Painswick Beacon is a beautiful hillfort just south of Gloucester, so just a short trip from home. It is a mass of steep sided mounds and earthworks in dry crumbly calcareous soil, so perfect for orchid hunting. I went there yesterday in search of the Fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera) and hoping to see a few other things of interest as well. Now I know that I should have asked someone in the know for some direction on where to find the Fly orchids, they are 10cm tall and mostly green and it is a big site. But I didn’t, I enjoy the search and the thrill of discovery, except when it doesn’t work and I don’t find anything, and then I curse my arrogance and foolishness. Well, I walked around for some time, found some rather old Early purples, lots of Twayblades, a few Common spotted orchids in bud and then found an old quarry site. I thought the Fly might like to live on a very dry slope like that so I climbed up the scree and then up the scrubby grass above the scree and there it was, a single perfect Fly orchid.
I was perched on a very steep slope so took some pictures and climbed up to safety. I searched the rest of the slope and all the surrounding area but didn’t find another one. If anyone knows, please tell me, how many are there and where are the rest of them to be found?
The Fly orchid attracts a pollinator by mimicry in look, feel and smell, though it is not a fly, it is the male digger wasp that attempts to copulate with the flower and in moving from one flower to another will pollinate them.
At the bottom of the scree I found a large clump of helleborines, too early to identify, but probably Broad leaved helleborine. I shall return later in the year to look at these