Monkey’s in the park

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photo credit – David Evans

The monkey orchids at Park Gate Down near Barham in Kent are spectacular , blowsy and showy. The common spots are  more delicate delights, ever varied in shades of pink from a delicate blush to Barbie car hued. Miniature perfection was dotted all over the valley from gentian blue milkwort to tiny chickweeds. The weather is atrocious and all our plans for picnics among butterflies are abandoned as gale force wind bend trees and butterflies hunker down in the grass, rain threatens.

Half way across the site we meet my friend Trevor in equal measure cursing the weather, the loss of his precious spring, the lack of bees and butterflies, swifts gathering to head back to Africa but, and at the same time, delighting in the pleasure of a field full of orchids. We find a butterfly orchid.

“Get down and look at it” Trevor commands. “How are the sepals?” he says.

I look blank.

“Are they diverged or co-joined.” he barks.

I peer closer. “Diverged, I think.” I say.

“Greater butterfly” he says with disappointment.

Trevor, a pleasure, like a rare and difficult orchid himself, a birds nest, a ghost orchid, a diamond in the rough.

699225_7363d41dLater we head to Yocklets Bank, a butterfly orchid attaches its pollen sacks to me (“diverged Trevor”). I walk around trying to pollinate another but the damn things are surprisingly sticky and wont leave my finger and trying to attach them makes me release more until I am covered with the things. Lady orchids 1ft tall emerge like mysterious aliens among the dogs mercury. The ladies in differing attire, some in slacks, some harem pants some in traditional crinolines. They don’t look like English plants at all more like foriegners trying to fit into the dark woods and getting it all wrong.

photo credit – Mike Pennington


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