Wild orchids in our garden

Bee orchid - Orchis apifera

The bee orchid , Ophrys apifera, is the emblem of the terrestrial orchids of our region.

The petal which forms the lip is very thin but it is domed to make it appear solid. The upper surface is covered with fine hairs which make it look like the abdomen of a bumble bee. The markings on this petal are not blotches, like you find on the petals of other flowers, but fine details for attracting the attention of a male bumble bee. Furthermore, the flower produces pheromones very similar to the pheromones given off by a female bumble bee. An extraordinary mimicry.

The reproductive organs are arranged in a protective hood above this fake bumble bee. The only reward received by a male bumble bee mistaking this flower for the love of his life, is a ball of pollen (pollinium) glued to its head. If you look closely at the photo, you can see that one of the two pollinia has already gone. If the bumble bee with the pollinium glued to its head visits a bee orchid that is ready to receive the pollen, then the orchid receiving the pollen will be able to make tens of thousands of seeds.

This chalk downland species is very well adapted to its environment. The basal leaves are pressed down against the ground to avoid grazing animals and lawnmowers. The stem and the flowers are not very good to eat. There are several hundred in the garden.

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Wild orchids in our garden

Early spider orchid - Ophrys sphegodes

From French cornfield to English garden

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The music is the Chopin Winter Wind Etude Op 25 No11 played by Robert Finley.