Wednesday 21 June 2017

Bee Orchids get my vote

Encounters with nature can happen in the most mundane places... 
Naturalist and Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer Chris Durdin happens upon bee orchids on his travels through Norwich.

"Regular readers of NWT's  blog will know that I keep an eye on a surprising colony of bee orchids in Norwich city centre. You may be glad to have an update.

They appeared again, where they first grew nine years ago, at the Big Yellow Self Storage depot on Canary Way opposite Norwich City FC. The meadow in the city is looking good, with ox-eye daisies blooming beside the path as you walk between the tyre garage and Morrison’s supermarket. 
Ox-eye daisies Norwich, Chris Durdin

All credit to the team at Big Yellow: looking after their wild flowers has become a routine they have taken to with enthusiasm.

However the bee orchids are well down in numbers this year. A count of eight is well short of last year’s record of 30. I’m fairly sure that the dry winter and spring is the reason. I’ve seen this with orchids in several parts of Europe. Because they grow from a tuber, some will have the resources to flower in any season. However a wet winter or early spring gives that vegetative growth a boost. By contrast, when it’s dry many will stay dormant. 

My part of the deal, as it were, is to encourage some publicity. I met a reporter from the Eastern Evening News and, as ever, stressed that bee orchids are special here because of their city centre location rather than being rare. 
Bee orchid by the bus route, Chris Durdin
I had a second bee orchid encounter in a surprising place on Election Day. I was knocking on doors in North Norfolk – for Norman Lamb, if you were wondering. In a Sheringham front garden a swarm of bee orchids – I estimated 130 – was a glorious surprise. 

Up the road, three painted lady butterflies and a silver-Y moth were drawn to red valerian in another garden. These are both migrants, so this year’s weather patterns have suited them, in contrast to the Big Yellow bee orchids. The lady of the house was equally enthused and very happy to talk about wildlife rather than politics!"
Painted lady on red valerian, Sheringham Chris Durdin

Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks on

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