Orchids are some our most revered plants; beautiful, colourful and sometimes elusive. Like so much of our wildlife, orchids and the habitats vital to their survival have been significantly affected over the last 60 years by changes to farming practice, development and thoughtless collectors.
The MAGical Meadows project is asking for your help in recording three of the county’s orchids, Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata), Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). These orchids are largely associated with grasslands with base-rich (lime-rich) soils but due to habitat loss are now often confined to roadside verges, abandoned quarries, old railway lines and disturbed ground.
Bee Orchid and Pyramidal Orchid are both southern species, with Bee Orchid reaching its northern limit in our region. Twayblade was once more common in the county, but it is thought to be much scarcer reflecting the loss of both its neutral and calcareous grassland habitats.
All three orchids are easy to identify. Common Twayblade has two distinctive oval shaped leaves and yellow-green flowers. It can be found in an extensive range of habitats on neutral and lime-rich soils from late April to July.
Bee Orchid with flowers that resemble a fat bumblebee is one of our most recognisable orchids. Bee Orchids thrive on dry, lime-rich soils of grasslands, sand dunes, roadside verges, abandoned quarries and disturbed ground. It flowers June to mid-July but can prove to be elusive with populations fluctuating greatly from one year to the next (last year was a good year!).
Pyramidal Orchid as the name suggests has a distinctive pyramidal shaped flowering spike. Pyramidal Orchids are in flower mid-June to August in a wide-range of habitats including calcareous grassland, coastal grassland, old quarries, roadside verges and disturbed ground.
If you would like to take part in the MAGical Meadows orchid survey please pick up a postcard or enter your results at www.durhambiodiversity.org.uk. Further information is available from Michelle Appleby on 0191 584 3112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.