If my memory is correct, we first saw our house here in SW France 21 years ago today. The weather was glorious, as it has been recently – very welcome after a gloomy few months. In 1997, we noticed in particular the virtuoso song of the nightingales, the clarity of the night sky and the abundance of wild flowers in the fields and by the roadsides. Among these, wild orchids grow particularly well in our region at this time of year.
We have good and bad orchid years, which is no doubt a reflection of the weather during the preceding months. This year appears to be a good one. Our field and our back lawn are covered with clumps of early purple orchids (photo at the top of the post), around which we have to slalom with the mower for a few weeks until they die down.
Around 50 varieties of orchid are said to grow in our département, Tarn-et-Garonne. The best time to see them is in late April/early May. There are places in the area where the conditions are particularly favourable for orchids and you can find up to 20 varieties in the course of a walk – and if you know what you are looking for.
One of these is on the last outcrop of the Massif Central, just before the land slopes downwards towards Septfonds. The terrain is composed of an odd whitish, rather sticky soil, which clings to your boots after rain and hardens like concrete. Another good place to find them is on the hillsides just over the border in Aveyron, above La Rouquette.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on these plants, but I have taken a number of photos of them during walks, or simply around our garden. They are taken only with my small point and shoot camera, so they are not brilliant quality, but they give you some idea of the delicacy and variety of the flowers.
I have attempted to name them from various books and websites, but please let me know in the comments below if I have got any wrong.
An orchid that imitates the form of its pollinator, the bee.
Below is a rather pathetic specimen, which has flowered after being accidentally mown over. I always thought this was a bee orchid, but my researches show that it’s more likely to be a woodcock orchid, Ophrys scolopax. The two orchids are rather similar. Anyway, let me know if you don’t agree.
This one, the Violet Limodore, can take up to 10 years to germinate, apparently. The photo shows one in the process of budding, and you don’t often see the flowers fully open.
You’ll find more pictures of orchids that are common in France here.
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