Friday 22 June 2012

Lizard Orchids

The weather continues to be 'off-again, on-again' and can't seem to settle. The upside of this, far more watery, summer is the fact that everything is lovely, lush and green.
lizard orchid in full flower
We knew we had lizard orchids [Himantoglossum hircinum] dotted round and about; mostly ours grow under trees. This is slightly at odds with the information we found about the species which says: "This orchid grows in dry meadows, rocky areas, and open woods". Ours are most definitely found in well shaded places, like under our lime tree! In general they are considered to be a bit rare. However, here in the Touraine they are quite common and, being large, are easy to spot for non-experts like us.
largest lizard orchid in deep shade under our lime tree
Last year, because of the very dry conditions, only one flowered. This year we've found eight in flower and they are lovely. They are a delicate greeny-white with pale pinky labellums. Supposedly, they can smell quite unpleasantly of goat; but to be honest we can't say that ours do. Certainly we've not noticed any pungent smell. We also found a number of rosettes which haven't flowered, but they may well reward us next year [they are still quite small].
detail: pale pink ribbon-like labellum
Another consequence of all this rain is that the grass grows at an exponential rate! In order to combat this we have hired a contract mower to help us keep on top of things – Katinka :-). She's quite pleased with the arrangement as she gets paid in extra cat food!
can I have my extra cat food now?
Recently friends Tim & Pauline posted about one of their cats, which they caught eating ants and they had photos to prove it. That's certainly not a cat behaviour we had ever heard of! Although not so exotic, we noticed something a bit odd ourselves recently. Now, there's nothing odd in seeing a cat stalk and catch a butterfly. However, we did find it a bit odd when Shadow, having chased and caught a flutterby [no idea what kind, sorry] promptly ate it. He seemed to enjoy his elevenses. Sadly, it was all over very quickly and with no camera around we could not bring you photos. We'll keep an eye out and see if he repeats this behaviour when the camera is to hand.

If you wish to know more about orchids -or other flora and fauna- in the Loire Valley region then do have a look at the website Loire Valley Nature run by Simon & Susan of Days on the Claise.

If you click on the photos they will enlarge.


ladybird said...

That Katinka of yours is quite a character! Does she has a license to drive that mower!??? :))

the fly in the web said...

Ours grew under the planes by the river which was a pretty shady spot.
I didn't know about the supposed smell...didn't notice anything on ours.

I suppose Katinka is aware of the raise in the SMIC.....the cats' union is pretty good!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - you should see her zoom round the trees ;-)
She actually does sit on top of the hood when it's running impervious to the clattering noise it makes -- so we have to make sure she's at a safe distance when we start to mow. Once we starting mowing shee keeps her distance.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - no went and checked to make sure but ours don't smell. The one under the lime tree is in very dry, deep shade.

We had detailed negotiations with the cat union on pay and she's had appropriate health & safety training ;-)

Pollygarter said...

The lizard orchid is known as l'orchis qui sent de bouc - the orchid that smells of billygoat. Some people are more sensitive to the smell of goat than others - neither Tim nor I are goat-smellers! Genetic, apparently.
By the way, our female cat (unlike her anteating brother) ignores rodents and birds but eats moths and craneflies.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Pauline - interesting that it is genetic.
Must check if Shadow eats them as well...

Susan said...

Individual lizard orchids vary in their pungency. I have certainly encountered them with very strong and offputting scent, but mostly in my experience they don't pong. When they grow in the shade I wonder if it is the dry conditions they quite like, with light levels important only in terms of how robust a plant you get. In your case, the seed could have been there before the tree got so big too. Some orchids can pop up after many years dormancy as a seed.

Carolyn said...

Katinka is not the only cat who mows, apparently.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - the only difference we've noticed is the one under the lime tree has a more twisted flower spike whereas the others up by the woodpile/hammock chair are straight, and the flowers are more evenly spaced.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Carolyn - brilliant! They're obviously related ;-)

Vagabonde said...

I saw your name on one of the post from My Life in the Charente and came for a visit. I have never seen a lizard orchid before – it looks quite delicate. We planted some impatiens in pot in our backyard (we have so much shade that we can’t have a garden) then we traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, and when we came back home saw that some animals (I think chipmunks) ate all our flowers to the root system!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Vagabonde - welcome :-) hope you enjoy our blog.

We'd never seen any wild orchids either before we moved here. Wandering round we spotted this drak green rosette under the lime tree a couple of months after we moved here and asked friends who know about such things what it might be. They told us it was probably a lizard orchid.
We used to grow impatiens at one of our previous homes--it was very shady too.