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Birdsnest Orchid

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A parasitic orchid occasionally found in shady beech woodlands



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There is certainly something special about orchids and one always has a sense of seeing something special when one encounters one (or lots!). They are quite different in appearance to other floral families and even within the orchids you find many variations. The bird's-nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis) is certainly unique amongst British orchids as it is parasitic and therefore does not have chlorophyll. The result is a pale coloured plant tinged with yellow rather than green and with no leaves. 

I said orchids were unique and different in appearance to other flowers but there is always an exception to every rule! This one could easily be mistaken at first glance for other parasitics plants such as the broomrapes or toothwort so care needs to be taken. The bird's-nest orchid, however, is usually found in woodland and predominantly under beech trees and that is very different habitat to broomrapes which are generally parasites of grassland flowers such as wild carrot, knapweed, bedstraw and the like. Toothwort is parasitic on hazel so that helps separate the two similar species.

It gets its name from the appearance of its roots rather than from the appearance of its flower.

The bird's-nest orchid is quite common in parts of Europe and whilst not rare in Britain it is far from common here. It can be found in suitable woodland to the north and west of Dorset.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
W1: Broad-leaf Woodland Associated