June is Orchid month.
About a dozen species of orchid have been recorded in the Observatory’s Recording Area and June is the peak month for the flowering of most of this fascinating and spectacular group of plants.
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris L.), is now probably extinct elsewhere in Kent after the destruction of the only other known site in Swanscombe in North Kent some years ago. This is a species of damp slacks in the dunes on the Estate and on parts of the golf courses.
Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata L). is local in the area, but often numerous where it does occur. It has been known for many years from its main site on the Estate, in the Little Gully, but also, more occasionally, from other sites including Stonelees.
Pyramidal Orchid (Anacampsis pyramidalis L.) is a familiar and widespread plant of sandy pastures, fixed dune and roadside verges throughout the Recording Area and especially on St. George’s Golf Course. In some years the number of spikes can be counted in their thousands and white forms are reported in most years.
Chalk Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea L.) is a much more scarce species in the area. It has been recorded in the past from Princes Golf Course, with records continuing intermittently to the present day from the same general area.
Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza uchsii Druce) is another very local species in the Bay area and there have been controversies in the past over its identification here! In contrast, at Stonelees, the species can be numerous in good years.
Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa Druce). A common and often abundant plant of damper dune slacks throughout the Recording Area, from Stonelees, the KWT Reserve and southwards across the golf courses to the Estate, (where it has appeared on new sites in recent years), and down into the Lydden Valley. Numbers vary from year to year but in good seasons the total numbers of spikes from just single sites within the Recording Area can be in excess of ten thousand. The D. praetermissa var. junialis variety of the plant, (‘Leopard Marsh Orchid’) is recorded in small numbers in most years.
Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora L.) This is a scarce, local and infrequent species at the Bay which has been recorded intermittently over the years from areas on and near the Estate.
Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum L.) Another spectacular species which is quite local within the area but often very numerous where it does occur. It is a nationally rare plant but in our Recording Area it is a familiar, and in some good years a very common species in the south-eastern corner of the St. George’s Golf Course and adjacent areas of the Estate, also along the roadside verges there. In good years the total number of plants may number in their thousands and the population may well be increasing with new sites being colonised such as in the Middle Field and the Little Gully. Slightly further afield, it also now occurs on the roadside embankment of the Ramsgate Road near the junction with Monk’s Way and along Monks Way itself.
Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera Huds.) A local plant in the area but sometimes numerous at favoured sites. It is best looked for on the south-eastern side of the St. George’s Golf Course, favouring the sides of ditches or depressions and roadside banks, and also at Stonelees and at the site of the old hoverport in Pegwell Bay