Green winged orchids at Joan’s Hill

Green winged orchid

Joan’s Hill farm is a Plantlife reserve near me in Herefordshire. There are several fields of fantastic quality wildflower meadow and an ancient orchard. One field in particular has a host of Green winged orchid, several years ago a group of us counted 4-500 but there are many more since then and they are starting to appear in a couple of the neighbouring meadows in quite large groups.

Green winged orchid

A week ago only a couple of orchids were in flower and the meadow was yellow with cowslips. Now the yellow is dotted all over with bright purple. There are also quite a number of pale pinks and whites to be seen and on these the green veining on the sepals is much clearer.
They are wintergreen and have a short dormant period in late summer. The new season’s leaves appear in the autumn, so they can be vulnerable to overgrazing in winter when a hay meadow is normally grazed. Careful stock management is required to maintain a large healthy population.

Green winged orchid

It is pollinated by bees but doesn’t produce nectar, though it may offer them some sweet sugary sap instead (like the Early purple and Pyramidal orchids) which is some compensation for the deception.┬áThe Green winged orchid used to be common and widespread but changes in agriculture have reduced site numbers by 50% in the last 50 years and sites are still being lost.