Eight orchid genera at the Paris end of Bix Bottom*

This is not the first time I've been to Bix Bottom. Last time it was winter and the orchids were represented only by a few dry fruits. Today it's summer and despite my moaning yesterday the summer weather was rather pleasant (well it wasn't raining).

Under the guidance of Mike Fay and Mark Chase (at the top, with Lynda), we saw eight orchid genera - seven of them in flower and one in fruit. This, according to Mike and Mark, is as many as you are likely to find in most parts of the world.

They tested this out in Australia when visiting Kingsley Dixon in Western Australia and he was able to show them a dozen or so genera in a day but at lots of different sites. I thought I could take them to a site in Victoria with eight genera but I'd have to adopt an extreme taxonomic view of Caladenia and Pterostylis...

Back in Bix Bottom, a little north-west of Henley, these are a few of the orchids we saw in Warburg Nature Reserve. The names are a little haphazard and I apologise in advance for those that are misidentified - all correspondence warmly received and acted upon!

The Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera).

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) or perhaps another species in this genus.

One in fruit whose name I can't remember.

The Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes) perhaps.

The Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha).

The Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) - and yes I know we've done this genus already. There were a couple of orchid genera represented by more than one species.

A almost spent Bird's Nest Orchid (Neottia nidusavis).

The Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

I've completely run out of steam now so let's just say another orchid genus.

For those of you not obsessed with the family Orchidaceae, here are a few other highlights of the day. This species of Salvia is rare in the area and was reintroduced into the reserve recently.

And Paris quadrifolia is a monocot - a group including orchids, grasses, lilies and lots of other plants with floral parts almost always in threes. This flower, as you can see, has four parts.

For those of you even bored by non-orchid flowers (shame on you) there were interesting rocks beneath the grassland/herbland. Only last night I read in Tim Radford's The Address Book about chalk being formed by microscopic algae called coccolithophores in the Cretaceous, and the flints found within the chalk quite possibly being due to sponges full of silica that grew with the algae.

The flints are great for making arrow heads but not so good for building. So what you see around Bix Bottom are walls and houses made of flints packed within columns of brick. Like this.

What you see in Warburg Nature Reserve are fragments of flints and chalk, like these, amid 400 different species of flowering plant. This is perhaps the most plant species diverse reserve in England. And it has two kinds of pretty rocks.

* From the Archives: some posts from the past while I'm away for a few weeks. This is from 18 June 2012, while I was living and working at Kew Gardens, London.


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