Friday, 15 June 2012

Orchid Hunting

Over the past couple of months the local weather, like the rest of the world’s, has changed we have come out of our two month winter and with a hop skip and a jump landed in Summer.  In between was spring, you could I suppose call it Spring light sprinklings of rain followed by glorious sunshine, perfect for flowers.

I have never really been one to actually go out and buy flowers, I enjoyed them when they were given to me and admired pretty flowers in the garden and out in the wild. I did live in a desert so outside of the realms of gardens there weren’t many flowers to look at.

Crete is quite different from the deserts of the Middle East, she has an abundant range of flowers in fact there’s always a plant in flower and some of them are really quite stunning. I must admit that my knowledge of flowers and plants is at the best of times quite limited, the other day I stopped to admire a bright purple flower in the shape of a trumpet growing along a fence, which ran through an olive grove. It took me quite a while to realize that it was in fact a rather overgrown weed!

 (Anacamptis Pyramidalis - Pyramidal Orchid)

We moved house in March from the beach to the countryside … all of five kilometers away. We moved so that the dogs would have a garden to play in rather than a balcony to watch other dogs play from.  This meant that we had to find new walking routes to take them on, which was a rather funny experience as I walked backwards and forwards across the countryside following tracks and trails that I was convinced would go somewhere interesting, which actually clearly did not. After a week of constantly getting lost I resorted to Google earth. Good old Google earth, the old fashioned part of me wanted to work everything out on my own, the ease of technology won out in the end. After twenty minutes of fiddling with the satellite maps I had a route that I printed out and eagerly took the dogs out for the fourth walk of the day, determined, this time not to get lost.

It was all lefts and rights, up and down hills and at one point past a large field filled with all sorts of animals, which one of my dogs decided were fair game – nightmare - eventually we came right and between the dogs and I we started to remember the route. The mission changed from try and find the blasted route to enjoy the walk and have a look at what was growing in the fields along the side of the road.

 (Anacamptis Pyramidalis - Pyramidal Orchid)

It was on one of my walks that I quite literally stumbled on a wild orchid, like my mother I have a particular soft spot for orchids. They are fascinating, the range of colours sizes and shapes they come in is quite mind blowing. These particular orchids were tiny, I don’t honestly know how I spotted them but they were there growing on the side of a hill. Convinced that I had found a look alike I went back out with my camera armed with at 150mm macro lens, which would prove exceptionally useful as the flowers were quite literally the size of the nail on my little finger, a magnifying glass would have helped.  

(Ariadne's Ophrys - Ophrys cretica ssp ariadnae)

(Ariadne's Ophrys - Ophrys cretica ssp ariadnae)

I took a whole load of pictures and sent them off to the only two experts I know, my mother and my grandfather! Who confirmed what I thought. This set me off in a frenzy, I knew that wild orchids grew on the island, I also knew that they only flowered provided the conditions were right and when they did flower they only did so for a very short time. That was about all that I knew, so not knowing how long they flower for or when they were likely to reappear I spent the next week orchid hunting.

I walked kilometers around the tracks and trails surrounding our house, the dogs for once, thought that this new obsession was really rather wonderful, their walks where extended from two and a half kilometers to around nine. As the best way to hunt orchids is on foot it seemed ridiculous not to take them, puffing and panting we would all arrive home to have a look at the photos. At one point I even convinced my husband to come with me up the mountains to have a look, the more eyes the better!

After a month or so, much to my disappointment, they all started to disappear leaving behind mere skeletons of their former selves. Sadly but unavoidably we will have to wait until next year to see them again. Though I still keep one eye peeled in the hope that somewhere out there, there might still be an orchid that has not perished under the sun’s rays. 

(Heroic Butterfly Orchid - Orchis papilionacea ssp heroica)

I have tried to find the names for the orchids in the photographs, however I am no expert and if I have given them the wrong names please let me know and i will correct them.

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