This orchid can be very difficult to spot when found in the leaf-litter of woodland where it most frequently occurs. From time to time it can also be found in greener, grassy habitats.
Invariably concealed among the leaf litter in dark woodland, the Bird's-nest Orchid is so called because its tangle of short roots resembles a badly-made bird's nest.
Lacking cholorophyll, this orchid is entirely dependent on a 'host' for its nutrients - in this case the hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi. The flower spike can often have up to 100 densely-packed flowers which, like the rest of the plant, are golden brown turning darker with age. This plant is widely distributed throughout Europe, North Africa and the Near East.
Bird's-nest Orchid can be tricky to find, living as it does in low-lit woodland conditions, but in Slovenia at the right time of year, these orchids appear in thousands. Not only are they inside woodland, they spill out on to roadside verges in huge clumps of flowers. No doubt, they occur in similar numbers in other Central European countries, too.
The specimens above was photographed under lime trees in west Wales in early May (top), and in Beech woods in the Lot Valley in France in late April.