Today dawned brightly enough but soon turned largely grey. Anyone would think we were in the UK.
The first task on our agenda was to take my limping steed to a French bicycle repair man. I loaded my bike on the car and we set off into Millau to a shop whose door claimed it opened at 9:00 AM every week day. At 9:30 AM he shop was firmly shuttered. We went shopping. At 10:30 AM the bike shop remained firmly shuttered. We drove past another two bike shops that were also firmly shuttered. In fact, many of the shops in downtown Millau were shuttered. Monday seems to be an off day. Lame steed with have to remain lame when we leave for Les Alpilles tomorrow.
Whereas grey days are not good days for Odonata, orchids tend to stay where they were rather than hunker down and hide. We had a suspect orchid, one that was just a flower spike but with no actual flowers, to revisit to see if it had advanced enough for Francine to identify it following our first trip up onto the causse. We set a course back up the Causse Noir with but one stop in mind.
Fortunately, our memory of where this particular uncertain orchid was located proved to be accurate. We parked in a handy lay-by and sauntered back down the road to where it was. Excellent, the beast had flowered in the intervening four days. Snaps of the more advanced plant were taken. Still no leaves were showing, just scales on a strikingly red stem with pinkish-red flowers.
Francines’s suspects for this plant included Red Helleborine, which is advertised as being in this area, but the stem seemed to be the wrong colour (i.e. red), or some form of Serapia but, again, the colouring of this plant’s stem didn’t seem right. This whole plant appeared to be red. Neither did it seem to have any leaves, as such. Curious. A rummage in the book was needed.
We headed off up the Gorge de la Jonte thinking that we’d visit the Belvédère des Vautours (a viewpoint for the Griffon Vultures) but that proved to be just as open on a Monday as Millau’s bike shops had been. Why have I never noticed that France seems to be closed on Mondays before?
Conditions were cooler and greyer up on the causse, where we felt decidedly underdressed. After a generally grey and windy day, we returned by way of the Gorge du Tarn for Francine to hit the orchid books. She soon figured out that her intriguing orchid was actually something rejoicing in the name of Violet Limodore (Limodorum abortivum), also called Violet Bird’s-nest, apparently. It is a saprophyte, a plant with no chlorophyl of its own, deriving sustenance from rotting vegetation with the aid of a fungus partner. How bizarre nature can be.
We move on with Francine having scored an impressive 18 orchid species around Millau. What a happy camper!