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in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire
Peter Creed & Rachel Hudson

Introduction ... opposite Where to look p.2 The orchids
White Helleborine p.4, Narrow-leaved Helleborine p.6, Red Helleborine p.8, Marsh Helleborine p.10, Violet Helleborine p.12, Broad-leaved Helleborine p.14, Narrow-lipped Helleborine p.16, Green-flowered Helleborine p.18, Common Twayblade p.20, Birds-nest Orchid p.22, Ghost Orchid p.24, Autumn Ladystresses p.26, Musk Orchid p.28, Greater Butterfly-orchid p.30, Lesser Butterflyorchid p. 32, Chalk Fragrant-orchid p.34, Marsh Fragrant-orchid p.36, Frog Orchid p.38, Common Spottedorchid p.40, Heath Spotted-orchid p.42, Early Marsh-orchid p.44, Southern Marsh-orchid p.46, Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid p.48, Early-purple Orchid p.50, Lady Orchid p.52, Military Orchid p.54, Monkey Orchid p.56, Man Orchid p.58, Burnt Orchid p.60, Pyramidal Orchid p.62, Green-winged Orchid p.64, Lizard Orchid p.66, Fly Orchid p.68, Early Spider-orchid p.70, Bee Orchid p.72 Peter Creed & Rachel Hudson 2013 All photographs Peter Creed All rights reserved.No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the publishers. First published 2013 British Library-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 874357 57 5 Designed by Naturebureau, 36 Kingfisher Court, Hambridge Road, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5SJ Published by Pisces Publications (the imprint of Naturebureau) Printed by Portland Print, Kettering, Northamptonshire

The excitement of seeing a Violet Helleborine in the half-light of a beechwood, or a Bee Orchid resplendent in the grass is not easily forgotten. Wild orchids excite people for many reasons. They are exotic and strange, delicate and beautiful. Beneath their intriguing appearance is an equally fascinating biology: many species have developed intimate relationships with fungi to grow and germinate. Several species have evolved bizarre adaptations to ensure pollination. Above all, it is their rarity that has impassioned botanists and plant collectors for centuries. A few British orchids are so rare and grow at just one or two sites that they are protected in law and the exact locations are a closely-guarded secret. The three counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire are home to 36 of the 56 native British species, making them the best area in the country to find wild orchids. This Guide concentrates on the characteristic appearance of the 36 species. It features the flowering time, key habitat information and where to look locally. It also includes similar species with clear distinctions to help avoid confusion when identifying a plant in the field. Sadly, the majority of orchids described in this Guide are declining in number due to the scarcity of the habitats that they depend upon. The ancient grasslands, woodlands and wetlands that were once common throughout our landscape are disappearing at an alarming rate. We hope that this Guide inspires you to seek out some the orchids that are mentioned and to support the organisations that look after the nature reserves and special places where they thrive.

Orchid walks are a great way to find out more about orchids in your area. The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust organises guided walks with a local expert in the spring and summer (for details visit Or see the Whats onsection in the local press.


Ghost Orchid
Epipogium aphyllum
STATUS Red Listing: Critically Endangered. Fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. FLOWERING TIME May to September HEIGHT 510cm, can reach up to 20cm DESCRIPTION True to its name, the Ghost Orchid has a pale, ethereal appearance. The few, large waxy flowers have yellow-whitish petals and the stem, swollen at the base, is translucent white, washed with pinkish-brown. There are no green leaves and the orchid depends entirely on fungi throughout its life. A small number of spikes are produced, with one to four at any one site in a year. The few flowers are scented with a clover-shaped lip with a thick, reddish spur that rests against the lip. The flowers are visited by both bees and wasps, but some years the orchid may not flower at all. It is an elusive plant: 10 years, even 20, may pass before flowering takes place again. HABITAT The Ghost Orchid is one of the rarest

wild plants in Britain and its rarity makes it the Holy Grail for many orchidophiles. It has only been recorded in two regions, including the Chilterns. It grows in heavy shade under beech woodland and because of its pale colour and its relatively small size, it is not easy to see amongst the leaf litter and is probably an overlooked species.
WHERE TO LOOK Although the Ghost Orchid


has not been recorded since the 1990s locally, it is worth keeping an eye out in the Chiltern beechwoods between Marlow and Henley. To add to the challenge of discovering a Ghost Orchid, it seldom appears in exactly the same location.

The Ghost Orchid was discovered in Oxon near Stoke Row in 1931 by Vera Paul (then a schoolgirl). In 1953 it reappeared, this time in Bucks 10 miles from the previous site. Encouraged by these findings Vera Paul went on to find two flower spikes once again near Stoke Row.


Monkey Orchid
Orchis simia
STATUS Red Listing: Vulnerable, Nationally Rare. Fully protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. On the Biodiversity Action Plan UK list of priority species. FLOWERING TIME Late May to early June HEIGHT 1030cm DESCRIPTION This exquisite and exotic-looking little plant is unique among British orchids as the flowers open from the top downwards, giving it a rather untidy appearance. The flowers are very distinctive. The sepals and petals form a long, pointed hood, coloured white and tinged with lilac-rose. The lip has four lobes, tinged darker pink, which form the straggly arms and legs of a monkey. A small fifth lobe forms a short tail between the legs. Since the flowers open in quick succession, the spike is at its best for a relatively short period. The flowers have a mild scent of vanilla and are visited by flies, bees and butterflies, although the spur is not thought to contain nectar. Because of its rarity, some populations have been hand-pollinated. This rare species is confined to just three sites in Britain, two in Kent and one in the Oxfordshire Chilterns at Hartslock. Records for the Monkey Orchid at Hartslock date from 1792 and it is thought to be the only site in Britain with such a continuous history. It has paler flowers and is smaller than the plants found in Kent. HABITAT The Monkey Orchid grows in


chalky soils in well-drained, sunny, south-facing grassland, or on the edges of woodland.

WHERE TO LOOK Hartslock nature

reserve (Goring). Each year the number of plants at Hartslock are carefully mapped and monitored by BBOWT.

The Lady Monkey hybrid (p.52) is a much larger, more vigorous plant which resembles the Lady Orchid, more than the Monkey Orchid although it shares the same lip shape but with slightly thicker legs.


Green-winged Orchid
Anacamptis morio
STATUS Red Listing: Near Threatened FLOWERING TIME Late April to mid-June HEIGHT 830cm DESCRIPTION This beautiful, petite orchid has a few large flowers which are very distinctive. Though they can vary in colour from deep red-purple to rose-pink or white, the sepals and petals form a hood clearly marked with green or bronze parallel veins. The broad lip is often violet-purple, whiter in the centre, and at the mouth of the spur there are usually purple spots and blotches. The flowers produce no nectar and the plant uses a powerful scent to trick bees, especially bumblebees, into visiting and cross-pollinating them. There is a rosette of leaves at ground level and the stem leaves, which are never spotted, closely clasp the stem. HABITAT Once widespread in our region, the Green-

winged Orchid grew in profusion alongside cowslips in damp pastures and undisturbed grassland. Since the 1950s agricultural changes, including the ploughing up of pastures and the use of fertilisers, have led to a dramatic fall in numbers and it is one of our most rapidly disappearing species.
WHERE TO LOOK Green-winged Orchids in their

thousands at Bernwood Meadows nature reserve, seven miles north-east of Oxford, owned by BBOWT. Although they can grow in large numbers, the species is now limited to the few remaining old pastures that are sympathetically managed.


Green-winged orchid flowers come in many shades of purple and in other colours too, from pink, white and even apricot .


Fly Orchid
Ophrys insectifera
STATUS Red Listing: Vulnerable. On the Biodiversity Action Plan UK list of priority species. FLOWERING TIME End of April to June HEIGHT Up to 50cm DESCRIPTION The Fly Orchid is a very distinctive species and is the most fascinating example of insect mimicry among British orchids. The tall, slender spikes have well-spaced flowers which resemble a group of small flies sitting on a stem. The folded dark-purple lip resembles an insects hairy body and at the base of the lip there are two glistening eyes. The slate-blue band across the centre forms the speculum and shines like folded wings. The column forms the insects head and the two small brown petals the insects antennae. Although the plant does not produce nectar, it releases a scent that mimics a female wasps sexual pheromones. The scent, combined with the shape and velvety texture of the flowers prove irresistible to male digger wasps which attempt to mate with the flowers and inadvertently help to pollinate the plant. The narrow, strap-shaped, blue-green leaves emerge in autumn, lasting through the winter. HABITAT The Fly Orchid can be found at the edge of


beechwoods and chalk scrub on chalk and limestone soils. It prefers the better-lit areas in glades and along rides, as well as shaded road banks. Occasionally it will grow in shadier locations such as overgrown hazel coppice.
WHERE TO LOOK Fly Orchids are

not common locally but can be found in the Chilterns and Berkshire Downs. Head to Warburg Nature Reserve (Henley), Homefield Wood (Marlow) and Dancersend (Wendover) all BBOWT.

Fly Orchids, once widespread, have declined so rapidly that they are now listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.