On 29th June, I went to Fulbourn Fen to look for Orchids. Although this Fen is currently owned by the Wildlife Trust, it previously supported the large Dunmowes Manor in the Medieval period. This manor had a moat, used either for defence, keeping out wild animals, or the projection of high status. The Fen is now home to a high diversity of plants because the grassland on this site remains unimproved by fertilisers, pesticides or livestock.
|Woodruff Galium odoratum|
|Field Scabious Knautia arvensis|
|Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria|
|Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria flower|
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium also grew in this calcareous grassland. It has distinctive basal leaves, which are once-pinnate (i.e. each leaf is divided just once into opposite leaf lobes and each lobe is not divided a second time to contain another set of opposite lobes) as shown in the photograph below. Hogweed is roughly hairy on its stems and produces white or pinkish umbel flowers. This species is commonly found growing on roadsides, hedgebanks, grasslands and woodlands.
Another species, Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum, appears similar to Hogweed apart from being larger, growing to 3m in height, and having red spots on its hairy stems. However, Giant Hogweed is highly invasive and can cause rashes and blistering, by causing the skin to become overly sensitive to UV rays, so should be avoided. If found growing, Giant Hogweed should be removed by an invasive species specialist, as it is listed as an invasive non-native species under Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
|Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium|
|White Bryony Bryonia alba|
|Traveller's Joy Clematis vitalba|
|Black Bryony Tamus communis|
Then finally, after arriving at the Marshy part of the grassland, there were several Orchids. At this stage in late June, most of them, such as the Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa and Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula had gone over, and their flowers had wilted. However, some Bee Orchids Ophrys apifera, were still in vibrant flower. This species produces large several conspicuous flowers per plant, positioned up the stem. The sepals of its flowers are rosy pink to whiteish and slightly pointed, as shown in the photograph below. The lip of its flowers is reminiscent of a bee, being furry and rich-brown in colour, giving this species its common name. A pale-yellow U or W-shaped area is superimposed onto the rich-brown lip. The Bee Orchid grows to 10-40cm in height, with grey-green leaves which are elliptical-oblong in shape. Bee orchids tend to grow on calcareous grasslands, dunes, disturbed ground and quarries, and are an attractive botanical addition to all habitats in which it is present.
|Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera|
Rose, F., 1999. Indicators of ancient woodland: the use of vascular plants in
evaluating ancient woods for nature conservation. British Wildlife. 241–251.