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The Cliffs

Interpretation Centre

Free Walks and the bright purple Orchid – 16/05/2019

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The garrigue areas of Dingli Cliffs have started to obtain the summer landscape, with patches of brown grasses amidst the remaining greenery. A plant which clearly stands out is Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis, Orkida Piramidali), through its bright purple flowers and clusters of orchid blooms.

 

Whilst this plant is Indigenous, it is quite frequently encountered during May. The flower stalk grows directly from underground rhizomes, tubers or bulbs. The bottom flowers bloom first, followed by each layer in an upward movement, forming a pyramidal-shaped flower head. The scent of this orchid varies according to the time of day, from sweet-scented in the morning to a musty-scent later in the day.

 

Each flower has two whitish flaps which help in the process of pollination. This way, pollinating insects, especially butterflies and moths, find their way to the nectar much easier by following the flaps. Usually each plant has two tubers next to each other, whereby the bigger tuber feeds the flower whilst the smaller one is like a spare bulb, which will feed the flower the following year.

 

In the Middle East tradition, the dried tubers of this orchid was used in the making of Salep, a type of powdery flour, which is rich in starch and nutritional value. Drinks made from Salep were traditionally used for curing coughs and cold, amongst other benefits.

 

A very similar orchid, which however retains an endemic status in the Maltese Islands, is that of the Maltese Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis urvilleana, Orkida Piramidali ta’ Malta). The flowers of the endemic plant are smaller and with a lighter pink to white colour, with earlier blossoming in March. This rare protected species of orchid can sometimes be encountered in Dingli Cliffs.

 

Despite the approaching summer, the Common Pryamidal Orchid is among the wild flora which can be abundantly found at Dingli Cliffs during this time of the year. Join us in one of our eco-walks – more information at 79642380 or our website – https://www.thecliffs.com.mt/faq/