As I trudged uphill, through the thick beech leaf carpet, carrying rucksack and tripod I felt, instinctively, that this year would not be one for those tiny treasures, the ghost orchids, that have over the years held a particular interest for me within the greater encompass of my Orchidophilia.
The colouring of ghost orchids – various pale yellow and cream tones and reddish stem flecked with a darker red – creates a camouflage effect in their beechwood habit with its dappled lighting. The knack is to spot the first when, as with orchids of all kinds, others seem to spring up…as you get your ‘eye in’, especially when shafts of light penetrating the canopy pick them out. I had, in fact. given up, resigned to trying another day when I took a slight diversion some 40m sideways to a gulley and found the first flowering plant just a few cm high….another 9 spikes followed, flowering some two weeks earlier than I have ever found them previously.
Long before I came to live in central Italy (2003) I had, in fact, led botanical and photographic trips within Italy from the early 1990s. As I discovered the joys of the central Italian hills and mountains, the one thing that impressed me, above all else, was not the number of rare species (however impressive when it came to wild orchids) but the wealth of the displays.