BIRD'S-NEST ORCHID

Neottia nidus-avis

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

month8apr month8april month8may month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8brown flower8fawn flower8cream flower8honey
 
morph
morph8zygo
 
petals
petalsZ5
 
type
typeZspiked
 
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8honey smell8sweet
honey

2nd June 2010, near Gourdon, Lot region of France Photo: © Kelly Finney
Grows up to 60cm in the deep shade in woods, especially beechwoods, and is honey-coloured all over.


June 2000, Warburg Reserve, Bucks. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
Lacking chlorophyl, it looks more like a dead or decaying plant, and is entirely  saprophytic, which means it parasitizes other plants for nourishment, although the word myco-heterotrophs is now known to be technically more correct, since the plants actually parasitise fungi which are feeding on nearby plants, rather than on nearby plants directly.


June 2009, Killiecrankie, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The stem is fawnish-white when fresh and not last seasons' growth. The leaves are but sheathing scales. The flowers in a spike at the top.


2nd June 2010, near Gourdon, Lot region of France Photo: © Kelly Finney
A rather young and closely-knot specimen.


June 2009, Killiecrankie, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
Both petals and sepals are short and similar colour, and form a hood above a broad, longer and splayed-out forking lip. At the base of the lip a shallow cup holds nectar. The plant smells of honey, as well as being the colour tint of honey.


June 2009, Killiecrankie, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: © Phil And Ann Farrer
The hood consists of four sepals virtually hiding all the stamens, but for a small portion protruding from a flower on the left. The short stem of the flower quickly leads onto the curved swollen ovary.


Some similarities to : Ghost Orchid which also lacks chlorophyll, but that has a greyish stem and very weakly tinted sepals and flowers, being faintly greenish and faintly purplish respectively.

Not to be semantically confused with : Yellow Bird's-nest [a plant with similar name but which is not an orchid, but yet another saprophyte (or more correctly a myco-heterotroph)]. It is saprophytic on underground fungi for sustainance, possessing no photosynthetic chlorophyll to provide energy from sunlight.

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : The 'dead' look and the sickly fragrance enable it to be distinguished from Broomrapes (which have 3-lobed lips) rather than the 2-lobed lip of Bird's-nest Orchid)

No relation to : Bird-in-a-Bush, Bird's-Foot, Bird's-Foot Trefoil nor to Bird Cherry.

Habitat is woods especially those of Beech and yew on chalky soils, in deep shade. Sometimes grows with another 'saprophyte' and similar sounding plant, Yellow Bird's-nest, which is not an orchid. Also grows in mixed broad-leaved woodland and in Hazel coppices. Always where there is a deep overlay of leaf humus. Avoids conifers.

Flowers end of April to the beginning of July. It is in the same Genus as are two Twayblades : Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and Lesser Twayblade (Neottia nidus-avis)

It acquires its' name from the root system, which resembles a bird's nest of twisted and tangled sticks.

The plant is reported to smell sickly or of honey, as well as being the colour of honey.


  Neottia nidus-avis  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Orchidaceae  

Distribution
 family8Orchid family8Orchidaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Neottia
Neottia
(Twayblades)

BIRD'S-NEST ORCHID

Neottia nidus-avis

Orchid Family [Orchidaceae]

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