Beside the beginning of the narrow, local road which is the final approach to our Fanjeaux campsite, is an area which is used as a gravel storage area, presumably for road works and the like. Sometimes it is piled so high with gravel that stopping there would be ill-advised, to say the least. This time, however, the stocks of gravel seemed to be very low and the area was largely clear. As we were returning from today’s shopping and blogging expedition and entering this last road, Francine excitedly asked me to stop. I pulled in to the now largely clear gravel repository.
Francine clambered out, crossed to the opposite grass verge and began peering at the ground. She returned saying that she’d found a new orchid – new to her, that is, not to science. 😉 Where’s your camera when you need it? Back at the campsite, of course. We’d return later after lunch.
As usual, lunch included sharing a carafe of vino so we weren’t about to drive before giving our metabolism a chance to work on the offending alcohol. At about 5:00 PM though, I reckoned a return trip complete with camera gear was safe enough so off we set. The previously largely empty gravel storage area was now full of large articulated lorry [truck in Amerispeak] manoeuvring to dump a huge load of fresh gravel. We parked elsewhere and returned to the new orchid on foot. As we did so, a second large lorry arrived with a second, equally huge load of gravel.
Francine’s new orchid (left) is, she thinks, a Man Orchid (Aceras anthropophorum). It was in the company of a few of the probably more often seen Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis). Lorry driver stepped out of his cab, presumably eventually intent on discussing the finer points of gravel dumping with his fellow driver, and first wandered over to us asking what we were looking at. “Orchidae”, we replied in our best French, whereupon he switched into stilted English and told us he had five or six orchids at his home in Quillan, which he was careful not to cut down with his mower. If only other Frenchmen were so considerate. We’ve seen municipal verges containing many orchids decimated by municipal fauchage [grass-cutting].
Being on a roll, we continued searching other rough ground near by at the same road junction. Here we discovered a few examples of two of our favourite orchids, the Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) and Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera).
After a slightly disappointing trip in search of Pyrenean flowers, we find four different orchids within a few metres of each other a mere kilometre or so from our campsite. I think this served as a reasonable consolation prize for Francine. Happy camper.
[Note: the scientific names used here are from old reference books and may have been changed.]