I often overlook plants, stepping over them on the way to something more interesting. Preferably winged. Or I may be guilty of painting plants as nothing more than stages for those other, more interesting things, or as a kind of external décor, nature’s wallpaper or carpeting (see wild daffodils).
But who could step over a plant as downright cool as a bee orchid without admiring it for what it is? I’ve had a fancy to find one for a while, and whilst I’ve never tried that hard, this year I didn’t have to. For the last few years a small colony has appeared a tiny stroll away from my desk. I even counted the steps between them this summer, though I don’t recall how many it turned out to be.
I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that excites about orchids. They’re certainly beautiful organisms, intricately formed and often brightly coloured. Yet many plants are, so that can’t be everything. There’s just something thrilling about an orchid, a rich quality of experience – in the same way that nightingale song cuts deeper than the ostensibly more beautiful song of a blackcap.
By way of underlining how good Whiteknights Park can be for wildlife, I managed to see four species of orchid in flower on campus this year, set against nine nationwide. Blooming marvelous!