On a recent walk up the hill from our house I noticed these two flowers hidden in the growth on the side of the road. My first thought was, I must go home for my trowel! But my second, and prevailing, thought was, these will never survive in our sunny garden; better just to leave them.
This one almost escaped my notice because of the unusually dark color of the flower. Isn’t it great?? How and why did it ever evolve into such an unusual shape? Why the ominous color? Is it a meat-eater? It reminds me of jack-in-the-pulpit’s evil twin. I was able to identify it – it’s called Aristolochia rotonda, which somehow doesn’t make me feel like I know it better than I did before. It’s not a name that’s going to stick in my mind, that’s for sure, though one of its nicknames, Fat Hen, might.
I so want this one to be an orchid, and I’m pretty sure it is, but I’m not positive. It has a smooth straight stem and lovely speckled leaves. It looks almost exactly like the picture in the book of Dactylorhiza maculata (Orchis maculata) – an orchid! – but the leaf arrangement on the stalk is a little different than my book shows.
Anyone know what it might be for sure? Whatever it is, it needs a catchier name than Dactylorhiza… Heath Spotted Orchid is mentioned on web sites, but something zippier, like Fat Hen, is required, no?
A week after the above walk we took another jaunt to the same general area. The flower immediately above was still in evidence, but the Aristolochi had faded into the general undergrowth. Instead we found this complex treasure:
It is Orchid Ophrys, also known as the Bee Orchid for its fuzzy shoulders and beguiling (?) face. According to the linked article this clever flower practices sexual deception to be pollinated. Unwitting bees think the flower is the bee equivalent of Marilyn Monroe and get all excited and dive in. The article suggests it is a chemical substance that attracts the bees, but I think it far likelier that it is the flowers demure lace collar above an obviously ample bust that drives them wild. Who knew there was such drama going on amongst the hidden treasures?
PS – an alert reader commented that there was a good article on Orchid trickery in the National Geographic. She was right. The article is here, and it’s fascinating. Thank you, Elora.