A week or so ago you joined us on our walk to the spring, well today I am fulfilling a promise I made in that post and the subsequent comments. I’m sharing my orchid photographs. The first photograph, whilst not the best photograph as I didn’t see the brown stick until I was home, does give you a flavour of the quality and quantity of orchids to be seen and might help explain my ‘orchidelirium’.

Orchids everywhere

There are definitely two species but possibly more, how many can you see?

Orchidaceae are one of the largest families of flowering plants, in fact so large they are still counting! There are over 26,000 species, and for many of us they are one of the most wonderful wildflowers to spot whilst out walking. The ‘Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Algarve‘ lists 30 orchid species (excluding sub species and hybrids) and on this walk we saw about a third. I say ‘about‘ as a few I’ve yet to positively identify but all are native and wild so perfect for Jude’s garden theme this month.

We mostly saw ‘ophrys’ orchids on this walk, many of whom I think (as you will see from the galleries below) were hybrids. Heart close upIt is quite natural for these orchids to produce hybrids, and I am using that as my excuse for not being 100% sure on what they are! Ophrys are unique in another way – they are use pseudocopulation, that is, their flowers mimic female insects to such a degree that males are fooled into mating with the flowers, thereby pollinating them. In fact isn’t only insects that are fooled I was too! Do you remember a month ago we went to São Brás for the Flower Festival, well one of the amazing floral torches had bees on it. I was so impressed at the time that someone had created bees. It wasn’t until this walk though that I realised of course they had pinned Yellow Bee Orchids on the torch. I think there may also be a Bumblebee Orchid on the leaf or is it a Sombre Bee Orchid?

You can see why it is so confusing, even now on the 4th or 5th time of going through my field guide and looking at my photographs I’m not certain about the identification. They look so similar, and the variance in sepals, labellum, and speculum can be slight between species let alone the sub-species! Thank goodness I’m able to simply enjoy the beauty of these flowers rather than become stressed over the identification.

In preparing this post I spent, as I often do, a little time researching orchids, and one of the sites I came across shared 5 fascinating facts. Interesting how lists catch our eye! Anyhow one of the facts was that orchids have bilateral symmetry. Immediately of course I was off to look at my photographs to see if this was correct, and yes if you draw a line down the middle there is symmetry. Although with the serapias it was less easy to see the symmetry but then I realised most flowers have symmetry even if not bilateral!