Please vote for the Students working for rainforest conservation and educational equality

Six Students (Rainforest DRAGeN Project) at Mendip Studio School are in the finals of the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize.

Watch their video here and vote for their project winning the ‘peoples vote’ here

Winning the people’s vote will give the team the cash they need to set the project in motion. (you will need to scroll down the page of projects to Rainforest DRAGeN Project)


Orchid Hunting in Kent – Part 1

After studying in Canterbury for the past three years, it has been a point of personal embarrassment to me that up until this spring I’d never before seen a wild orchid in Kent. For those new to the blog, I studied at Writhlington between 2010 and 2017 and was part of the orchid project for all but a couple of months at the start, in my time I did travel with the project to see plenty of native orchid species, but given I’ve been living in ‘The Garden of England’ I should have seen some sooner. Also given that I’ve spent the past few months working through spreadsheets and books full of Kent’s native orchid species I really had no excuse this year. These ramblings about my ramblings will be split into two parts, part two will follow shortly.


My first few trips happened in late April, to two different sites looking for some of the earlier flowering species. First up was a trip to the Wye downs, an area of downland just outside the town of Wye. Having seen photos of the Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) starting to flower around the county it seemed like a solid first target. Arriving at the Wye Crown, a site where my research species was previously found, it didn’t seem like the usual Orchis baring sites, having signs of recent livestock grazing. I persevered on however, and a few hours later, having surveyed most of the site with only one suspected orchid (this later turned out to be a bluebell, not my finest piece of identification) it was time to leave. Leaving via the South-West entrance I shortly found myself looking at the entrance to the Wye Downs NNR, it had in fact spent the day looking in entirely the wrong place. This is a theme that would run through a fair few of my orchid trips.

The next day I had higher hopes as I boarded a train to Dover. Having seen a few photos of the Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys sphegodes) in flower on the cliffs around Dover I had identified a site and a landmark that should hopefully make this trip a little more successful. The site in question was the National Trust’s White Cliffs site, directly above the Dover ferry port. Sure enough I found two clusters of about a dozen plants growing right on the cliffs edge, some only a few inches from the edge. These ranged from plants 3-4 inches high all the way down to one that was barely an inch tall. Moving around them and taking pictures was a fair task, having to avoid a few, yellow-green flowers only a couple of inches off the ground, manoeuvring my 6’ 4” frame and size 16 boots around them was no easy task.

The next week I was determined to head to the correct site at Wye and try and find some Early Purples. Sure enough, heading into an area known as the ‘Devil’s Kneading Trough’, I can only assume this is due to it’s extremely steep slopes. Sure enough, once I was on the correct site, they were not too hard to find. A little delayed on this chalk grassland site compared to the woodland colonies around the county, probably due to the cold winds we were having blow through at the time.


I only managed one trip through May, but I made sure it was a good one. Moving from some of Kent’s chalk grasslands to one of it’s more famous woodland sites. A few miles from Canterbury is the woodland Nature Reserve of Yockletts Bank. I’d planned to visit this site to try and see both the Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera) and Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea), once I arrived it didn’t take me long to tick them both off the list. It’s been a good year for the Lady Orchid in Kent, and this site was no exception, in my short time there I saw a few hundred of them, mostly in  the scrub-like woodland found on site. Ranging from paler coloured forms all the way to a heavily pigmented individual growing in full sun. The plants here averaged around 18” tall with large, robust leaves growing at the base of the inflorescences.

The Flies were a little harder to find, delicate green flowers with the characteristic lip of an Ophrys species. But sure enough they were there in good numbers, much smaller, with finer flower spikes than I anticipated.

Much more subtle than the maximalist Lady Orchid, but just as interesting, this included one plant with 10 open flowers and still a few buds. The site also provided the almost obligatory Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and a few, lingering Early Purples, as well as a couple of species not yet open, that I would come back to in a few weeks.


Bulbophyllum thorium – 365 days of orchids – day 1632

We have two clones of this gorgious small growing bulbophyllum and the two coloured form is out today.


Bulbophyllum species add real interest and diversity to any collection and this small growing species from South East Asia with masses of deep red flowers with yellow tips to the sepals on a miniature plant is a real stunner.

The species is reported from 600-2000m but with us it and this clone seems to enjoy warm conditions in our Warm Asia section.

Our other clone is a deep red (below) and seems to prefer growing a little cooler.



Trichoglottis rosea – 365 days of orchids – day 1631

Trichoglottis rosea is the largest of our Trichoglottis species with alternate leaves along a thick stem, it has long lasting flowers, unusual in that they are produced in profusion and much smaller than other trichoglottis. The flowers are also really fragrant.

Trichoglottis rosea is native to the Phillipines and Taiwan where it grows in lowland forest. This habitat is much cooler than the Borneo home of Trichoglottis smithii and so we grow Trichoglottis rosea in our Cool Americas section (min 12C).

The plant seems to prefer to grow pendulously and so we grow it both mounted and in baskets.


Miltonia flavescens – 365 days of orchids – day 1630

This unusual orchid species is found in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Peru, as an epiphyte at around 800m making it a little warmer growing that our Cool Americas section, and a little cooler growing than our Warm Americas section so we have tried plants in both sections, and in our experience plants prefer to be grown cooler and wetter in a free draining.

The flowers are a really unusual cream colour with attractive red spotting on the lip which bring to mind the flowers of Brassia species (se Brassia verrucosa below) which is pollinated by spider hunting wasps so I wonder if Miltonia flavescens has the same pollination strategy. Would you confuse Miltonia flavescens with a large South American spider?