to have gone a little bit further than many in France and provided more places to sit and a pleasant play area for the children.  Just across from the play area we found – yes, more orchids.

Purple orchid

Purple orchid

(See comments) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Unkown bud

And this beauty that is just starting to flower. (Tongued orchid, Serapias lingua – see comments)

We don’t have to wait for a signpost or a well trodden path to find something of beauty.