Friday 3 May 2019

Have I got orchids for you

I’m not so up to date with the latest on television trivia (you don't want me in your pub quiz team), so I only recently heard about Gatwick’s mention in an episode of Have I Got News For You, when mentioned in passing by some inquisitive airport staff and bemused conservationists.

I don't know of any particularly rare orchids in the local area, but if there were then it wouldn't be common knowledge anyhow as rare plants are kept safer that way.

Here's a rundown of three lovely species which are not especially rare, but still are very worth appreciating and can be regularly seen on our sites at Gatwick:

Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) are in abundance within the River Mole woodlands, along the Sussex Border Path, near Povey Cross. They have now opened and are in full bloom, so to see this species in its glory you want to get out to the woods quickly!

Early Purple Orchid flowering spike

Basal leaves

Other niceties to be found along these woodland paths include species of summer-visiting birds such as Willow Warbler and Garden Warbler, a colony of rare Long-horned Bees, English Elms and the elusive White-letter Hairstreak Butterflies. It was reported that only a couple of decades ago we had Tree Sparrows here, but sadly no more.

Povey Cross walking route (grid reference TQ 26902 41970 marks the parking point)

River Mole woodlands footpath, west of Povey Cross

Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) tend to favour the open grasslands and woodland edges; the basal leaves are now happily popping up where the Gatwick Greenspace Partnership volunteers have been scything and raking in Goat Meadow.

Common Spotted Orchid flowering spike

Basal leaves

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) are incredibly weird and wonderful, blooming in June and July. We have a few which pop up airside on the grass islands between the airfield roads. They really do mimic bees, and they may even be linked with our colony of rare Long-horned Bees, as apparently this is the species commonly deceived by the flower resulting in 'pseudocopulation'!

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) (17530088544)
Bee Orchid flowering spike
Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors from Stevenage, United Kingdom 

If anyone has further records of orchids around the Gatwick area, feel free to drop me a line

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