Monkey business

Monkey Orchid at Hartslock Nature Reserve, Oxfordshire
Monkey Orchid at Hartslock Nature Reserve, Oxfordshire
Sadly one of our most threatened species restricted to 3 sites with 2 of them being in Kent and 1 at Hartslock Nature Reserve in south Oxfordshire. First recorded in Kent during the 18th century the ploughing up of chalk downs led to it being considered extinct until rediscovered in 1955. With the 3 sites being managed for the benefit of the Monkey Orchid numbers have been rising during recent years. However, with this spring being unusually cold and dry 2017 appears to be a poor year.
Monkey Orchid with the River Thames in the background Monkey Orchid
Monkey Orchid and another…….
Lady Orchid - slightly past its best at Hartslock Nature Reserve Lady x Monkey naturally occuring hybrid Orchid
Lady Orchid – slightly past its best ! Naturally occurring Lady x Monkey hybrid
Lady x Monkey hybrids at Hartslock
Lady x Monkey hybrids.

Always surprising to see the strong and vigorous growth of the naturally occurring hybrid – a classic case of hybrid vigour or heterosis. With the low numbers of Monkey and Lady Orchids the genetic diversity has been reduced leading to a loss of vigour. The hybridisation has allowed the genetic material to be mixed and the recessive form overcome.

Tiny area occupied by Monkey Orchids at Hartslock Nature Reserve
Note the taped off area home to one of the very few colonies of Monkey Orchids to be found in England.

This year I counted 7 flowering spikes ! Hopefully just a result of a very dry spring rather than a population crash. The situation with the Lady Orchids appeared to be more dire with just the 1 to be found.

View down to Goring Gap
View down to Goring Gap.

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