Showing posts with label wildflowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wildflowers. Show all posts

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Varieties of orchids at Gamone

This morning, once again, I strolled up along the road at Gamone to admire our splendid wild orchids, while attempting to identify as many as I could. In yesterday's blog post [display], I indicated the presence of many Monkey orchids (Orchis simia). I picked a few specimens and brought them home to be photographed. The monkeys in the following specimen have dark purple paws:

[Click to enlarge images.]

In another specimen, the monkeys are pale and slender... and the fellow at the bottom has an erection!

I don't know whether they're two slightly different varieties, or whether the first plant is simply more mature than the second. In the following specimen, probably a Military orchid (Orchis militaris), the form still has arms and legs, but it's more like a woman in a bulky skirt than a monkey:

I haven't been able to identify the following fine specimens, whose flowers have the form of a person wearing baggy pants, but they might be Burnt-tip orchids (Neotinea ustulata):

In various places on the slopes above the roadway, there are entire walls of Pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

From a distance, you might mistake each plant for a single flower. But, when you examine them more closely, you realize immediately that each pyramidical head is indeed a group of orchid blossoms.

The larger flowers at the bottom reveal the typical asymmetrical form of each orchid blossom, composed of three small sepals, two small petals and a large third petal, double-lobed, called the labellum.

Finally, the most exotic orchid specimens I discovered at Gamone were members of the Ophrys variety, whose labellum looks like a large insect.

I examined this specimen from every angle, and compared it with photos on the web, in an attempt to identify the exact variety.

I concluded that it could well be an Ophrys fuciflora (Late Spider-orchid), or maybe an Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchid).

Click here to access an excellent website with examples of many wild orchids. Incapable of identifying with certainty my Ophrys specimen, I decided to contact the creator of this website, Philippe Durbin, who's an expert on French orchids. Here's an English translation of his reply:
I can understand your problem, because it's not obvious! I would imagine a hybrid between Ophrys fuciflora and Ophrys apifera. No certainty, however. See if you can find its parents in the vicinity.
Trust me, on my initial orchid excursion, to find a puzzling specimen! Now I'll have to wander back up on the slopes and look around for the mum and dad of this orchid love child. Why couldn't they simply procreate in a hermaphroditical fashion, like most self-respecting Ophrys orchids? Or with the help of a bee, like those queer orchids that get a kick out of bestiality? Maybe the parents of my puzzling orchid specimen had heard of "the good effects of intercrossing" in a book published in 1862 by a celebrated English naturalist.
Charles Darwin: On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing.
Click here to access this surprising document, which proves (if need be) that the great Charles Darwin was indeed an amazing observer and scholar.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wild orchids and an exotic moth

Yesterday afternoon, when I gazed towards the east from my bathroom window, I was quite excited by a tiny band of clear white sky that seemed to be peeping over the mountain ridge at the far end of the valley. Would this be a harbinger, at last, of the fine warm weather for which we've been waiting for weeks and weeks?

Well, it wasn't, because rain soon started to fall. Consequently, there hasn't yet been a slot of two or three days of sunshine to dry out the patches of turned-up earth, alongside my house, that are destined to be my vegetable garden.

I've got a great little rotary tiller, which I've been using over the last week or so, but this kind of machine is not very efficient in soggy soil.

Ideally, the soil should be so dry that it crumbles apart as soon as clods get hit by the revolving blades. But that's hardly the case for the moment. Meanwhile, the landscape around Gamone is sumptuously green. On my daily walks up along the road with Fitzroy, I've admired glorious patches of wild orchids, which apparently appreciate the damp overcast weather. One of the common specimens that is growing in abundance is the Monkey orchid (Orchis simia), which gets its name from the four mauve lips of the flower, which look like a tiny monkey lying on his back, in the middle of the flower, with his outstretched arms and legs in the air.

On one such orchid, I found a superb specimen of a Five-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena trifolii), which had probably emerged only recently from its cocoon. I succeeded in bringing it home with me, nested in a small bouquet of orchids and wild roses.

Normally, the larvae of this insect (called a zygène du trèfle in French) are supposed to thrive on a common form of wild flowering clover called Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus). Clearly, my specimen has refined tastes, since it prefers to dine on orchids.