Orchidelirium

Blawhorn Moss NNR

One of my favourite aspects of working outside in nature conservation is that no two weeks are ever the same, especially at this time of year when new plants are flowering and others are disappearing over a matter of days.

Last week, as I was carrying out essential visitor checks at Blawhorn Moss, I came across something I had never seen on the reserve before – I was stopped in my tracks by an orchid. Before my student placement with SNH, I had never paid much attention to plants and wildflowers as I was usually too concerned with what was flying overhead or perching in nearby trees, and I had never actually seen a wild orchid before.

The common spotted orchid is actually the county flower of West Lothian so it seems fitting that that’s where I saw my first one!

Common spotted orchid

In that one day I came across quite a few orchids on the reserve and each time it was an exciting find as they really stand out in colour and shape against the backdrop of white grass.

Heath spotted orchid
Heath spotted orchid

After having my first taste of wild orchids, I can almost understand the Victorian era obsession with discovering and collecting new species of orchid, known as orchidelirium. Wealthy collectors would actually hire “orchid hunters” to track down exotic wild varieties all over the world and bring them back to Britain for collectors to display.

I’m not sure if I’ve quite reached that level of fanaticism yet but I will definitely be off out in search of some more!

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