Friday, 16 June 2017

#30DaysWild day 16 - To bee or not to bee

Last year I was shown an amazing slope full of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of bee orchids, pyramidal orchids and broomrape. It's a bit of a local 'secret', on a private estate, where the landowner had agreed to leave the field as set aside so the orchids can thrive. The sheer number and size of the bee orchids was stunning. You can see the photos and blog post from last year here.

Stunning bee orchids last summer,
some with up to 13 flowers on a single stalk
I was looking forward to going back today with my Mum. When we got there though it was clear the slope had been mown in the last few weeks and the bee orchids were very hard to find. In the end we found about 20 as we walked around the slope, but they were small and stunted, with just one or two flowers per stalk.

A double header

The pyramidal orchids seemed to be doing slightly better, but there were still far less than last year.

It was the same story for the broomrape. It was still growing there, but there was much less of it than last year. It's unusual because it's one of a few plants that has no chlorophyll and is parasitic on the clover that grows all around it.

It was still a wonderful site, full of butterflies and orchids, but it was such a shame that it had been mown too early. We left feeling a bit downhearted.
Marbled white
On the way home, Mum mentioned that she'd heard there were bee orchids growing in the car park of the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway (known in our house as the Chinnor Chuffer, it's a local stretch of railway that is maintained and run by rail enthusiasts).

The station occasionally appears in Midsummer Murders
We decided to have a quick look, as we were driving past, and were so surprised by what we found. A small patch of land between the car park and the road was absolutely full of beautiful bee orchids and pyramidal orchids.

The bee orchids looked strong and healthy and were a real treat after the earlier disappointment.

There was also broomrape and pyramidal orchids, including some very unusual white pyramidal orchids.

Broomrape and a pyramidal orchid

White pyramidal orchid
The area had been marked off by posts and signs asked people to keep out, explaining why. Such a joy to see somebody had made the effort to look after such a wonderful little patch of ground. Well done Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway!

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