Monday 4 April 2016
They aren’t the most obvious or splendid of flowers, but during the past two springs I have been disconsolate at the disappearance of the little spider orchid (Ophrys araneola/litigiosa) from our orchard. They developed over three years from a few plants into a patch of about 50 individuals. During the last hard winter, we noticed small holes dug into the turf – and in spring a distinct absence of orchids. Perhaps some hungry animal – badger, perhaps – had sniffed out the protein-rich* bulbs and devoured the lot.
Last autumn we strimmed and mowed and pruned and planted until the orchard looked, well, quite how an orchard should. And the reduction in grass and brambles has paid off. Just yesterday Rob spied a small group of these lovelies. They are not spectacular – small greeny-yellow things about 15-20 cms tall – but they are among the first wild orchids to appear on our patch, so we are delighted.
Together with the first flush of Orchis/Anacamptis morio, we now know that spring is definitely here.
AND yesterday we heard the first hoopoe** of the year, that distinctive ‘oop,oop,oop’. We hope to have as good a view of them as last year, when they sunbathed on the lawn all afternoon***.
*Throughout their range in the Middle Ages, and still in the Middle East, orchid bulbs were/are dug up and made into drinks and purees for their health-giving and aphrodisiac properties.
**Upapa epops epops
*** I’m told that the ‘woman’/aka female hoopoe, sits waiting to be fed as part of the mating ritual, before agreeing to be cemented into a nest in a tree to incubate the eggs. I couldn’t possibly comment.