mini meadow 2014 – common spotted orchids

I’ve promised myself that I would document the development of the mini meadow on our allotment… so a little series of posts that will be more natural history than art in content.

Until 2014 there had just been a couple of common orchid spikes up on the plot. These are showy and easy to spot even early in the season. Panthers in the undergrowth.

29 Mar 2014- Finding a second orchid growing alongside the lower one from last year . Red kite flying over about 11 o’clock going east..

photo 6th april

photo 6th april

One of the two spikes had doubled up, but looking like it might come from the same ‘tuber’. Don’t know if that’s possible.

Then on an even more micro meadow that I’ve got going in the garden I spotted what looked like another tiny orchid.

photo 7th april

The garden orchid – photo 7th april

Scouring the allotment meadow I then found another 10 or so of these putative orchids. Even more puny than this one.

photo 11th april

one of the 10 or so ‘baby’ orchids – photo 11th april

Searching online I couldn’t find anything that told me about the details of the common spotted orchid life cycle. In the end I stumbled on text in the emorsgate seeds catalogue that helped get my head around what might be happening.
the first few years after germination are spent underground… then in years 3-5 leaves will get above ground… years 4 to 8 finally flowering.
I think we’ve let the orchids flower for 3 years now (they were previously all getting unwittingly mowed off). They produce microscopic pollen which is dustlike. This then has to encounter a specific fungus to germinate and get nutrients. The first 3 years underground gradually forming some kind of tuber.
If the Emorsgate catalogue is right then the leaves as in photo above (they never amounted to much more than this) are probably in year 4 of the new plants existence and just starting to become more independent of the fungus.

2014-05-30 13.37.02

orchid spikes surrounded by yellow rattle

After they’d set seed I cut off the stalks and distributed the ‘dust’ both on the garden patch and the farthest flung parts of the ‘meadow’ hoping that they’ll proliferate…. but now knowing that the results won’t be apparent for at least 3 years.

With hindsight a bit annoyed with myself that I didn’t make more effort to sketch the way things developed on ‘the meadow’. As it was I got preoccupied with acrylic painting using stencils that in the end seemed pretty stodgy. Happier with the monoprints and learning some new ways of handling the ink in the process.

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy III - monotype - SOLD

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy III – – monotype –  sold

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy II - - monotype -

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy II  – monotype

150219-1 2014-06-20 09.47.50

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy - - monotype -

common spotted orchid & oxeye daisy – – monotype – sold