Wild Orchids and Helleborines of the woodland

This is the time of year when I check on the growth of my Twayblade and Bird’s-nest Orchids and Violet Helleborines. They co-exist within the same patch of woodland where I have been monitoring and nurturing their spread over the years. They are all enchanting, the Violet Helleborine, seems somewhat reserved about its beauty keeping itself to the shaded rather bare areas where no one would expect such an alluring form to exist.  Unusual violet leaves and stem curve out from the woodland floor, they create an air of enchantment wherever they appear.

Violet Helleborines

The only other plant that can match them in this way is the Bird’s-nest Orchid, again their form and colour is so unexpected and unusual within a woodland. At this time of year they are in prime flowering condition and have a pale golden colour which almost lights up the ground like a beacon where they grow and their scent is lovely but you need to get close up to detect it…warm and sweet a bit like honey. It is a great year for them; they are occurring in greater numbers than I have ever seen them before. It was rather weird when I got up from studying them to find myself in a seeming carpet of snow, but in reality this was an inch thick layer of Goat Willow’s white downy seeds which had dropped en masse onto the woodland floor (you can see some of this down on the Orchid in the photo below).

Bird’s-nest Orchid

The Twayblade Orchid is also in its flowering prime currently and grows with the Bird’s-nest Orchids and Violet Helleborines within the same strip of ‘secondary woodland’ (this term denotes woodland which is not ancient but which has re-grown from previously being cleared, in this case the woodland re-colonised about 200 years ago). The Twayblade is also unusual, being green in flower. I think the flowers look like little green men freshly painted and hung out to dry around the stem. There is something slightly comical about this plant with its relatively huge round leaves at the base of its flowering stalk which makes me think of clowns with their big shoes!

Twayblade Orchid