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Pyramidal orchids


by Richard Jones

I've commented before that I don't think 'wildlife' should refer to animals only. It should also include plants, even though most wild plants are referred to as weeds...


Pink pyramidal orchids, Anacamptis pyramidalis, growing in long grassI've commented before that I don't think 'wildlife' should refer to animals only. It should also include plants, even though most wild plants are referred to as weeds when they turn up in gardens. I wonder what the owner of the garden in East Dulwich, pictured left, makes of the wild plants turning up in the rough lawn; they are pyramidal orchids, Anacamptis pyramidalis.

I was entranced to find them growing here. They are usually chalk downland plants, and they take me back to my childhood at the foot of the South Downs in Newhaven, Sussex. This was one of the easiest orchids to recognize, with its deep pink flowers set in a tight conical spike, and it was a regular sight on the steeper, more roughly grazed slopes.

My underlying geology now is heavy London clay about 30-50 cm down, and nothing like the well-drained calcareous or sandy soil indicated by the textbooks. But I know, from personal experience, that local gardens are often full of rubble, and as well as improving the drainage, much of this will be laced with old lime mortar.

This isn't the first time I've seen pyramidals hereabouts. Three years ago I found a lone spire growing from the lawn of the local church, St Clement with St Peter. The present church was built in the early 1950s. The original was bombed during World War 2, and I suspect much of it is mixed in with the local topsoil. It's heartening to know that the debris of a bygone era is now helping local wildlife to thrive.



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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:39

At Tyntesfield (a National Trust Property) there are Lady's Tresses orchids in the lawn which they made from there own turf. Orchids are amazing in their ability to find a suitable home and stick to it-no climbing the property ladder for them.