We have been noticing a number of different orchids on our sites recently. Here are a few we have come across on the Durham Coast recently…

Twayblade orchid (Listera ovata).

The twayblade is probably Britain’s commonest and most widely distributed orchid. The flowers are often overlooked as they are green in colour.  It is found throughout Britain, usually preffering soils which are rich in lime. Its name comes from the two broad leaves (tway blades) at ground level.

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).

Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula).

As its name suggests, the early purple orchid is one of the earliest flowering orchids (appearing from April to June).

According to the early Greek physician Dioscorides, this plant was used by married couples in Thessaly to determine the sex of their future children. If the men ate the large tuber, boys would be born; if the women ate the small tuber, they would be blessed with girls.

For centuries, the plant has been associated with love and reproduction, and until fairly recently it was employed as a love potion in Ireland and the Shetland Islands!

The plant was also said to grow beneath the Cross, and the spots on its leaves have been explained as drops of blood which fell from Christ when he was crucified.

A hybrid Marsh orchid, possibly Dactylorhiza x venusta.

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera).

This unique orchid, which can take 5-8 years to flower (!) was spotted at Warren House Gill.

Why is it unique? Well, this orchid amazingly mimics a bumble bee resting on it, taking nectar. In fact, the ‘bee’ is the beautifully marked lip of the flower, and this elaborate charade has the purpose of attracting a real bee, which will bring about pollination (in the case of British bee orchids however, unlike other European species, this ruse is nearly always superfluous – the plants usually pollinate themselves!).

*NOTE – If you happen to spot orchids on any of our sites, we would love to hear from you!


Chris | National Trust

Chris | National Trust


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