Monday, 15 August 2016

Ghost hunting

Not far from where I live there's a small area of heavily shaded beech wood, that looks at first sight like there's not much there, but look closely and it is full of amazing surprises. I don't know who owns it or even what it's called, but it's a very special place. Bird's nest orchids, narrow-lipped helleborines and yellow bird's nests all grow there and in autumn some of the most wonderful fungi appear, including earthstars, coral fungus, deathcaps, horn of plenty, trumpet chanterelles and many more.
Doesn't look like much!
A few weeks ago I posted about the yellow bird's nests that were growing there and a couple of people commented that they are good indicators for ghost orchids.
There have been far more yellow bird's nests this year than last, with them
spread thinly across the entire site
Another indicator for ghost orchids is the presence of helleborines. Last year I counted 28 narrow-lipped helleborines in flower under the beech trees, but this year they've almost all been eaten. I think the slugs made the most of the very wet start to the summer!

Very sad to see these nationally scarce plants eaten!
I managed to find one very small plant that had survived, but it was much smaller than the plants I found last year and had almost gone over.
The only narrow-lipped helleborine that had survived
being nibbled (that I could find)
The holy grail of orchids, ghost orchids are listed as critically endangered and are one of our rarest wild flowers. They have only been recorded in two regions of the country, one of which was in the Chilterns near Marlow (which is about 15 miles away from us). They were last seen locally in the 1990's and can go for 20 - 30 years between flowering. They're tiny and grow in deep shade so are very easy to overlook, sometimes only flowering underneath the leaf litter.

I told Bug Mad Girl about ghost orchids and she got very excited and decided we could definitely find one (you can't fault her optimism!) It is extremely unlikely that a ghost orchid would actually flower in this wood, but you never know, so we couldn't resist going out a couple of time to search for them.
Bug Mad Girl hunting ghosts!
We looked and looked, but had no luck. Who knows though ... maybe next time ... and wouldn't that be something!

You can find out more about the organised search for ghost orchids and see some pictures of them at

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen my ghost orchid pics from my French adventure (part 7)last month? Didn't see them myself but my group did.