Orchid Hunters Teaching Their Craft

Orchid enthusiasts on the hunt at Noar Hill. Photograph: Peter Flude/The Guardian

We feature stories involving orchids whenever there is something new to learn:

Bersweden stops to smell a musk orchid at Noar Hill. Photograph: Peter Flude/The Guardian

‘Like stroppy teenagers’: the joy of hunting devious and demanding orchids

For British botanist Leif Bersweden, finding an orchid is ‘pure joy’ and one that he is happy to share with fellow enthusiasts as they scour a nature reserve in Hampshire

It’s a Friday, and half a dozen retirees are scouring the ground for flowers. We’re on chalk grassland in Noar Hill nature reserve in Hampshire. Medieval chalk extraction has created small artificial valleys in this scrubby 20-hectare (50-acre) landscape perched above farmland. It is home to a jungle of flowers, including an abundance of oxeye daisies and clovers. But today we’re hunting for a rarer inhabitant: the orchid.

Leif Bersweden, a 28-year-old botanist who has been obsessed with orchids since the age of 12, immediately spots a frog orchid, a little greenish plant about 10cm tall. Its flowers would only look like frogs to someone on hallucinogens.

Orchid hunters are more interested in rarity than beauty. Many of the enthusiasts we meet have found the pyramidal orchid, common spotted orchid and musk orchid (this is one of the best sites in the country to see the latter) but none has seen the frog orchid. They get down on their hands and knees to study the specimen. In some cases, both partners have DSLR cameras, presumably because they don’t trust their spouse to get the money shot. There is discussion about “ticking it off our list”…

Read the whole article here.

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