Readers of ‘Guernsey Country Diary’ published by the late Nigel Jee in 1997, may be familiar with his reference to ‘Lady’s Tresses’ wild orchids, appearing around the tombstones in St. Peter’s churchyard, during the month of September, in a summer of drought. The reference to Lady’s Tresses was likely written in 1995, when the Island enjoyed warm weather all summer long, with temperatures peaking at the start of August.
With 2018’s similar weather conditions and the beneficial effect of the absence of the Mowing Machine on Lady’s Tresses, we visited St. Peter’s churchyard last week in search of these small white orchids, to no avail.
However and following a tip-off from Nigel’s son Nic, we were today rewarded with the sight of Lady’s Tresses flowering at Candie Cemetery.
We are pleased to be able to add a photograph to Nigel Jee’s articulate description and information:
‘The dainty white flowers, smelling of almonds, are arranged spirally around a stem about six inches high. The Lady is the Virgin Mary; the tresses, the flowers spiralling around the stem.
The leaves of the Lady’s Tresses are not borne on the stem, but in a rosette growing flat on the ground. Thus they are not damaged by the mowing machine. But in a wet summer, the flowering spikes would be mown with the grass before revealing themselves for what they are. Those in St. Peter’s churchyard must have grown there unseen for many years, but it is only after a long drought with no mowing that they have had a chance to flower.’
If you too find Lady’s Tresses, please let us know where, so we can make a note of the site and if possible, endeavour to allow them to flourish.
In 2016, Nigel Jee, NTG founder member, Conseiller and biology teacher, was posthumously nationally recognised for his biological recording and information sharing. Mr Jee, who died in October 2013, was the inaugural winner of the National Biodiversity Network special award.
National Trust of Guernsey thanks the Jee family for permission to reproduce extracts from ‘Guernsey Country Diary’.