Tuesday, 13 June 2017

#30DaysWild day 13 - Yellow bird's nests

There's a very special patch of woodland that I like to walk through. It's only a small slope, deep in the shade of the beech trees, but it's one of the most exciting places to see the weird and wonderful. In autumn it's full of brilliant fungi, such as devil's bolettes, earthstars, terracotta hedgehogs, trumpets of death and many more. At this time of the year though you can find bird's nest orchids and very rare narrow-lipped helleborines.
Doesn't look like much, but it's an amazing place!
Today, it was the tiny yellow bird's nests that caught my eye. There were lots of them around, poking up through the leaf litter, although they're easy to miss. They look a little bit like waxy cream asparagus spears, that bend over at the top.  I've seen them there before, but these were the first I've seen this year and they're quite an unusual sight.

They are one of the few plants that contain no chlorophyll, forming a parasitic relationship with fungi to obtain their nutrients. 

Yellow bird's nests and helleborines are both indicators for probably our rarest wildflower, the ghost orchid. They were last seen in the 1990's, about 15 miles away, near Marlow, so the chances they'll appear here are slim. Still worth a look though later in the year and I'm sure that if they're going to grow anywhere around here, it would be right here. We hunt for them every year and will have another look this year. Now that would be the find of a lifetime! 

The yellow bird's nests are not to be confused with bird's nest orchids, which also contain no chlorophyll. They're different plants and the yellow bird's nests are not orchids, although there are some bird's nest orchids growing in the same area.

Bird's nest orchids

Bird's nest orchid
There are narrow-lipped helleborines growing under the beech trees. Last year they were almost all eaten before they flowered, but this year there are several in bud (although there were a few nibbled stalks as well). Fingers crossed they survive to flower.

Narrow-lipped helleborine

Narrow-lipped helleborine
I walked back down the hill and had one last surprise. A patch of common spotted orchids were flowering in the grass. I've walked that path for years and I'm sure there have never been any there, but they're there now. What a wonderful sight!
Common spotted orchids

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