Thursday, 30 April 2015

Orchid succession

Bug Orchid (Martin Kelsey)
For those who can tell, the colour of the plains and dehesas on this, April's last day, gives a signal. There is a realisation that the course is now set and the arid gold of summer is but countable days ahead. The landscape is still green, but the flowering grasses has pigmented the spring lushness with a lighter, softer, yellowish green...and it is irreversible this side of autumn. Spring feels intense, but short in Extremadura, a dizzy cascading unfurling of events and cycles. There is a visible succession, a phenology, across all life at this time. Wintering birds leave as summer visitors arrive, the different flight times of butterflies, the rolling sequence of colours of the flowers in the dehesas.  In a matter of just four weeks, the cycle of orchids has intensified: emerging spikes, flowering, setting seed and withering. Species that accompanied me just a month ago, with their luring names: Sawfly, Mirror and Early Spider, gave way to Bug and Lax-flowered.

Tongue orchid (Martin Kelsey)

Now as we enter May, the Tongue Orchids poke their spikes through the strands of quaking grass, rigid whilst the grass stems around them bounce in the breeze.

For freshness now, an ascent is required to the deciduous woodlands of the Ibores and Gredos, brushed by the song of Western Bonelli's Warblers, where stands of Sulphur and Early Purple Orchids rise from the leaf litter in the dappled shade of the Sweet Chestnut grove.

Sulphur Orchid (Martin Kelsey)




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