Lady x Monkey hybrids
at the BBOWT Reserve, Hartslock, Oxfordshire

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The Monkey Orchid (Orchis simia) is only found on two native sites in England, one of which is the BBOWT reserve at Hartslock in Oxfordshire where, as far as is known, it has always been present. The Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea) only became established there in 1998, although it is not known whether this occurred naturally or through deliberate introduction.

In 2006, some unusual flower spikes appeared, which were examined by a team from the London Natural History Museum. Their report indicated that the two rare species of Orchid at Hartslock had interbred and produced a hybrid; the first time that this pairing has been recorded in the UK. Genetic tests carried out at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, confirmed the new plants to be hybrids, the mother being the Lady Orchid. Apparently, hybrid Orchids receive more of their appearance from their mother than their father.

The following selection of photos was taken in 2008 and shows examples of the parent orchids (Lady O. at top left and Monkey O. at bottom right), together with a selection of hybrid forms.






2009 update

26 hybrids were flowering at Hartslock this year - a selection is shown below:

 



2010 update

The continuing spread of the hybrids is documented on the Hartslock website, which notes a massive increase in the number of hybrid Lady x Monkey plants; partly a real increase and partly due to some under-recording last year. This year, 299 plants were mapped, of which 66 have flower spikes. The hybrids remain confined to an area close to the boundary fence, where they have always been.


Lady
x Monkey hybrids, Hartslock, May 2010


In April 2011, a prolonged drought made the site very dry and unstable, leading to a lot of bare patches and erosion. The Reserve Warden has appealed to anyone thinking of coming up to the site to perhaps avoid Hartslock this season.


In 2012, conditions were the opposite of 2011. A washed-out April watered the plants in nicely and they flowered in good numbers, although several spikes were lost to slugs and snails. About 80 hybrid flower spikes were counted, out of a total of 258 plants. Further information can be found at http://hartslock.org.uk/blog/

 


All text and photographs on this website are Copyright Mike Flemming.

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