Discover: Nature and Wildlife
Jersey is blessed with a rich diversity of Wild Orchid species, many of which can be seen in abundance on sites owned and managed by the National Trust for Jersey.
Help Us To Protect Wild Orchids
- Please stay on the paths provided.
- Please do not pick flowers.
- Please keep your dog on a lead and shut the gate when you go in and out of fields.
- Please don’t leave litter.
- Becoming a Trust member or making a donation will also help us to continue to protect the orchids into the future.
During the spring and summer months Jersey is transformed by the vibrant colours of our native (and introduced) wildflowers. Among the most spectacular of our native wildflowers are the Wild Orchids.
Orchids have been capturing the imagination of British naturalists for generations. Their intricate flower morphologies, complex life histories, and relative rarity have made them one of the most intensively studied groups of British plants. Members of the Orchidaceae family are monocotyledons, and those found in Jersey are all herbaceous perennials. In addition, they are all dependent on mycorrhizal soil fungi at some stage of their life cycle.
Best Places To See Wild Orchids
Le Noir Pré and Clos de Seigneur
Le Noir Pré and Clos de Seigneur are wet marshy meadows in the parish of St Ouen. Situated next to each other these meadows are commonly referred to collectively as the ‘Orchid Fields’. From May through June the meadows are a riot of colour, as the flowerspikes of five species of orchid (and various hybrids) unfurl their exotic petals.
To protect the orchids present at this site it is important to avoid disturbance by trampling and to achieve this we cut an easy to follow loop around the orchid fields each year. This allows visitors to enjoy the orchids in the meadows while at the same time protecting them from human disturbance.
The Le Noir Pré and Clos de Seigneur meadows have become incredibly important reserves for native orchids. The meadows require consistent management over many years in order to maintain the exceptional floral diversity present at this site. Current management consists of hay cutting each year in August, after the orchids have flowered and dispersed their seeds. Following the hay cut, a small herd of Jersey cows graze the field. Grazing the meadows each Autumn allows more plants to emerge in spring. This management regime ensures that dominant plants, such as grasses, are prevented from excluding wildflower species by creating space for wildflowers like orchids to grow.
Orchid surveys in the Le Noir Pré and Clos de Seigneur meadows are carried out bi-annually. In 1995 there were 1,500 individual orchids. As a result of consistent management, numbers have now risen to over 60,000 individuals.
The Trust manages two wet meadows just off Rue de la Blinerie. These wet meadows lie on the fringes of a much larger wetland ecosystem known as the Samares or Rue de Pres wetland. This wetland consists of reedbed, fen and wet woodland habitats. Both Jersey and Southern Marsh Orchids can be found in the meadows, which are managed primarily for floral diversity.
The management plan for this site consists of haycutting followed by grazing, a regime that is allowing the orchids to flourish with total numbers having increased from just 60 plants in 2010 to nearly 7000 in 2016. The flowers of these orchid species are at their most spectacular during May. Each year the Trust’s lands team cuts a footpath through the grass, allowing members of the public to enjoy the orchid blooms.
Wild Orchid Flowers
All orchids have broadly the same overall flower structure, but a huge diversity of flower colour and morphology exists among different orchid species. This diversity results from the highly specific adaptations to insect pollinators that different orchid species have undergone. Insects are attracted to orchids by the colour and/or scent of the flowers. Insect pollinators interpret these colours and scents as offers of food or, in the case of some species such as the Bee orchid (Ophrys apifera), a mate. When an insect pollinator lands on an orchid flower and attempts to either feed on the flowers nectar or mate with the flower (pseudo-copulation), the flower attaches the pollinia to the insect’s head. When the same insect visits a second orchid flower the pollinia comes in to contact with the stigma, pollinating the flower.
Many orchid species rely on deception through mimicry of insects and the production of chemo-attractant fragrances. These adaptations induce feeding or mating behaviour in insect pollinators. These adaptations are incredibly advanced in the orchids relative to other groups of flowering plants.
Wild Orchid Lifecycle
Orchids reproduce via vegetative multiplication and sexual reproduction. The degree to which different species of orchid are dependent on each of these processes varies widely. Successful orchid seed germination requires the correct conditions to be present. Important environmental factors for orchid seed germination include moisture, oxygen, light and warmth. Orchid seeds also require the presence of mycorrhizal soil fungi for successful germination and growth. Mycorrhizal soil fungi are often present in healthy unimproved and undisturbed soils. Orchid seeds carry no food reserves of their own, the nutrients they require for germination and growth are instead provided by the fungus. The relationship between developing orchids and mycorrhizal fungi is at first parasitic, but as orchids mature their dependence on the fungi decreases. The extent to which the mycorrhizal infection continues after an orchid reaches maturity is species specific. Some orchid species eventually expel the fungus, while others retain it.
Once infected with the mycorrhizal fungus the germinated seed develops in to a tuber. Once the tuber reaches maturity it produces leaves. These leaves feed the developing orchid tuber for several growing seasons until the orchid has stored enough energy to be able to produce flowers. These flowers attract specific insect pollinators to facilitate sexual reproduction and seed production.
Jersey’s Wild Orchid Species
Several Orchid species can be seen flowering in Jersey from late spring through to summer. These include:
Jersey (Loose-Flowered) Orchid Anacamptis laxiflora
The Jersey (or Loose-Flowered) Orchid is a continental species not present on the British mainland. This species is confined to damp grassland habitat, where Southern Marsh, Heath Spotted and Common Spotted orchids can also sometimes be found. It commonly has rich pinkish-purple flowers although white and pink variations are also observed in the wild. Jersey Orchids are easy to identify and distinguish from other orchid species growing in the same area. The flowers are borne on long stalks and are well spaced on open spikes. Flowering period is from May to July. Up to 1m in height.
Green-Winged Orchid Anacamptis morio
The Green-Winged Orchid is the first orchid species to bloom in sandy grassland, although its flowering period eventually overlaps with the slightly shorter early purple orchid. The Green-Winged Orchid gets its name from its 5 green-veined petals. These petals curve forwards forming a hood above each flowers red spotted lip. The overall colour of each plants flowers varies from rich purple to pink or white. Flowering period is from April to June. Up to 40cm in height.
Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis
The Pyramidial Orchid is commonly associated with dry grassland, calcariuos soils, and stabalised sand dunes. Flowers are pink and have a 3-lobed lip and a long spur. As the flowers develop they form a pyramid shaped flower head, hence its name. Flowering period is from June to August. Up to 30cm in height.
Common Spotted-Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii
This species can be found growing in grassland and open woodland habitat on calcareous or neutral soils. Common Spotted-Orchids typically have glossy green leaves with dark spots. Flowers vary in colour from plant to plant, ranging from pink to purple. The 3 lobes of the lower lip are equal in size. This species can hybridise with Heath Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids where they occur together, creating individual plants that show intermediate characteristics. Flowering period is from May to August. Up to 60cm in height.
Heath Spotted-Orchid Dactylorhiza maculata
The flowers of Heath Spotted-Orchids are similar to those of Common Spotted-Orchids and can be hard to distinguish. Identifying to species level is made all the more difficult by the fact that this species can hybridise with Common Spotted and Southern Marsh Orchids where they occur together, creating intermediate specimens. Heath Spotted-Orchid flowers are commonly very pale in colour, with darker streaks and spots. The broad lower lip has 3 lobes, the central lobe being smaller than the outer lobes. Like the Common Spotted-Orchid, the leaves are green with darker spots. Flowering period is from May to August. Up to 50cm in height.
Southern Marsh-Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa
The Southern Marsh-Orchid grows in wet meadows and fens, mostly where the soil is calcareous. The flowers are pink to purple in colour with a broad 3 lobed lip. This species is easy to confuse with the Heath Spotted and Common Spotted-Orchids especially where they occur together as all 3 species readily hybridise, creating intermediate specimens. Flowering period is from May to June. Up to 70cm in height.
Early Marsh-Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata
Early Marsh-Orchids occur in wet meadows, usually on calcareous soils. The flowers are typically pink, although subspecies exist that display a range of colours from creamy-white to reddish-purple. When viewed from the front the flowers of this species look relatively narrow compared to those of other orchid species. Flowering period is from May to June. Up to 60cm in height.
Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera
Bee Orchids occur on dry grassland, mainly where the soil is calcareous. Bee Orchids are pollinated by bees, which are attracted to the flowers visually, as well as by the smell that the flowers emit. Bees are fooled by the flowers of the Bee Orchid (which vaguely resemble bumblebees) and attempt to reproduce with the flower, thus pollinating it. The flowers have pink sepals, green upper petals, and a maroon coloured lower petal with yellow makings. This very rare orchid is restricted to just a few sites in the Channel Islands. Flowering period is from May to July. Up to 30cm in height.
Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula
Early Purple Orchids typically occur in woodland, grassland and scrub habitats. The flowers are pink to purple in colour with a 3 lobed lower lip. The flowers are also characterised by the presence of a long spur. Flowering period is from April to June. Up to 40cm in height.
Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum
Lizard Orchids typically occur in scrub, grassland, and dune habitats. The flowers have a green-grey hood with red streaks on the inside. The lip is very long and twisted. The flowers are said to resemble miniature lizards, hence the common name. The second part of the lizard orchid's scientific name (hircinum) means “goat-like”, a reference to the pungent aroma of the flowers. Flowering period is from May to July. Lizard Orchids are relatively tall, reaching up to 1m in height.
- The best time to see wild orchid flowers is from May to July.
- Orchid seeds carry no food reserves of their own, the nutrients they require for germination and growth are made available to them by mycorrhizal soil fungi.
- Orchids reproduce via both vegetative multiplication and sexual reproduction.
- Each species of orchid has underone highly specific adaptations in order to attract insect pollinators.