Bird’s nests and White Helleborines – orchids in the woods.

This uninspiring orchid may not be colourful, but it is extraordinary.

The bird’s nest orchid Neottia nidus – avis gets its name from the tatty shape of the root ball that looks like a bird’s nest . It gets all its nutrients from a fungal association with the soil and it needs no green chlorophyll at all. It makes no leaves and the flower comes straight up out of the earth in the late spring.

If the spike is obstructed when it is about to emerge, it can apparently flower and set seed underground, which is not fully understood and all the more disturbing for it!

It can be pollinated by a range of insects including very small creatures that can crawl over the flowers and carry away the pollen.

It is often found ( as this one was) close to the flowering stems of the large white helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium which also grow under beech trees in leaf litter.

The bird’s nest orchid and the large white helleborine both need nutrients from fungus that can only grow in deep humous rich leaf litter and so can sometimes be found in the same beech woods. The helleborine has green leaves and stem, but can tolerate deep shade, because of the extra food it’s fungal association gives it. The pure white flowers seem not open fully, but that is an illusion . Once one starts to look for them, at this time of year, their white petals flare up under the dark canopy of the beech trees and they can be surprisingly common.

Orchids in the grass.

I spent the day in a meadow which flowers above a roaring Swiss motorway and the grass was studded with orchids. Only rich countries can divert a motorway under such a wonderful habitat; but the wealth that paid for the diversion has been created by the very trade and the traffic beneath it and so one is struck once again by the seesaw of destruction and construction that is modern life.

So I ignored the sound of the traffic and revelled in the orchids above. The wonderful military orchids were just over and their seed spears showed where they had flowered just weeks before. However, the grass was now jewelled with the lipstick pink spikes of pyramid orchids, so bright they fluoresced in the sunshine. The first painted lady butterflies flew amongst them but refused to settle for a photograph.

We knew there were other orchids here, but missed them in the riot of colour of the red bartsia and the blue spiked speedwell. Just when we weren’t looking, or our eyes were turned to the side, we saw the little bee orchids.

Their flowers imitate the female bees to which the male bees are irresistibly drawn. Instead of bee copulation, the bee gets an undignified deelybopper of orchid pollen stuck on his head, which he then unwittingly carries to the next bee impersonating orchid and pollination takes place.

These orchids are small but beautiful and remarkably formed: a bit like Switzerland really!

Cats locked at home to save rare birds.

This article is in French about German cats and in the spirit of internationalism and Catdom I paraphrase it!

In one Southern German town cats have to stay indoors for months. They are not allowed out to stop them eating the rare crested lark during its breeding season.

I love cats and birds, who is right?!!

Insolite. Bade-Wurtemberg : un passereau menacé, les chats confinés !
— Read on www.dna.fr/insolite/2022/05/18/bade-wurtemberg-un-passereau-menace-les-chats-confines

It’s Columbine time.

The wild columbines in my garden are in their full glory.

I collected a few handfuls of seeds from plants in the forest on the ridge between my village and the border with Switzerland, some years ago. I chose a variety of colours, but they are all on the wild pallet of purple and pink.

Over the years they have self seeded in the shady parts of the garden and the variety of colours is amazing. Every year I try and photograph them and am always dissatisfied with the result. The flowers are down ward pointing and it seems impossible to capture their beauty and delicacy.

Some of the flowers have double and triple whorls of petals and I think their variation would have inspired Gregor Mendel to unlock the secrets of genetic variation in his famous monastic garden.

All types of bees visit the flowers . Here is a fat carpenter bee looking for nectar.

The bumble bees bite into the spurs of the flowers to reach the nectar faster and the next bees use the easy access too. You can see the bite holes in this picture.

The name columbine come from the Latin for dove and the shy down turned flower is supposed to look like a ring of doves’ heads.

Like all of the most beautiful things in life, they are transient. The warm weather will see them pollinated quickly and soon the patio will be painted with the bright confetti of their multicoloured, fallen petals.

For a sore back.

Long Live The Weeds
by Theodore Roethke

Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm! –
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marked by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, look, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I.

Calendar for your mouthful of the world.

I came across a wonderful article describing how the Japanese seasons are separated in to five day micro seasons, after ancient Chinese segments adapted for the Japanese climate. The segments are such marvellously subtle slices from the time when deer shed their antlers to when the bears go into their dens . From when the wheat germinates under the snow, to when the first cherry blossom opens.

It made me think about a calendar for my corner of the world from when Madame Charlotte’s walnut tree finally breaks into leaf ( third week of May ) to when the snails climb up the plant stalks ( driest time in late August) . There is the time when the first crickets sing at night, to the thickest dew on the ladies mantle leaves; the full moon when the moths don’t fly ( tonight !) to the time when the first slugs devour new the iris flowers ( tomorrow!)

I think I will work on my own 72 divisions, but it can’t be done right now as this season is undeniably the busiest of them all. It can wait until the garden seems asleep and there is nothing else to do. In the meantime, take a look at this wonderful list and maybe start to plan your own version for your own corner of the world, or maybe wait until the winter when the ice forms!

Happy Rikka.

https://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00124/

Changes ( for Carol)

Nothing stays the same and at this time of year the changes are so rapid that a blink and it seems as if you are in another country.

The blossom comes, the blackbirds sing ,

The leaves come and the blackbirds sing.

The grasses flower and the blackbirds sing,

Crickets puncture the night , after the blackbird sings:

And the first bat scissors the dusk,

And tomorrow the blackbird still sings .