THE LATE SPIDER-ORCHID OPHRYS FUCIFLORA
A well-preserved botanical treasure at Domaine du Grand Mayne
Domaine du Grand Mayne has preserved its vast mosaic of terroirs. Following a philosophy of agroecology, the Team at Grand Mayne has thrived to protect the rich biodiversity present within the domain. Every year, from late April to June, the vineyard sees stunning floral curiosities coming to the surface: the late spider-orchid, Ophrys fuciflora. Although insignificant to winemaking, the late spider orchid is nonetheless a treasure to protect. Listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, this botanical gem is key to a complex and functioning ecosystem. Let’s take a closer look at the late spider-orchid Ophrys fuciflora.
Ophrys fuciflora : a vulnerable wild orchid
Common names: late spider orchid (UK), bumblebee orchid (FR)
Scientific name: Ophrys fuciflora (Orchidaceae family)
Etymology: the genus “Ophrys” comes from the Greek “eyebrow” as a reference to the hairy fringes present on the lip of the flower. The species name “fuciflora” comes from the latin “focus” referring to the bumblebee or male honey bee and “flora” meaning flower.
Distribution: found from Western to Central Europe (present but rare in the UK), but in steep decline owing to habitat destruction
Habitat: grows only in calcareous soils in dry to moist conditions in short grassland, garrigue, open woodland and scrub
IUCN status: vulnerable
Plant size: terrestrial orchid of 5 to 30 cm
Pollination: pollinated by the bees from the genus Eucera which are attracted to the flowers that mimic the texture and shape of bees (hence the French name). The bees try to copulate with the flowers thinking they are potential partners. It allows the pollen to attach itself to the insect, which then, moves on to other flowers. In the UK, the genus Eucera (bees) is absent to the territory thus leading us to think that it is pollinated by other small insects as small beetles.
Flowering times: as early as May till June and beginning of July (UK)
Seeding: each bean contains tens of thousands of minuscule seeds but they need to find the right soil, symbiotic mushroom as well as correct exposition to develop, therefore only one in a million seeds will grow into a fully developed plant.
Threats: habitat destruction, illegal picking
Folklore beliefs: used to be considered aphrodisiac owing to the shape of its two rhizomes, looking similar to gonads
Fun fact: the male bee from the genus Eucera needs to visit several flowers of the late spider-orchid for the female to allow copulation. In effect, the male needs to have a specific “love scent” to avoid rejection and therefore need to copulate several times with the lures (flowers) which in turn will give the male a more presentable scent to charm the female.
Biodiversity and Agroecology: preserving the rhizosphere
Late spider-orchids, like all orchids, can only develop in the presence of specific fungi. The symbiotic relationship works as follows: the orchid’ seeds are extremely small and lack food reserves making it impossible for them to survive on their own. They need the help of a specific fungi which will “feed” the seed with various nutrients from its own activity.
Domaine du Grand Mayne has tailored its practices to preserve a diverse ecosystem within and around the vineyard. Allowing follows and preserving natural terroirs helps to protect an incredibly rich biodiversity. The key to a functioning ecosystem resides in its diversity: each actor plays an important role. Grapevines are not orchids but fungi are nonetheless essential to the well-being of our soils, helping the vine with nutrients intakes and favorizing the development of other protagonists. The presence of the late spider-orchid is a healthy indicator of the efficiency of our efforts. This botanical gem has become rare but has its home within Domaine du Grand Mayne.
Witness the biodiversity at Domaine du Grand Mayne
Come visit Domaine du Grand Mayne for a wine tasting, a picnic or a perfect getaway with friends at La Maison and get a chance to discover the late spider orchid in bloom, a true treasure for connoisseurs and naturalists!