Orchids on the Lots

Green-winged orchid

Green-winged orchid

For some reason I’ve often be confused by the fact that these two orchids can be found flowering in close proximity to one another at the same time on the Lots.

But really, it’s not hard to tell them apart. The green-winged orchid is diminutive, has leaves without spots, and has those distinctive green stripes on the flowers.

Early purple orchid

Early Purple Orchid

The early purples, on the other hand, are often quite tall, intensely purple (much more so than these pictures suggest), have heavily spotted leaves and those extravagantly long and thin nectar spurs at the back of the flowers.

So, it seems that I have learnt something. I have also recently discovered that early purple orchids smell of cats pee, which apparently is attractive to bees (but I can’t see why that would be the case), and that those long spurs are in fact just a tease, the orchids don’t produce any nectar and are conning the bees into pollinating them.


More about early purple orchids:


Orchids on the Lots

5 thoughts on “Orchids on the Lots

  1. What a sneaky flower, conning the bees like that! Maybe it’s not so much that bees like the smell of cats pee as that the stink helps them find the flower, smell is quite a large part of finding forage and perhaps even more so in bumble and solitary bee species, which I believe don’t waggle dance.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Hi Emily,
      It wouldn’t make much sense for the flowers to be imitating cat pee, would it? I don’t understand what the advantage is – apparently bees aren’t fooled for long – why not just get on and produce nectar? Disappointing to think that even in nature there are spongers and confidence tricksters!

      1. beatingthebounds says:

        On the subject of bees and scent – I was out tonight for a saunter (which will appear on a blog near here, but perhaps not for a while) with B. We walked past a row of hawthorns (trees, not a hedge) all in full bloom. One, and only one, of the trees was humming loudly and was clearly very busy with bees. Presumably one bee had found this particular tree and then sent the rest using a waggle dance, hence the relative quiet at all of the other trees.

  2. Maybe it’s the cat’s pee that smells of early purple orchids, rather than vice versa, and in the cat world this is considered an exquisite perfume: ‘Eau d’orchid’ from the House of Garfield.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      That’s not only very funny, it makes as much sense to me as the idea that the flowers might be imitating the smell of feline urine. I know that Arum lilies smell pretty bad, but they’re after flies not bees.

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