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A single white-purple lady orchid flower spike on a blurred background

The Lady Orchid is a tall, elegant herbaceous plant belonging to the Orchidaceae plant family.

How to spot it

Lady Orchid can reach 30–100 centimetres with the fleshy, bright green leaves being up to 15 cm long. The leaves are broad and oblong, forming a rosette about the base of the plant and surrounding the flower spike. These flower spikes can contain up to 200 individual flowers to which the stem upwardly points. Some of the flowers have the look of women in crinoline ball gowns. In terms of colour they are usually pale pink or rose, with a deeper purple ‘head’.

Close-up of bright pink-purple lady orchid flowers

Where to spot it

The Lady Orchid can be found in most parts of Europe (specifically Kent, England), Northern Africa, Turkey and the Caucasus.

Lady orchids usually grow in woodlands, oak forests, slopes and meadows, and can occasionally occur on savanna. They prefer to grow in limestone or chalk soil, in shady or sunny places. The Lady Orchid occurs in short grassland, on woodland edges and sometimes in open woodland. However, it is now very rarely found in the UK.

Best time to spot it

Lady Orchid’s flowering occurs in late April to June.

Did you know?

The sepals and upper petals are known to be purple, hence the Lady Orchid adopting the latin name purpurea.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Mistletoe

Viscum album

From kissing traditions at Christmas to ancient fertility rites, mistletoe has long been regarded as a magical plant.

Mistletoe colonies are vital for six species of insect that live nowhere else. It is the County flower of Herefordshire and is often harvested as a winter crop from their cider and perry orchards.

Distribution

Found across the UK, however its heartland is in the English / Welsh border counties and Somerset. Despite this, all is not well. The loss of traditional apple orchards has hit mistletoe hard and the work of birds such as the Mistle Thrush in smearing seeds on new branches may not be enough to counteract this decline.

Habitat

It can be found hanging in broadleaf trees, orchard trees and others, especially lime and poplar.

Best time to see

February to April when it flowers or winter when its berries appear.

Did you know?

The scientific name of this white berry can translate as “white goo”. Local names include Churchman’s Greeting, Kiss-and-go, Masslin, Misle and Mislin-Bush.

It is said to overcome epilepsy and this is not altogether fanciful since it has an active principle which is antispasmodic and reduces blood pressure.

It is often associated with the ancient Druids, whose reverence of the plant during the winter solstice was described by Pliny and Caesar. Perhaps it was the sight of its pearly white berries growing apparently rootless, high above the ground, in the largely dead months of winter. Like holly and ivy – also revered – mistletoe appears to be in its prime when other wild flowers have gone.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Oak Moss Lichen

Evernia prunastri

with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers
  • Grows in short tufts (to 10 cm) of flattened branches with forked tips, often with a net-like pattern of ridges visible on the surface.
  • Pale grey-green to pale yellow-green on the upper side and whitish underneath. This can be harder to see if the lichen has spent some time on the ground or in older specimens. This colour difference is due to Evernia technically being a foliose lichen, as its internal structure means it just has a single layer of algal cells beneath the upper cortex.
  • Patches of grainy soredia may be present on the edges of branches and ridges, becoming more extensive over time. Apothecia (fruiting bodies) are very rare.

Habitat

It prefers well-lit conditions, so is often present in the canopy and on lower branches in well-lit situations.

Similar species

Could be confused with Ramalina farinacea (below) which has narrower, more straggly branches, and lacks the pale underside. E. prunastri  also lacks the oval soralia on the edges of the lobes, which is a distinctive feature of R. farinacea.

Other lichens with strap-like branches that are likely to be encountered in the rainforest, such as Ramalina calicaris, R. fastigiata, and R. fraxinea, commonly have rounded apothecia on their branches which are extremely rare in E. prunastri.

Distribution 

Widespread and common across the whole British Isles

Other Species

Oak Moss Lichen
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak Moss Lichen

Evernia prunastri

Fanfare of Trumpets Lichen

Fanfare of Trumpets Lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Shaggy Strap Lichen
Shaggy Strap Lichen

Shaggy Strap Lichen

Ramalina farinacea

Hart’s-tongue Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium

Months

Season

Colour

This evergreen plant has long, tongue shaped leaves with a pointy end.

Distribution

Widespread across Britain, except in the far north.

Habitat

Can be found in sheltered moist habitats such as woods, on hedge banks, in walls and in ditches.

Did you know?

  • The underside of the leaves have little marks reminiscent of centipedes legs, leading to the species name ‘scolopendrium’ (the Latin for centipede!)
  • A hart was an old name for a deer, so the plant was so-named as it specifically looks like a deer’s tongue.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ivy

Hedera helix

A evergreen woody climbing wild plant, commonly seen on old walls and tree trunks.

Ivy is often found carpeting the ground or growing up walls and trees.

Its flowers bloom in an umbrella-like spread. In fact the term for such a bloom – an ‘umbel’ – derives from the same source as umbrella – umbra, the Latin word for shade.

It’s leaves are dark green glossy above, paler below. On flowering shoots leaves are pointed oval.

Distribution

Widespread throughout the UK.

Habitat

Woods, hedgerows, rocks and walls. Very commonly found on tree trunks.

Best time to see

Flowers September to November.

Did you know?

  • Ivy is, of course, celebrated with holly in the Christmas Carol of the same name. Its symbolism, however, predates Christianity. As evergreen species both holly and ivy were seen as especially powerful during the leafless days of winter. Sprigs were said to ward off evil spirits and inside the home kept the house goblins at bay. Of the two, ivy – shapely and curvaceous – was said to represent the feminine as compared to the spiky, angular masculinity of holly.
  • Local names include Bentwood, Bindwood, Hibbin, Ivin, Ivery and the enchanting Love-Stone used in Leicestershire.
  • In the Highlands and Islands it has been used as protection, to keep evil away from milk, butter and the animals. Circlets of ivy alone, or ivy plaited with Rowan and honeysuckle were hung over the lintels of byres and put under milk vessels.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Hazel Glove Fungus

Hypocreopsis rhododendri

Description

Found on Hazel trees in Britain, it is actually parasitic on the Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugate not living off the Hazel tree. It is not always possible to see the host crust fungus due to the presence of the Hazel Glove fungus and mosses.

Hazel Glove Fungus’ common name comes from the finger-like projections of the stromata (cushion-like plate of solid mycelium).  It is a type of ascomycete fungus. When mature, the central area of a stroma becomes pinkish brown, and individual perithecia (tiny black dots on the surface of these orange lobes which are sac openings which release the spores) become visible.

Distribution

Most likely to find in either west coast of Scotland in Atlantic Hazel woodland or temperate rainforest sites or in the south west of England, in North Devon and Cornwall, again in temperate rainforest habitat.

Habitat

Temperate rainforest, parasitic on Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugata on Hazel trees.

Did you know?

Hazel Glove fungus is an indicator of good air quality and temperate rainforest conditions, making it a flagship species for this threatened habitat.

Temperate rainforests are found in areas that are influenced by the sea, with high rainfall and humidity and damp climate. They are home to some intriguing and sometimes rare bryophytes, plants and fungi.

Plantlife are working in many ways to protect and restore this globally threatened habitat.

Other Species

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Ragged Robin

Ragged Robin

Silene flos-cuculi