Saturday, 20 June 2009

In the shadow of Dover Castle

Driving along Upper Road, towards Dover I was aware that there were a lot of Orchids, now in bloom, along the bank, just beyond the turnoff to the Radar Station.

Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

The largest and tallest spikes were some spectacular Common-spotted Orchids. These may be the commonest of the orchids to be found locally but they are still very beautiful.

The flowers are quite densely packed and each has a characteristic pattern.

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)

The mast numerous orchid along this stretch is the Fragrant Orchid. Unlike the last time I looked along here they are now all in full flower. The Fragrant Orchid exists in three forms, which are now sometimes considered separate species. It's not difficult here, ours are Common or Chalk Fragrant orchids, the other two favouring acid heaths and marshes, respectively.

Individual flowers are not very densely packed on the spikes. The most characteristic feature of the flowers is he very long spur. Nectar is produced in the bottom of the spur and this can only be reached by insects with a sufficiently long proboscis. These include Large Skippers and Six-spot Burnets but night flying moths might be the most important. Fragrant and Common-spotted Orchids are known to hybridise but I found no evidence on this site.

There were only one or two, very small spikes of Pyramidal Orchids here, but I had noticed what looked like these just after crossing the bridge over the A2.

Looking down on a very strangely deserted road to the ferries.

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Here there is a really nice little colony of Pyramidal Orchids, and there are much further out and larger than those up the road.

Many of the flowers here are quite dark and rich in colour, This seems to be characteristic of this species when it is near the sea. It uses many of the same pollinators as the Fragrant Orchid, but as the nectar is more accessible Buff-tailed Bumblebees also perform the service.
Looking across the road Dover Castle dominates the view.

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