Sunday, May 25, 2008

Native orchids

Early Sunday morning; the winds has whipped through the trees all night, great gusts that set the curtains billowing and this morning heavy squally rain - even the dog agrees that our walk is off.
So I shall write about the orchids that I found last year, the ones that should be coming into flower soon, though I notice in another forum that the wild orchids are flowering around the chalky downs of Wiltshire. Slightly different to the ones in our limestone county.
First thing was to find them amongst my photos, beginning of June is the date on them, of the three shown two come from Langridge, and the other from Stoney Littleton.
Marjories Blamey in her Illustrated Flora of Europe, lists over 70 orchids, they come from the high grounds down to the valleys, and in bogs and marshes, they are exotic slender creatures spied in the grass, where man and beast are not frequent visitors and wretched herbicides and fertilisers have not been used.
But for their history turning to Grigson is the interesting part, here there should be a warning of a sexual nature, but are'nt all plants reproductive? its just that the mind of man in naming these strange flowers was taken by the shape of the roots and so of course like Burl's ash buds, here again we have phallic imagery - orchis means testicle according to Discorides, from which our own eminent botanists took their information, in fact he called one orchis saturion (the satyr plant), and so through history the orchid is known as an aphrodisiac, it was a plant of love potions. Grigson says that until recent times it was still made into a love potion in Ireland and Shetland.
There is a marvellous recipe made by the Physicians of London which was called a 'Disatyrion' it was made of,
orchid tubers, dates, bitter almonds, Indian nuts, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, candied ginger, candied eryngo root, clover, galingale, peppers, ambergris, musk, penids(barley sugar), cinnamon, saffron Malaga wine, nutmeg, mace, grains of Paradise, ash-keys, the 'belly and loins of scinks' borax, benzoine, wood of aloes, cardamoms, nettle seeds and aven roots (a good Grigson recipe,)
obviously a spicy concoction made to blow the top of your head off!
Grigson also mentions the beautiful 'Unicorn' tapestries, in which Orchis Mascula stands long and purple against the white flank of the unicorn, and Shakespear also included them in the garland of the drowned Ophelia "the long purples, to which the liberal shepherds give a grosser name, but which cold maids do Dead Men's fingers call"
In all the beautiful orchid has danced through the centuries quite wickedly, but there were some who tried to redeem it, and so it has been called 'Gethesemane' and 'Cross-flower', because it supposedly grew under the cross.

Early Purple Orchid - Orchis Mascula

Common spotted orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii (marsh orchids)

Pyramidal orchid -anacamptis pyramidalis (Found at Stoney Littleton longbarrow)

Ref; The Englishman's Flora - Geoffrey Grigson

The Illustrated Flora - Margery Blamey & Christopher Grey-Wilson

The Unicorn Tapestries - http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/Unicorn/unicorn_inside.htm

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