An unreliable memoir

By Moth By Moonlight

Greater Butterfly Orchid
Greater Butterfly Orchid, Platanthera chlorantha. Nikon D5200 Tokina 100mm f16 1/180 ISO 100

Walk into any supermarket and you are greeted by ranks of orchids, mostly Phalaenopsis, the moth orchid. Moth orchids are called moth orchids because … well I’m sure you can figure it out. Their natural colour is white to attract moths by moonlight, not the garish pinks the supermarkets tend to favour. Browse a little further down the aisles and you’ll find the vanilla (another orchid product) in the baking section. Being stressed out recently we decided that the solution was an orchid foray. And we did quite well finding three species (although not the target species we had set out to look for). But the star of the show, hidden away deep in the wood, was a large colony of Greater Butterfly Orchids (Platanthera chlorantha). They shone out in the gloom, and I’d like to tell you that their air was full of their vanilla scent – but to be honest it was cold and very windy so not much to smell. The so-called Butterfly Orchids are the British moth orchids, although frustratingly, even after many years research the exact pollinators are still not completely known, so you’ll have to imagine those pollinaria (the yellow dots on either side of the flower) clamping onto an anonymous moth in the moonlight. I’m still having dreams about orchids in the moonlight and I think I’ll to have to go back soon on a warmer, calmer day just to sniff the flowers. Maybe in my next life I’ll come back as a moth.

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