Orchid Observers update and species to look out for in August

Orchid Observers has recently been mentioned in the news – click on the links below to read more:

The Guardian, 21 July

BBC News, 26 July

The Telegraph, 28 July

The Orchid Observers team would once again like to thank all our participants who have been out photographing orchids and collecting records from all over the country – with 1655 records submitted so far this is a fantastic field effort! Of these records, an assessment by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) shows that more than 200 of these sites are new locations for some species. Of particular interest are several previously unknown locations for green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio) which is listed as ‘near threatened’, and white helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium) which is considered to be ‘vulnerable’ to extinction in the UK.

As well as submitting your orchid locations and images, more and more of you are also helping us extract information from the Museum’s historic orchid collection. So far, for both the online transcriptions and the identification of orchids photographed this season, our 927 registered participants have clocked up almost 25,000 classifications! This is great news – and we will continue to need your help transcribing the herbarium specimen label data and tagging flowering stages even after the orchid field season is over for this year. For now though, some of our species are still flowering or yet to flower! Here are a couple of species we’d like you to look out in the field for this month:

If you are up in northern England and in north-east parts of Scotland and likely to be visiting and walking in woodland, particularly pine woods, then look out under the pine trees on the forest floor for small spikes of creamy white flowers which are very hairy! Take a look at the leaves; if the veins are distinctively net-shaped (rather than parallel as in most UK orchids) then you may well have found Creeping lady’s-tresses (Goodyera repens). Please take a photograph and record the location and date and upload your data to the Orchid Observers website.

Creeping lady’s-tresses at Eden Valley, Cumbria. Photo: Mike Waller

A similar looking species, but in another genus altogether, is Autumn lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) which is found in southern England, most commonly by the coast. This small orchid has tiny white flowers arranged in a single spiral around the stem resembling braided hair, hence the common name. An interesting fact is the leaves develop in autumn and photosynthesise throughout the winter but wither before flowering – this is an adaptation to hot dry climates. Germination to flowering takes 14 years. This is a Mediterranean species that only grows on calcareous grassland with very short turf. Look out for it in late August and into September on chalk downs, fixed dunes, cliff tops and even lawns and old grass tennis courts!

Autumn lady’s-tresses at Eggardon Hill in Dorset. Photo: Chris Raper

Autumn lady’s-tresses at Eggardon Hill in Dorset. Photo: Chris Raper

For help identifying these species, and the 27 others in our study, don’t forget to email us at orchid@nhm.ac.uk with your postal address if you would like us to send you a free copy of our Orchid Observers Identification Guide

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