In addition to the downloadable PDF version on this website, we now have beautiful printed copies of our 34 page Orchid Observers Identification Guide, illustrated with photographs of all 29 wild orchids in our study, species distribution maps and details on flowering times.
Please email email@example.com with your full postal address and we will send you a free copy!
If you are up in the far north west of Scotland and parts of northern England (or down in the New Forest) in July to early August, keep a look out for the smallest of the UK orchids, the bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa), which is just 4-8cm tall and has tiny greenish flowers which are twisted through 360 degrees rather than the typical 180 degrees for most of our orchids, meaning they are upside down. The bog orchid, as the name suggests, is found in acid peat bogs, often growing among mosses.
If you are headed for southern England in July, a similar orchid to the bog orchid in size and colour is the musk orchid (Herminium monorchis) but with bell-like flowers, and grows in a very different habitat; it occurs only on short grassland on chalk or limestone soils. Look out for it, photograph it if you find it, but take care not to step on it – this orchid is classified as vulnerable.
The bog orchid (top) and the musk orchid (below). These hard-to-find orchids have very local distributions.
You can also still find the bee orchid in flower until late July. The bee orchid is a Mediterranean species of open calcareous grassland and disturbed ground and can be found throughout England, but is scare in Cornwall and north Devon. One petal is highly modified to look like a bee with large pink sepals behind. Pollination is carried out by a process called pseudo-copulation whereby the orchid mimics the sight and smell of a female bee. This attracts male bees who try to mate with the flower and in the process dislodge the pollen which attaches to him and is then carried to the next flower. Unfortunately, the necessary bee species is not present in the UK and so they are always self-pollinated here. We believe this species is also spreading north as our climate becomes warmer.
The bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) – one of the most charismatic and much-loved of our native wild orchid species.
See our UK Orchid Identification Guide for all 29 species in our study.
Thanks for your participation in Orchid Observers!
It’s been a busy time for Orchid Observers! The project got off to a great start when the website went live on the Zooniverse platform on 23 April and the very first of the season’s field records was uploaded on day one! A week in, and we recorded almost 300 people participating in the online activities and an increasing number of people uploading images from the field.
At the time of writing this blog we now have over 700 registered users on the website who have enthusiastically completed 17,589 classifications, by verifying and transcribing data for our historical specimens and identifying species and flowering stages for 1507 photographic records submitted by participants so far. The field records collected span the country, from Cornwall to Perth in Scotland, and from Pembrokeshire across to Norfolk. So far, for early-purple orchid (Orchis mascula) and green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio) approximately 9% of the records are from new/unknown sites (as measured by 2 km square/tetrad); this is valuable information, particularly for green-winged orchid which is considered at risk of extinction in the UK.
Whilst we have not as yet been able to fully compare the Orchid Observers phenology data with our museum records (the relevant, verified, 2015 UK weather data has not been released) we have already been able to see that the median date of this year’s flowering of two species (early-purple and green-winged) is at least 10 days earlier than the museum data (which mainly covers 1830 to 1970). These are early figures only, and the full data set will be analysed later this year.
We are immensely grateful for the time and good will of all our participants – without this effort we would not have been able to collect these data. And we’ve still got the rest of the summer to collect more data for all our 29 species in the survey!
As well as showcasing the project at public events throughout May and June, some of us in the team have also managed to get out to various sites to record and photograph orchids ourselves to add to the fantastic field photo effort of our many participants! We’ve visited sites across the Southeast, and further afield in Dorset, Somerset, Wales and Cumbria