Aim for Xàbia/Jávea and miss, was my instruction.
Whilst on our spring visit to Spain early this year we had called into the Visitor Centre at the Parc Natural del Montgó. In addition to a large relief model of the Montgó and its surrounds, there was a colourful poster pinned up depicting about a dozen species of orchid to be found in the region. Francine began talking to a helpful Señor Ranger who, for one species, directed us to a track near an old monastery.
Most orchids are spring or summer affairs but the orchid in question now is the only example we know of an autumn flowering orchid, Autumn Lady’s Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis), so that would need to be the target of a future visit. Since we were now here in autumn, Francine and I were keen to go and try to find it although, with the memory of our instructions now being six months old, I really didn’t hold out much hope.
I began by aiming for Xàbia/Jávea but then missed by refining our aim to the road leading to the track beside the monastery. Someone’s fictitious Gods must have been smiling – at the end of the track was a decent sized piece of rough ground on which to park. So often one finds a target with nowhere to bail out.
We thought we recalled Señor Ranger mentioning a line of cypresses and we certainly had those. A patch of suitably rough ground at the start of the track produced nothing orchid-like so we began wandering along it, scanning the sides between the trees for suspects. Again, nothing.
We also thought we recalled Señor Ranger mentioning the ground opening out but anything like that eluded us. Francine had wandered ahead. I did, though, spot a small gap through a collapsed stone wall/bank leading to a narrow patch of ground with bushes scattered on patches of more open ground. The whole enclosure was only about 10m wide but looked as if it went back a way. Working my way in between the snagging bushes, I drew more blanks in the first two major open patches. I considered giving up but went one opening further. I’m no expert but there, in the centre of the clear ground, was a suspect, a spiral of tiny white flowers on a single stem about 10cms high. I could see maybe a dozen more stems beyond the first and went to fetch the boss.
Those fictitious Gods had been smiling again; it seems my suspect was, indeed, our target. Francine appeared overjoyed. We’ve seen a single example on only one occasion before and that was at our favourite French campsite. She began crouching and clicking at several specimens. Some of the blooms were well past their best but there were enough left for her to get some decent pictures.
A little earlier in the season would have been better but we’d been very lucky. It’s so easy to be in the right general area but miss the small, exact spot that often requires precision navigation. This little colony looked very localized.