Aceras anthropophorum: The Man Orchid is very rare in Britain and it is classified as endangered. There are only four sites in Suffolk where it can be found and three of these sites are on Roadside Nature Reserves.
Last Sunday was a red letter day for me because I have been searching for this orchid for the last couple of weeks in the areas where it is supposed to grow, without any success . On Sunday, I got lost on a narrow country lane and I stopped when I saw this marker sign.
It is always worth having a look when you find these signs as they are there to protect rare flora or a stretch of verge which is species rich. I couldn’t believe my luck, I had got lost and found exactly what I was looking for, by accident; the elusive Man Orchid!
If you look at it carefully you can see how it got its name. The flowers look like little men, with the petals and sepals forming the head and the dangling torso and limbs are formed by the lobes of the labellum.
Sometimes the flowers are tinged with red but as you see, this one is almost uniformly yellow apart from a narrow red stripe. It grows in chalk and limestone grassland but I don’t think it has ever been common in Suffolk. In any case, most of its habitat was lost when chalk pastures were ploughed up.
Suffolk was the first county to introduce Roadside Nature Reserves which are the last refuge for some of our rarest wild flowers. Many other counties now have them too. It is sad that our flower rich meadows have been reduced to roadside verges but at least they are now protected. Many orchids and other rare plants were lost due to the indiscriminate use of weed killers in the 60s. Now these verges are managed and they are cut at the appropriate times to give the plants the best chance to set seed and survive. The Man Orchid is pollinated by beetles and sawflies but it never sets much seed and so it is always going to be rare.
I am joining in with Gail’s monthly meme Wildflower Wednesday which is a wonderful way to share our native flora. If you love wild flowers why don’t you join in on the fourth Wednesday of each month? If you pop over to clayandlimestone you can see other peoples’ photographs of their native wild flowers. I follow several blogs where people love and value their local wild flowers, so please join in.