Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year

Thank you to everyone who sent in orchid records in 2013, I hope you all had a happy Christmas. 
There are lots of records, and i`m sure Chris has been busy thinking of areas for priority survey for the coming year.
While we will hope to fill in the gaps in distribution and look for species not recorded in 2013, please do send in records  for orchids from any areas you visit, even if you visited and submitted records in 2013; particularly if you made a count. It will be interesting to see how flowering and numbers vary over the two year survey period.

Birdsnest orchid..not recorded 2013

If you have records still to submit, these wet windy days are a good opportunity to dig out the field notebooks and empty them onto the orchid adnoto form on the BNHS web site...all will be gratefully received.
Also do report in any appearance of leaves of orchids..although some bees were up in September it looks like others have has a "lie in" and are only just thinking about coming up! Good luck.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Leaves us in little doubt...

Bee Orchid with 5 growing points October Lower Sundon
 The mild end of summer and early autumn has allowed some orchid development that i have not noticed until into December before.

 The bee orchid leaves shown above must have been growing from September and are already well grown and large specimens. It is worthwhile having a look at any colonies you know of..are the leaves already showing? Will leaves continue to emerge from plants that are still below ground  over the winter?.. do let us know.

The Bedfordshire Lizard orchid prepares for 2014!

 The Lizard orchid, not to be outdone by the bees, has also grown to a handsome size already.

If you find large orchid leaves do make a note and tell us it may well be there are more of them out there..perhaps not getting past the ravages of hungry molluscs and flowering. This one has already been nibbled.
Man Orchid shoot at Totternhoe October

The Totternhoe men are also just begining to show above ground. As are shoots of Burnt orchid at Pegsdon. Fly Orchid on the other hand do not seem to be up yet.

Knowing when leaves are up and vulnerable to grazing or trampling will help in planning the management of these grassland orchids.

As these orchids prepare for next year the Autumn Lady`s Tresses are just finishing seeding. Perhaps the St Jude storm has scattered ALT seed far and wide...we will have to wait six or seven years to find out...the probable time it takes from seed to flowering plant.

Which other species are showing leaves at the moment..please have a look and let us know.

It would seem one life-time is not enough to study these plants...but lets make sure that our leg is at least run as well as we can do when the batton is hopefully handed on in the years to come, i`m sure there will be surprises and many points of interest on the way.

Do keep your records coming in...keep an eye out for leaves in lawns and new places as well as old

Empty those note books of records onto adnoto..we have had a cracking year with much to look forward to for the coming season.

Best wishes to all!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Tresses round up a very good year for orchids

Autumn Lady`s -tresses

What a good year we have had for orchids. There have been over 1300 entries to the Orchid Adnoto system representing many thousand of plants.

Over 120 people have contributed to the survey!
Chris will have the challenge  to deal with this data and highlight the gaps to be checked next year.

There is still time to check your local wood and woodland ride edges for helleborines so do make use of the remaining fine days to get out and about.

We have learnt a good deal about our orchids; not only where they are but also something about their natural history. Man orchids have shed their seeds while the musk orchids are still with green pods that will take a few more weeks to mature...all useful information to know before these chalk grasslands are managed by grazing!

Our final orchid of the late summer is now out. Autumn Lady`s -tresses has just one known site in Bedfordshire now at Pegsdon. Dony records it as rare with pre 1880 records at Thurleigh, Crow hills near Clapham, Pavenham, Exeter wood, and Haynes. It may still be present in these and other areas.

During the drought of 1976 plants were reported to be flowering on a number of uncut grass tennis courts in the Chilterns. Diminuitive and fragile this species is a fitting plant to end the succession of orchids for this year.
Even if you have not got a grass tennis court...cut or is still worthwhile keeping a weather eye for these lovely little spikes.

Good hunting as always!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Helleborine how do you do!

Chris has prepared a table of previous records of Broad leaved Helleborine shown below. This should help with any planned searches



Grid Ref
Stockgrove Country Park CWS SP918292 6 June 2007
Kings Wood, Heath and Reach HS 30b. Ride SP92952950 17-Jul-2003
Kings Wood, Heath and Reach E side of ride to W of J-shaped lake. SP93122987 26-Jul-2005
Kings Wood, Heath and Reach E side of ride to W of J-shaped lake. SP93142990 26-Jul-2005
King's Wood, Heath and Reach SP92J 21-Jul-1946
Sandhouse Lane Pit (S) NR SP936298 9-Jun-1999
Home Wood, Potsgrove CWS SP955294 6-Jul-1980
Blackgrove Wood SP9723 27-Jul-1943
Blackgrove Wood SP9723 7-Aug-1945
Blackgrove Wood HS 52 - Rare SP97902362 27-Aug-1950
Bushycommon Wood CWS N side of ride. SP94023038 8-Jun-2004
Palmers Shrubs CWS SP981315 3-May-1980
Washers and Daintry Woods CWS SP995313 25-Aug-1981
Park Wood CWS SP933582 6-Aug-1980
Park Wood CWS SP932583 31-Dec-1980
Harrold Country Park CWS In spinney NW of cafe. SP958567 16-Aug-2003
Harrold Country Park CWS 7m W of pth, just N of visitor seating area SP954567 30-Aug-2004
Forty Acre Woods CWS SP943599 19-Jun-1979
Great Oaks Wood CWS SP965537 31-Dec-1980
Brownage and Louse Acre Woods CWS W of ride and one near track to E (on W of ride). SP965598 16-Jul-2000
Colworth House Side of Colworth House drive. The Swell SP988598 30-May-1995
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP989583 17-Aug-1986
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP993588 12-Jun-1988
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP991584 27-Jul-1991
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP95Z 18-Aug-1996
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP990584 31-Jul-2004
Felmersham Gravel Pits SSSI SP99205850 24-Jul-2006
Brownage and Louse Acre Woods CWS W of ride. SP964602 16-Jul-2000
Colworth Thicket CWS SP974612 14-Aug-1981
Colworth Thicket CWS Half-way along clearing, N of ride, on N side of ditch. SP972613 17-Jun-2000
Great Hayes Wood HS 3b - Rare SP96576185 16-Apr-1950
Great Hayes Wood CWS HS 3a. Ride SP96566184 7-Jul-2003
Great Hayes Wood CWS HS 3b. Woodland SP96556166 7-Jul-2003
Halsey Wood CWS SE of track from Halsey Farm, past two bends SP994612 11-Jun-2000
Caddington Local in woods TL01U 1882
Woodside on Mr. Brigg's farm TL01U 1911
Kidney Wood TL0919 8-Aug-1885
Luton Stockwood Park TL01Z 30-Jun-1888
Stockwood Park TL01Z 1888
Fancott Woods and Meadows SSSI Chalton Spinney TL026275 27-Jun-1980
Sundon Local in woods TL02P 1882
Bramingham Wood TL02S 1990
Great Bramingham Local in woods TL02S 1882
Wrest Park Grounds CWS TL09353525 24-May-1989
King's Wood, Houghton Conquest TL04K 1886
Wilstead Wood TL04R 4-Aug-1940
Wilstead Wood HS 34b - Rare TL073426 4-Sep-1950
Haynes TL04V 1886
Eastcotts Hammer Hill TL04W 1881
Wilstead Growing at the bottom of hawthorn hedge dividing arable TL087429 16-Jul-2000
Exeter Wood CWS portion in TL04X TL098443 30-May-1989
Oakley TL05B 1918
Thurleigh Woods, July, P. Rare. TL05P 1798
Thurleigh TL05P 1798
Great Wood, Ravensden TL064555 31-Dec-1981
Riseley TL06G 31-Dec-1994
Riseley TL06L 1875
Shillington Shillington Wood TL13B 31-Aug-1844
Cainhoe Drawing; as spider orchid TL13D 1840
Warden Great Wood TL14B 26-Jul-1864
Warden Great Wood CWS TL110430 30-May-1989
Warden Great Wood CWS TL110432 30-May-1989
Exeter Wood CWS TL100442 27-Apr-1980
Exeter Wood CWS TL100442 30-May-1989
Sheerhatch Wood TL14I 1795
Sheerhatch Wood Sheerhatch TL14I 1798
Sheerhatch Wood Sheerhatch TL14I 1798
Swiss Garden Woodland CWS Woodland and lake edge TL148447 31-Dec-1998
Bedford - Sandy Disused Railway Willington cycleway TL103502 20-Aug-2004
Bedford - Sandy Disused Railway TL10235025 25-Jun-2006
Bedford - Sandy Disused Railway Willington TL103502 10 June 2008
Willington Bridleway. TL10355024 27-Jul-2004
Bushmead Big Wood CWS TL11896027 21-Jun-2002

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Have a hell of a time! Helleborines to round off a busy summer

After much activity visiting our grasslands in searing heat and recording bumper numbers of  mid summer orchids the season begins to wind down to the gentle pursuit of helleborines in shady woodland rides.

Bedfordshire has recent records of three Epipactis helleborines to look out for and one other that used to occur relatively recently.


Marsh Helleborine.  Photo Richard Revells

Chris`s flora of the county records Marsh Helleborine as having been long considered extinct in the county but appeared in a wet flush in the sunken path on Bison Hill, Whipsnade in 1966 and was seen for about 6 years.
 It would be worth looking here again but also in the wet areas of our chalk or limestone quarries. I fancy Sundon and Houghton Regis chalk pits as likely locations..but any regularly wet flushed area, however small on chalky soils could hold this species.

The Violet Helleborine is just coming out with a record already received for Kings Wood, Houghton Conquest. Keep an eye out for this attractive plant in the Studham/Whipsnade area. Even a trip to the Zoo could reveal the purple tinged stems beneath trees on the top of the chalk scarp! look out for elephants though.
 But be prepared to see this plant in even small woods anywhere in the county. It can tolerate deep shade.
Here are two of Richard Revels` photos of Violet Helleborine.

Violet Helleborine..violet tinged stems and leaves. Lower leaves longer than wide.

Violet Helleborine

The Broad-leaved Helleborine is more likely to be encountered and  the most recent records are from woodlands on the Greensand ridge, north of the ridge and in the north west of the county. It does also occur in the south and could be found in almost any woodland or even on grassland that may have been recently scrubby, with colonies needing recording at Fancott wood and Felmersham nature reserves. Look for it at ride and path edges

Broad-leaved Helleborine. Photo Richard Revels. Note broad leaves  usually spirally arranged on stem rather than two rows opposite each other. Lower leaves as broad as is wide.

Broad-leaved Helleborine. Photo Richard Revells. Flowers may vary in colour with some almost wine red others green.

The Green-flowered Helleborine is a rare orchid in Bedfordshire but nevertheless worth looking out for.
 We have records submitted  already for the Barton cutting on the A6 in traditional areas, but the new woodland associated with the cutting may hold this species as it has some reputation of appearing in new locations and any woodland should be looked at in the Barton to Pegsdon area.

  The "Barton Caves" area on Old Road Barton being one old location.

 Grren-flowered Helleborine. Photo Richard Revels. Was also known as Pendulous- flowered Helleborine the flowers dangling on large pods. The flowers are frequently not as open as this and are self -pollinated.

Green-flowered Helleborine. Photo Richard Revels. Ovaries hairless

Green-flowered Helleborine with irregular clumps of cilia along leaf margin compared with an even fringe in other Helleborines.

A hand lens is useful here!

Good luck with your searches and i look forward to your records.


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Surprize Lizard....

Just when the mid summer flowering orchids are tailing off we have a Lizard Orchid.
Chris`s Flora records the last known sighting as 1953 in the Harlington/Sundon area.

While clearing an allotment some years ago the allotment holder noticed some unusual leaves. The clod of earth with the leaves were potted up to see what they were and taken home..the years passed...until this year when a flower spike emerged.

This splendid Orchid came from the Stotfold area and is in flower now. It is just possible that there may be overlooked plants in the area. If anyone fancies a walk of footpaths, grassy waste areas, road verges and chalky areas..perhaps the Blue could be rewarded with a lizard!..and instant fame.
If you like the smell of Billy Goat then you will like this  orchid! It can be very strong!
Good hunting!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Pyramid peak

Thank you everyone who have been out to fill in the Common Spotted Orchid gaps, we now have over 1100 Adnoto records for all Orchids in Bedfordshire.

Some unusual forms of Common Spotted have been discovered including this hybrid with Fragrant Orchid taken by Geraldine and Richard Hogg at Barton hills.

CSO/Fragrant hybrid
Alex Laurie also found the scarce Common Spotted variant rhodochila again at Barton hills.

Some plants of Common Spotted do very well and become robust, tall and have multiple flowering stems. Below is the "Beast" of Duck End  with over a dozen spikes.

Large CSO

Pyramidal Orchids are currently at their peak of flowering and some impressive colonies have been reported, some in their thousands with Sharpenhoe appearing to have more than its fair share!


Pyramids have done well on the chalk where previously cultivated land has been put back to grassland and large colonies have established themselves within 20 years. There will still be colonies to record of both Common spotted and Pyramid so please keep an eye out.

Bee orchid can also build up impressive numbers on land only recently used for agriculture and they can colonise amenity land as well as farmland, Churchyards and burial grounds where they can be mown in the name of tidyness when just at their peak.
 As the County flower of Bedfordshire they deserve better!

Magnificent Bees in  grassland adjacent to burial ground..sadly mown soon afterwards.

Frog and Musk Orchid are out in flower now so do keep a look out for these hard to find species.

Musk may be found in the Totternhoe area on previosly worked quarry land that has been colonised by chalk grassland, other quarries and chalky roadsides would be worth visits in the Sundon and Sharpenhoe area where there used to be colonies of this species.
Look out for the honey scented golden spikes only two to four inches high in the grassland..but watch where you put your feet..mine are much better at finding them than my eyes!

Musk Orchid clump.

Frogs are quite hard to spot as well and as they are usually small, green, occur on short grassland often close to paths are also vulnerable to being trampled.

We are fortunate in having several colonies on the western chalk but they are easily overlooked so if you visit  Dunstable to Whipsnade Downs or the Zoo please keep an eye out and record any that are found.

 Any record of pollinators of orchids or the swelling of pods indicating that pollination has been successful will be welcome.
Bees do well and have self pollination if not pollinated by an insect. Common Spotted and Twayblade have good seed production with many swollen seed pods but our scarcer species like Man and Burnt Orchid are showing low numbers of developing seed pods. Others may develop seed pods but are either trampled or eaten before seed is would be interesting to know how our species are doing.

As the summer flowering orchids start to come to a close we can anticipate the late summer flowering of the Helleborines.

Good luck!


Friday, 28 June 2013

CSO maps 2!.. Fill the Gaps

Common Spotted Orchid screen shots continued....
can you fill the gaps?

The South shows the Totternhoe block, but very sparse elsewhere with none yet entered for Blow`s down, Houghton Regis or Cottage Bottom.

Mid East of the County again shows a sparse coverage where there will be records up the river valleys and along footpaths.

Good luck with your hunting and lets fill some of these gaps!

Fragrant summer...

Thank you to everyone who have sent orchid records in on Adnoto. It seems to be a good year for Fragrant Orchids on the Chalk with some decent colonies at Barton Hills.
Common Spotted Orchids are doing well and  there must be even more that can be found.

 Below are some screen shots of Adnoto showing the location of records sent in as of yesterday for Common Spotted Orchid, you can see there are considerable areas with no records..i feel sure there will be plants along unexplored footpaths and trackways. Do get out and have a never know what else you may find!

The North of the county shows records on the road verges around Thurleigh and on the Nature reserve at Felmersham but large areas with no current records..footpaths and river side grassland are all worth a look now.

The South West shows a lot of records on the chalk ridge and at Totternhoe but a big gap around Woburn the M1 and Flitwick

The mid East shows again the concentration on the chalk but a large gap on the Greensand ridge and clay areas.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Bee prepared...

Yes! Bee Orchids are now out and about.

Time to check on those leaves you recorded earlier in the year to see how many have flowered.

Yesterday you were busy finding and recording orchids.
 We received 58 Adnoto entries recording over 3,600 flowering plants. Many of these were Common Spotted Orchids which are having a good year so far. Do get out and enjoy them.

Wilf Powell`s photo shows just how beautifull a good show of orchids can be.
Fragrant Orchids seem to having a good year also with good numbers recorded for Barton Hills, and i saw my first Pyramidal Orchids in flower yesterday.
Now is also a good time to visit any wet areas to see if there are any marsh orchids. They are in flower on Cowslip Meadow in Luton but because of the drainage of our wetlands are now scarce in the county.
Happy hunting!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Spots before the eyes....

At last our orchids seem to have decided they had better get going around the longest day before it gets too late.

Commom Spotted Orchid are now approaching their peak and there are some cracking plants and colonies that can be seen now...please send colonies in on Adnoto and dont assume someone else will!
Common spots at Whipsnade Downs
Fragrant Orchids are also mid way coming into flower now, look out for the long spurs at the back of the flowers as in this one below. They do not have spotted leaves and stand out amonst the common spotteds with which they may occur as appearing more delicate.
Other Orchids will be some time in coming into flower.
The Frog Orchids on Dunstable Downs are still being shy and will be another two or three weeks before they are more easy to find. Pyramid Orchid is only just begining to show some colour in their spikes and Bee Orchid wil be out in the next two weeks also.
 Frog Orchid leaves

Recording the presence and absence of our orchids is important to get an idea of the current distributions and population sizes. For our rarer orchids i am keen that we find out something about what is happening to their populations. Most have retracted their range in recent decades. Do they get pollinated and set seed? 
Our Wildlife Trust has been studying Man and Musk Orchid at Totternhoe. If pollination has been carried out then the seed pods enlarge as the seeds develop. 
A similar study of the Burnt -tip Orchids is important as in the last few years all the flowering plants have either been trodden on or eaten by rabbits before seed has been set.
Burnt -tip with three lower seed pods swelling indicating that the these flowers have been pollinated. The remaining thin seed pods have not and will quickly wither once flowering has finished

The Burnt-tips have had some plants protected from rabbits and feet with wire cages so we can learn if pollinators are present and seed can be set.
I am interested if you see swelling seed pods on the orchids you see and also if you see pollinators at work!
White Helleborine are now out in good numbers in places, look out for them particularly beneath Beech trees on the chalk. Although they can be out in grassland also.
White Helleborine
Happy hunting!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Good year for butterflies?

This little beauty was found close to Thurleigh yesterday.

Greater Butterfly Orchids can be found in woodland and grassland so keep your eyes out in woodland rides and wood edges especially on the boulder - clay areas of the county.

The flowers have long nectar filled spurs that are visited by moths to effect pollination...the flowers are scented at night so those with a keen sense of smell may be able to locate them by sniff!

These orchids appear to be able to survive without flowering for extended periods so it is worth following up old records. John Dony recorded it as frequent in our boulder - clay woods and rarely in open pasture. It has declined..or at least records of this lovely plant have that Chris Boon descibes it as rare in Bedfordshire...this year may be a good year to rediscover it in some old haunts.  Ancient woodland, old grassland, even road verges around Thurleigh, Sharnbrook, and other areas of boulder-clay and limestone are all worth a look. It should occur in woods on the chalk but there are no recent records.

The even rarer Lesser  Butterfly Orchid should also be out now...if in doubt take a photo of the flower looking in the "face" of the flower..the pollinia ( pollen bearing structures) are two parrallel bars in the Lesser but they are widely separated at the base but converging at their tips in the Greater.

If you find one...or even a whole wood or field full it would be a red letter day.!

Good hunting always

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Now it`s hotting up....


Image Steve Halton
June..or at least it should be..the first two weeks of June are usually the best time for finding our wild orchids. 
However this year does seem to be an exceptional one. June sees May blossom yet to reach its peak while the first Dewberry is in flower and Cow Parsley is still out. 

Steve Halton`s spectral Butterfly orchid drawn especially for our orchid survey should inspire us to get out now and look for this rare and declining plant.

Chris`s atlas records Greater Butterfly Orchid  to the north-west of the county as the remaining stronghold, with possibilities at Potton Wood and in the centre of the county . The even scarcer Lesser Butterfly Orchid was last seen in Potton Wood in around 1980, but may well be lurking awaiting discovery by some intrepid surveyor!  

Many of our commoner orchids are now coming into flower and I await a flood of Common Spotted and Twayblade records in the next week!.

 Bee Orchid, Pyramid and Fragrant will be out by the end of the week..if we get some sun at last . There is still time for someone to find Bird`s-nest elusive phantom of some of the darkest parts of our woods.
Records have continued to come in every day and a big thank you to everyone who has so far contributed..we hope you are enjoying the survey.

It does appear that this year is a bumper one for White Helleborine with probably over two thousand shoots visible in Tingley Field Plantation close to Pegsdon that are viewable from the permissive footpath to the Icknield Way.

Burnt Tip Orchid has had a good year so far with over sixty plants in flower. Some plants will have protection from rabbits this year in an attempt to get some seed produced..they have failed to do so in recent years.

Let`s see what the next two weeks bring..this should be the most exciting time to record your local orchids. Good luck everyone.