Friday, 12 June 2015

Orchid Glen

In the sunlight in the top right-hand corner of this picture, a burn can be seen tumbling down the lower slopes of Ben Hiant. It disappears into an open area of land hidden behind the rocky ridge in the middle distance, running between the houses of the abandoned clachan of Bourblaige.  It then cuts through the rocky ridge at the centre of this picture....

....forming a steep-sided glen which is filled with trees.

On our walk ten days ago, for the first time in all our years of wandering this area between Ben Hiant and Camas nan Geall, we clambered down into this glen.  We were fortunate that the sun was out and shining in exactly the right direction to flood the glen with light because.... we crossed the burn just below this waterfall we spotted some orchids - they're at bottom left in this picture.

Fortune smiled on us yet more, because we chose the day when all the glen's orchids were in full flower, so I spent half an hour scrambling round trying to record....

...the breathtaking beauty of these delicate blooms.

The local wild orchids are a nightmare to identify as they hybridise, and these may be an example.  The lowest lobe of most of the flowers is split into three, so is similar to the common spotted, but these orchids lack the common's spots and have far more dramatic colours that that species.

The colours resemble those of the northern marsh and early marsh, but these don't have the lower lobe split into three.  We've not found them here before, but these may be examples of either the lapland marsh orchid, although they lack its colour pattern, or....

....this one in particular may be our first example of an early purple orchid. Of the options, I would go for the early purple, but does the identification really matter? No, not in the face of this beauty.

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