Mike Flemming's
British Native Orchids



Marsh Helleborine
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris)


Introduction to Orchid Photos


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The British Native Orchids hold a special attraction for naturalists and natural history photographers. They can be hard to find, elusive, with an air of mystery and a certain sense of the exotic.

Nevertheless, those expecting the gaudy colours and shapes of the showy tropical orchids are doomed to disappointment, as most British species are rather small and inconspicuous, and tend to be of a rather monotonous purple coloration. It is hard to capture their special qualities in photographs and I have, therefore, adopted two approaches: photographing them within their natural environment, and close-up photographs to show the detail of the intricate flower structures.

Photographing flowers presents a very different challenge from the butterflies etc, elsewhere on my website. The flower is static so there is no 'decisive moment' - one 1/100 second interval is much like another! As a result there are greater demands placed on the photographer, who cannot rely on a lucky shot but must concentrate on technique, lighting, and the other crafts of still-life photography.

By photographing in the wild, some aspects are out of the hands of the photographer but there is still no excuse for not making a careful choice of aperture, distance, angle, and lighting - perhaps using a reflector or fill-in flash. Tools such as a macro lens, off-camera flash and, to ease the problems of photographing very small subjects close to the ground, a right-angle viewfinder, are all invaluable accessories.

Green-Winged Orchids (Anacamptis morio)
BBOWT Meadow, Bernwood, Oxon.

So far, I am some way from photographing all the Native British species and a partial catalogue of 'snapshots' would not make for a very interesting website collection, so I have selected a few photographs that I believe show interesting facets of the group and, I hope, will encourage interest in them. The recent developments in orchid taxonomy, driven by DNA research, are also changing our understanding of the relationships between species and, hence, the definition of what constitutes the 'British list', so the idea of a definitive collection may not actually be realisable at present. Many populations also show a considerable degree of hybridisation, which is an additional complicating factor for this group.  For nomenclature, I have used 'Orchids - a Field and Site Guide' by Anne and Simon Harrap, published in 2005. This book lists the following species, and I have also indicated those species for which a photo appears on this website:


Latin Name English Name   Photo
Latin Name English Name   Photo
Latin Name English Name
7 Cypripedium calceolus Lady's Slipper     Goodyera repens Creeping Lady's Tresses   5 Dactylorhiza fuchsii Common Spotted Orchid
1 Cephalanthera rubra Red Helleborine     Spiranthes romanzoffiana Irish Lady's Tresses   5 Dactylorhiza maculata Heath Spotted Orchid
1 Cephalanthera longifolia Sword-leaved Helleborine   3 Spiranthes spiralis Autumn Lady's Tresses   5 Dactylorhiza praetermissa  Southern Marsh Orchid
1 Cephalanthera damasonium White Helleborine     Spiranthes aestivalis Summer Lady's Tresses   5 Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides Pugsley's Marsh Orchid
  Neottia cordata Lesser Twayblade   3 Herminium monorchis Musk Orchid     Dactylorhiza ebudensis Hebridean Marsh Orchid
1 Neottia ovata Common Twayblade   3 Orchis anthropophora Man Orchid   5 Dactylorhiza purpurella  Northern Marsh Orchid
1 Neottia nidus-avis Birds-nest orchid   3 Orchis simia Monkey Orchid     Dactylorhiza occidentalis Irish Marsh Orchid
2 Epipactis palustris Marsh Helleborine   3 Orchis militaris Military Orchid     Neotinea maculata Dense-flowered Orchid
2 Epipactis atrorubens Dark-red Helleborine   3 Orchis purpurea   Lady Orchid   6 Neotinea ustulata Burnt Orchid
2 Epipactis helleborine Broad-leaved Helleborine   4 Orchis mascula Early Purple Orchid   6 Himantoglossum hircinum Lizard Orchid
2 Epipactis purpurata Violet (Purple) Helleborine     Pseudorchis albida Small White Orchid     Anacamptis laxiflora Loose-flowered Orchid
2 Epipactis leptochila Narrow-lipped Helleborine   4 Platanthera bifolia Lesser Butterfly Orchid   6 Anacamptis pyramidalis Pyramidal Orchid
  Epipactis dunensis Dune Helleborine   4 Platanthera chlorantha Greater Butterfly Orchid   6 Anacamptis morio Green-winged Orchid
  Epipactis sancta Lindisfarne Helleborine   4 Gymnadenia conopsea Common Fragrant Orchid     Serapias parviflora Small-flowered Tongue Orchid
2 Epipactis phyllanthes Green-flowered Helleborine     Gymnadenia borealis Heath Fragrant Orchid     Serapias lingua Greater Tongue Orchid
  Epipogium aphyllum Ghost Orchid   4 Gymnadenia densiflora Marsh Fragrant Orchid   7 Ophrys insectifera Fly Orchid
3 Liparis loeselii Fen Orchid   5 Dactylorhiza incarnata Early Marsh Orchid   7 Ophrys apifera Bee Orchid
3 Hammarbya paludosa Bog Orchid   5 Dactylorhiza viridis Frog Orchid   7 Ophrys fuciflora Late Spider Orchid
  Corallorhiza trifida Coral-Root Orchid           7 Ophrys sphegodes Early Spider Orchid

My Title Page photograph of the Marsh Helleborine shows the beauty of the flower, when it is inspected in detail, though a large stand of these plants can look rather dull and uninspiring, almost like a patch of weeds! Other Orchids can be hard to find amongst the leaf litter of a woodland floor or the grass of a downland site.

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