Thursday, 20 June 2013

Monkeying around

After receiving a tweet from KWT with the news that there were a record number of Monkey Orchids, I took a short walk at Park Gate Down. 

The meadow is fantastic with orchids everywhere. Common Spotted greet you almost as soon as you get through the gate,
It might be the commonest orchid around, but it is still worth a look at the beautiful individual florets.

Fragrant Orchids seem to be very common here, the spikes are sparser than Common Spotted but they are still an integral part of the show,

Of course the star act is the Monkey Orchid. Now confined to just three sites in the country, two in Kent (one at a private site) and one in Oxfordshire it is one of the rarest Orchids in the UK. I has a wide range in southern Europe, North Africa and East to Syria and Turkmenistan.

Looking at the individual florets it is easy to see the derivation of the name, with the longs arms, legs and tail forming the shape of the Monkey it s said to resemble.

Fragrant Orchids have now been shown to be three species, Common, Heath and Marsh Fragrant Orchids. I assume the spikes here are Common, although I don't know if any Heath Fragrant Orchids have been found on the chalk downs.The long slender spur means that only insects with long proboscis can reach the nectar produced here. Pollinators include butterflies and both day and night flying moths, such as Large Skippers, Six-spot Burnet and Hawk-moths. Night flying moths may be the most important as the scent is strongest at dusk.

There were lots of Common Twybades along the higher ridge, and although it must have its admirers it does tend to be the poor relation of the orchids on show.

I only saw one Butterfly Orchid, which I think was a Greater Butterfly Orchid. I didn't manage to find either Bee or Musk Orchid, in the short time I had, but both do occur on the site. There are few better wild-flower meadows  than Park Gate Down and is a fantastic KWT reserve. There can be no better reason for joining the KWT than know that they maintain some of the most important orchid sites in the county and country, If you're not a member click here and fill in the form!

1 comment:

Steve said...

Nice photos Tony, thought you'd be interested to know I and a couple of friends had a look at Park gate Thursday evening and found 5 Greater Butterfly Orchids and 3 Fly Orchids (although one had been trampled!!) and several Musk Orchids, they took some finding!! best regards Steve Reynaert