Sunday, 17 May 2015

Dancersend Fly Orchids

Today we decided to head over to Dancersend, another BBOWT reserve, to see if we could find the Fly Orchids that grow there. We searched around for a while and found lots of Twayblade in flower, some Greater Butterfly Orchids in bud and Common Spotted Orchid leaves, but there was no sign of the Fly Orchids.
I have to admit none of us had seen one before, so we were relying on photos that we'd seen of them. It felt a little bit like we were looking for a needle in a haystack! Then we decided to follow the tracks through the scrub in the hope that somebody in the know had been there ahead of us. Nanny Moth had her eagle eyes on today and spotted several of them in a small patch.

They were much smaller than I was expecting, only about 10cm tall with a flower the size of a finger nail. The flowers resemble flies sitting on the slender stalk. The dark purple lip of the flower is the hairy body of the fly, with two bright eyes at the base. The blue band across the body shines like folded wings and two small brown petals look like antennae.

The plant doesn't produce any nectar, instead it gives of a scent that mimics the pheromones of a female wasp. Along with the appearance of the flower, the male wasps are fooled into trying to mate with the flower and inadvertently pollinate it.

We were all thrilled to find them as it would have been so easy to miss them.

There was lots of Twayblade in flower. It may not be the most glamorous orchid, but is still very pretty when you look closely at it

There were lots of Common Spotted Orchids, that you can identify by their animal print leaves. They should flower in a few weeks. We also saw what I think is Greater Butterfly Orchids in bud.
Common Spotted Orchids

Greater Butterfly Orchids (I think)
We even found a mystery - In the woods, protected by wire, were several plants that looked similar to Twayblade but with three leaves instead of 2 and a stalk raising the leaves off the ground. I'm not sure what this was, but it's quite exciting to be able to go back in a few weeks and see what it turns into.

Another great morning, with a new orchid seen and the promise of lots of lovely orchids to come. We'll upload the photos to the Orchid Observers project tonight.


  1. What amazing orchids! How many species have you seen so far this year? What's next on your orchid list? Funny that you found orchids on the same day I bought a good ID book on them at the Norfolk Bird Fair, where I met Bill Oddie today.

  2. They're brilliant, but much smaller than I was expecting. We could have missed them very easily. I've seen Green-winged, Marsh, Early Purple, Twayblade and now Fly orchids. Hoping to see quite a few more by the end of the summer though!
    Did you speak to Bill Oddie? What did you say to him?

    1. I did and he looked at my wildlife diary, jokingly saying that "it would take him all day to peruse through it". He loved it.