Orchid Overload18th April 2017 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
Our botanist, Yannis Christophides, was endlessly patient as we kept asking him to identify orchids that we had already seen several times. I came away confident that I could accurately identify four of the over fifty orchids that grow in Cyprus – the Naked Man orchid (no mistaking that one), Orchis anatolica, Giant Orchid and Serapia, but beyond that there are so many tiny variations in colour, pattern and shape of each small flower that I was seldom entirely confident. The orchids are more discriminating though – in particular, Yannis described their sex life which is complex and specific. To achieve pollination each species of orchid must attract its own unique insect by exuding a pheromone that only that insect responds to – sometimes from over a kilometre away. Once pollinated, the seed must be infected with a particular myccorhizal fungi for it to germinate. Evolution does result in some extraordinary processes.
Sadly, there were numerous occasions when Yannis took us to a particular location to see a patch of orchids, only to discover that:
a. they had been picked
b. they had been marked by a stack of stones, or something similar, for digging up later (we moved the stones)
c. they had been sprayed by road maintenance teams – even in remote locations
d. stone had been dumped all over them from roadworks
d. fly tippers had covered them with rubbish
It seems there is quite a long way to go before wildflowers are given the protection they need – but then it wasn’t many years ago that our local councils were cutting and spraying the verges. Yannis is doing his best spread the message.