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Purple Serendipity

The first signs of the Orchid season began to make an appearance, and so there was no waiting, I just had to get out there to try and see Britain’s earliest flowering orchid – which has an unsurprising name of the Early Purple Orchid! I decided to head over to North Wales to try and find this beautiful plant.

Bluebells, anemones, wild garlic (c) T Hughes

I ventured into many woodlands in hope of finding the target species. The ancient forests were alive with spring flowers – carpets of bluebells, wild garlic, and cowslips in the clearings. I had traversed many long forgotten stiles into overgrown pathways, areas that had clearly not seen the likes of a tourist since the 1970’s. I persisted, and persisted, and meticulously persisted! But alas, to no Purple tinted avail.

This came as a real surprise to me because this Orchid can be locally abundant and has a widespread British distribution, but apparently where I had walked didn’t tick all of its boxes. The light was dropping below the tree line and the landscape was getting darker, so I had to call it a day.

The Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula (c) T Hughes

Driving despondently back down the country lanes, onto the A roads and then up to the motorway, I was about to turn on to the slip road of the motorway, when suddenly.. PURPLE! Was this a mirage?.. Was it an old Cadbury chocolate bar wrapper trapped in the grass?.. Whatever it was it was bright purple, and solitarily standing in the centre of the junction roundabout… Surely not.
Heading around the roundabout again and pulling up quickly to a halt, I dived out of the car, waited for a gap in the traffic, and ran up to investigate… Low and behold, before me was a huge Early Purple Orchid with 3 large flower spikes, the biggest specimen I had ever seen!
Sometimes you just have to laugh how things turn out – but at least I’ve seen my first Orchid of the year!

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