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Some wild orchids are becoming rare among Britain’s wildflowers

Posted in Nature, Plants, Wildlife on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

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This edited article about wildflowers first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

English meadow,  picture, image, illustration

The Flowering Fields, including grey wagtail, red cardinal beetle, field vole and various varieties of grass and plants including the Southern Marsh Orchid (top row, far right); picture by Bob Hersey

June is a wonderful month for all Nature lovers, and for the botanist it is the most interesting time of the year because it is now that some of Britain’s most fascinating flowers appear. Among these are the wild orchids with their delightful colours and strange, beautiful shapes; and of the forty different kinds of wild orchids growing in Britain, the Bee and Fly orchids are particularly intriguing.

The large lip of the Bee orchid is deep brown with yellow markings and resembles a large furry bee. The three sepals are bright pink or lilac and as many as a dozen flowers may be found on a single stem.

The Fly orchid although equally common is more difficult to find because it grows in shady areas and its flowers are smaller and less conspicuous. The lip of this flower is chestnut brown with a white or blue crescent in the centre. The two upper true petals are reduced to thin stalks which look very like the antennae of a fly.

It is a sad fact that many of Britain’s native orchids are becoming rare because people pick them not realising that unless they are given a chance to set their seed they will die out altogether. So next time you come across one of these beautiful flowers in the countryside, try to resist the temptation to pick one. It may look lovely in your home, but it will bring joy to a great many more people if you leave it where it is.

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