Botany

Best Places to look for Wild Orchids in the UK



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Wild orchids are an amazing plant with brilliant colors that require certain conditions in order to grow. These perennial plants have a special relationship with fungus found in the soil and the seeds may spend months or even years in the ground waiting for the right conditions. Fifty-six different species of wild orchids grow in the United Kingdom but they aren’t found everywhere. Certain areas boast more of a certain type of orchid than others and some areas are just better all around for wild orchid growth.

Common spotted orchid – (picture link)

The most widespread wild orchid in the UK is the common spotted orchid. It grows in a variety of habitats from wet meadows, marshes, to dry grasslands. They are have also been known to spring up in very large numbers, up to 10,000 in a single area. The sites to find them include a number of reserves across London as well as two sites in Worchestershire, Knapp and Papermill.

Fragrant orchids – (picture link)

One widespread wild orchid is the fragrant orchid and there are three varieties: the common orchid, marsh orchid, and the heath orchid. The flowers of these orchids are typically a pink and they stand about 10-15 centimeters off the ground. Common fragrant orchids prefer chalky soil while heath and marsh orchids grow in the areas that the are named for. Typically they can be found by roadways, railroad banks, abandoned quarries, and stabilized dunes. Some places to find these orchids in the UK are Milford Cutting in Ulster, Miller’s Dale and Hartington Meadows in Derbyshire, and Catherington Down in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

Dark-red helleborine – (picture link)

The dark-red helleborine is a rarer variety of wild orchid that typically grows in rocky areas of limestone and perhaps on slopes or near the edges of cliffs in northwestern areas of Britain and Ireland. The best place to see them is the Bishop Middleham Quarry which is part of the Durham Wildlife Trust.

Tyne helleborine – (picture link)

The rare tyne helleborine is found in northern parts of Wales and England as well as southern Scotland. Probably the most unusual locations which have these orchids are contaminated areas that may have spoil waste and heavy metal contamination. The Williamston Reserve of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and the Beltingham River Gravels are two places that have these orchids.

Bee orchid – (picture link)

The bee orchid is so named because the flowers mimic the look of a bee landing on them. This orchid is probably the most recognizable orchid in all of the UK and is found in sunny dry grasslands. It can be found at the West Williamston Nature Reserve in Wales, Huctchinson’s Bank which is part of the London Wildlife Trust, and College Lake Reserve which is a part of the Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Monkey orchid – (picture link)

Characterized by white and purple flowers with, the monkey orchid is quiet rare and only found at three sites in the UK. Two of these sites are the Park Gate Down and Hartslock. The third site does not allow any visitors.

Military orchid – (picture link)

Similar to the fragrant orchid, the military orchid is found in chalky soils. Its purple and pink flowering is only found at three sites in the UK. One site is the Homefield Woods Nature Reserve in the Chilterns, another is in Suffolk, and the third is also in the Chilterns.

In addition to the listed orchids and places above, the Wildlife Trust of the UK has created a guide that can be downloaded free of charge and which contains the forty best places to find wild orchids in the UK. This guide can be downloaded at the Wildlife Trust’s website. The guide includes a list of what types of wild orchids are found, when the best time to go and see them as well as contact information for the sites.

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