Next time you’re buzzing around your lawn, watch out for bee orchids. These fabulous flowers have developed to look just like a bee, tricking our yellow and black friends into landing on it to mate – when, in fact, the flower is using the bee for pollination.
A turf expert with over 35 years’ experience, our guest blogger Ian Stephens is part of family-run business Lawn Master and offers lawn care services in Nottingham and Lincoln. Here, he talks about what draws him to bee orchids, and why your should keep an eye out for them in your own lawn.
During my travels managing lawns in Nottinghamshire, I’m always amazed by things that pop up unexpectedly. None more so than the beautiful bee orchid.
The perfect environment for bee orchids
In order to grow, orchids have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria in the soil. Conditions must be perfect for them to establish.
I was completing a lawn analysis for a new customer this month when I discovered the first rosette of leaves in it. With care these can be nurtured into thriving, albeit small colonies.
I used to look after grass on a roundabout sponsored by a company and found them growing there too!
We manage lawns for one hotel whose staff never knew a thing about orchids until they began using Lawn Master. Now, whenever I visit, their gardeners ask me to let them know how many I have spotted. I’ve even suggested that they hold ‘orchid-spotting days’ when they start flowering.
One of our customers has lots growing around the edge of their lawn, and has each one marked with a cane. Because of their interdependence with certain soil microbes/bacteria it is risky to dig them up and move them elsewhere in the garden.
How to spot bee orchids
Spotting these hidden gems is what makes our daily work as turf professionals so fulfilling. Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of experiencing Britain’s nature at its best.
Soon after starting work as a Head Greenkeeper in Sussex, I found a couple of flowering Autumn Lady’s-tresses, another member of the orchid family which is very delicate and not easy to spot.
Sensitive management of the area, a careful mowing regime and the support of staff and members enabled my team to establish a thriving colony of more than 100 plants which became a much-treasured aspect of the golf course.
So, you may want to look at little more closely at things growing in your garden, and if you are very lucky and have a professional like me managing your grass, you too could have your very own orchid colony to treasure at some point.