Looking like an exotic bloom from a fairytale, the Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) does a brilliant job of mimicking a bumble bee. The insects are drawn to the plant by what they think is a potential mate, but they leave disappointed; from the orchid’s point of view, however, they have performed the essential job of pollination.
The flower spikes can grow up to 30 cm in height, and the orchid may take between five and eight years to produce a bloom. Flowering is usually between May and July.
This beautiful flower prefers sunny, well-drained grassland; within the UK, it is distributed throughout England, parts of Northern Ireland and the coastal regions of Wales – though recent mild winters have seen it make advances further north, into Southern Scotland.
This particular Bee Orchid was found growing on a roundabout near Bangor in North Wales in 2007!
Photo copyright © Colin Woolf
Take a look at the beautiful Early Purple Orchid, one of the first to flower each summer.