Early purples – a woodland or a meadow plant?

Early purple orchid

Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) is the first orchid to flower in my home county, Herefordshire. I live at the edge of the Woolhope Dome, which is a calcareous bump in the red clay of the county and I am lucky to have some lovely reserves and orchid sites nearby.

On a Sunday evening in late April I went out to see what I could find. Lea and Pagets Wood had dozens in flower alongside wood anemone and bluebells just starting to open.

Early purple orchid

Then I went up to one of the small wildflower meadows on the Woolhope Dome and there they were in amongst a mass of cowslips.
Sometimes they have spotted leaves and sometimes plain green. When they are growing in a meadow they are easily confused with the Green Winged Orchid, especially if it is a plain leaved plant, and you need to look closely at the petals to see which it is.

Early purple orchids

First orchid of the year

I’m really happy to find my first orchid in my own garden. This is a common spotted orchid coming up in one of the small meadow patches that I sowed about 5 years ago. There are quite a few, it’s great to see them there