Early Spider Orchid: the flower of Dorset

Dorset has a few floral specialities and this is certainly one of them, the early spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes). This plant is only on the chalk cliffs of the south coast of England from Dorset to Kent, but the main populations are here on the Purbeck limestone cliffs of Dorset.
The early spider orchid is quite a small plant with a flower that looks like
the body of an orb spider, hence its name. This appearance is purely coincidental of course and a man made connection. It has nothing to do with attracting spiders to pollinate it! They are pollinated by small solitary wasps and bees.
The early spider orchid comes in to flower in April and continues to bloom until late May, occasionally in to June. If you want to see them I recommend a visit to Durlston Country Park where there are hundreds of them but they also occur on the Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve at Townsend, Swanage, and the flower is the emblem of the Trust.
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