Bee orchids bounce back

The meadow in the city: beyond Big Yellow Self Storage you can see one of Norwich City FC's stands.

Regular readers will know that I keep a regular eye on some bee orchids that grow outside Big Yellow Self Storage on Canary Way, opposite Norwich City FC’s football ground.

I made my regular visit to count them on 7th June 2019. A rather gloomy day was brightened by counting 42 flowering spikes of bee orchids. Last year they’d dwindled in number to less than ten, and I feared it was the beginning of the end for them. Not so: more the end of the beginning as The Meadow in the City goes into a new phase.

In the early years, the bee orchids were on the grass opposite the football ground. Now most of them are growing around the corner. It helps that this year the Big Yellow team has organised that all the grass around two sides of the warehouse-like building has remained uncut. Credit where credit is due: there was reluctance to do this when I first broached the subject in 2009, but now I don’t even have to remind them. Even without the orchids it’s a delight: bumblebees were collecting nectar on ox-eye daisies and other flowers; birds were foraging in the vegetation.

Bee orchid Ophrys apifera.
I called in at Big Yellow reception to give the good news, where the staff kindly said that they enjoy my annual visit. As we discussed, they were in many ways ahead of the curve. Wildlife charity Plantlife was promoting No Mow May this year. The BBC’s Springwatch has its Gardenwatch project. “Precious wildlife havens in an ever increasing concrete jungle,” according to presenter Michaela Strachan, which sums up Big Yellow's meadow rather nicely. Add to this the increasing understanding of how nature helps our mental health or wellbeing and that’s a lot of boxes ticked.

As you’ll see from the photos, the bee orchids are flowering now and there are buds of flowers still to come. If you are passing Big Yellow Storage in central Norwich, do take time to look.
Bee orchids in flower and in bud.
Bee orchid in a strange setting.


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