Orchid family

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Orchids are the most charismatic of our native plants, partly because most of them are difficult to find and partly because of their beauty. They are single-stemmed plants with striking spikes of flowers, usually two-lipped.

Orchids have very precise needs, which means they are good indicators of habitat quality. Often they are associated with particular fungi in the soil, which makes them difficult to transplant and to cultivate.

Common spotted orchids are still comparatively widespread, as are pyramidal orchids on chalky soils, which Essex has little of.

Green-winged orchids can maintain very large populations on suitable unimproved grasslands, but these are now few and far between. Bee orchids, by contrast, pop up all over the place when conditions are right, then disappear again for years.

Early purple orchid and broad-leaved helleborine can be found in a number of ancient woodlands in Essex, while some wetland sites have southern marsh orchids.

© Laurie Forsyth