Wild orchid varietes fare differently in our heathland

My Monday bank holiday treat was a walk in our local heathland to see the progress of the wild orchids.

A glorious sunny day for my walk. Dressed in shorts to keep cool, I knew that to venture too far from the heathland track meant encounters with gorse, broom, and heather, some more spiky than others.

The first plant I encountered was a Rhododendron ponticum in full bloom. I recognise its purple/lilac flowers are a lovely sight. It is, however, a bit of a thug. Classified as an invasive plant, it shades the gound beneath it, not allowing smaller native wild flowers any room, and its flowers are toxic to some native bees. All in all, it needs to be removed.

Next was a much happier experience, I spied the Heath Spotted Orchids by the side of the heathland track in Lighwater. They were not as abundant as they were last year, probably because of the lack of rain. Why are they called Heath Spotted Orchids? If you look at their leaves it becomes obvious, they are covered in dark blotches.

Not one to resist and adventure, I ventured through the spiky undergrowth to get down to Folly Bog, as I wanted to see the progress of the Early Marsh Orchids. How my mood was lifted to see the Early Marsh Orchids in bloom, and more abundant than I’d possibly imagined. Searching for them in previous years I’ve found them in strictly limited numbers. I’ll be visiting them again later today, possibly venturing further into the boggy area.

Finally, I saw just a couple of sundew plants – small insect eating plants that like damp surroundings. Here are my photos.

Wild orchids get room to flower

This week I walked on the heathland track the borders Red Road in Lightwater, and which looks down over Folly Bog. It’s not something I’ve done of late, so was pleased to see invasive trackside vegetation cut down. I’d have cut more down, but hey, what’s been done will make life better for the wild orchids, as you can see from my photos. The wild orchids appear on the trcakside verges and ditches.

It’s great that in the process of cutting back the invasive plants, a new easier access to Folly Bog has been created. Gone is the difficulty of fighting may way through vegetation to get down to the boggy area to espy the progress of sundews, mosses, and Early March Orchids. All in all, I’m looking forward to spring and summer in the local heathland.

Some say they’ve gone fishing, I say I’ve gone orchid hunting

No, I’ve not gone fishing; I’ve gone orchid hunting.

I’ve managed to do a spot of wild orchid hunting in the local heathland and bogs, as is my wont. It’s a bit like stamp collecting, always hoping to identify a treasure in a pile of stamps.

One key difference, I can’t collect the wild orchids, other than by photographing them. The pleasure, or is it pain, I don’t know which, is getting out the orchid identification sources and then expanding my photos on my computer for comparison. A stamp catalogue is easier to use. Ah, well, at least I got out into the heathland and the bogs.

The good news is that the wild orchids are flourishing alongside the heathland track next to Red Road in Lightwater, and here was me being overly concerned about their late arrival. I don’t think they’re quite as vigourous as in previous years – more photo comparison needed to prove this. The Spotted Orchids are variable, so will take time for proper identification. Meanwhile, there’s more good news in that the Early Marsh Orchids in Folly Bog are also flourishing. Here are my photos for you to enjoy.

Now for the bad: No Early Marsh Orchids in Folly Bog

Dear readers you will know my odd obsession on finding, and identifying wild orchids in our local heathland. Look HERE if you want to see more of my reports on local wild orchids.

Late yesterday afternoon I went out to scour the boggy areas in Folly Bog to continue my search for Early Marsh Orchids, and to check on the one I feel sure I saw a week ago. Could I find it? No, I jolly well couldn’t. Nor could I find any others, and I assure you I did spend quite a bit of time looking.

I’m disappointed I didn’t find any. I will keep on looking. Here’s my photo of an Early Marsh Orchids taken on 29th May 2017.

Searching for the elusive wild orchids in our local heathland

Yesterday I went searching for the first signs of wild orchids in the local heathland and bogs.

I had limited success. I’d expected Heath Spotted Orchids to show strongly by now, as it flowers through June and July. Sadly not so.

Since last spring and summer, the verges of the heatland track have been scraped. That scraping also caused a lot of vegetation to end up in the ditch on one side of the track on Hangmoor Hill and approaching Folly Bog, where they are to be found. Perhaps that’s the reason for the paucity of examples. I’m sure that the spectacular Bee Orchid I saw alongside the track has been scraped out of existence.

Down in the boggy area of Folly Bog I found just just one example of the Early Marsh Orchid. I thought I’d found another, but it was so small I struggled to identify it as an orchid. Below are my two photos. To be absolutely certain of my identification I’m going to print the relevant parts of A Beginner’s Guide to Orchids of the British Isles, along with some measuring tools, and a magnifying glass to assist in identification.

I hope not to tread or kneel in dog poo, or be assailed by an inconsiderate mountain biker.

Searching Folly Bog for evidence of wild orchids and sundews

The low-level of ground water and in the stream in Folly Bog in Lightwater let me, today, search extensively for the beginnings of this year’s flowering of native wild orchids, and of the arrival of insect-eating sundews.

Not being a botanist I’m not sure what the very early signs of life are for wild orchids. I’m just a keen observer of their habits. Because they are perennial plants with fleshy roots and tubers I know where they have occurred before. Obviously, that’s where I look for them.

The Natural History Museum’s A beginner’s vegetative guide to orchids of the British Isles is going to be my new bible for orchid identification. I’ve long struggled with identification of Marsh and Spotted orchids [Dactylorhiza genus], so it’s good to see this in their guide,

This genus is, without doubt, the most difficult orchid group to try to accurately identify in the British Isles which is exacerbated by their rampant hybridisation.

The result of my searching the plant life of Folly Bog today, uncovered no noticeable evidence, to me of wild orchids. I did see early signs of life of Round-leaved Sundew growing amongst moss, see photo below.

Pine pulling volunteers needed, plus secateurs in my pocket

Dear readers you know my fondness of venturing onto Folly Bog in Lightwater to see the flora. The bog is in the low lying land alongside Red Road in Lightwater. The natural springs on Chobham Ridges drain into the bog, which is home to sundews, bog mosses, wild orchids, and much more.

Well, I ventured into the bog earlier this week. I found access had become more difficult due the growth of heather and gorse. It helps that I know the path down into the boggy area, even though it’s hidden under the heather. Also, past judicous use of secateurs to the tall, prickly gorse opened up the beginning of path from the heathland track.

Obviously as its winter, when down in the boggy area there was little to see. I thought I’d leve the bog by walking alongside the fence of the Bisley and Pirbright Ranges. Walking up to the fence I was surprised at the rampant growth of Scots Pine saplings – see photo – that definitely need to be removed. When then arriving at the fence, my path was completly blocked by gorse. Not having my trusty secateurs to hand I backtracked a bit anf then struggled through the heather to get to the path towards Hangmoor Hill.

The stream thru Folly Bog still flows, fed by springs in the ranges

The Bisley and Pirbright Ranges below Chobham Ridges has many natural springs, which are the main source of the stream that runs through Folly Bog, and on into the Windle Brook.

Thought you might like to know that even though there’s been no rain for weeks, the stream through the bog continues to flow, naturally, not as vigourously as when in rainy weather.

Heathland orchids arrive with a flourish

The native wild orchids in our heathland are much appreciated by me, and most probably all those who walk on the track that bounds the Pirbright and Bisley ranges in Lightwater.

To see how much their arrival consumes my mind, type orchids in the search box at the top of the page, or see HERE.

I anticipate their arrival by looking closely at the sides of the heathland track for signs of their coming. This year, not unexpectedly following our harsh winter, they’ve arrived late. I looked for them towards the end of May, and saw little sign of them. I visited the area of the track where they’re to be found and was rewarded by the sudden flourishing. The early marsh orchids that grow in Folly Bog are far fewer in number this year. I will visit again to check on them, and report back here.

All I await now is the arrival of the Bee Orchid, which sadly didn’t appear last year.