Col de Menee, near Combeau
Searching for orchids around the village of La Chapelle-en-Vercors
Location of La Chapelle en Vercors
Vercors June 2008 gallery
La Chapelle en Vercors, altitude 945 metres, lies at the heart of the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors.The geological diversity of the mountains – the deep gorges cut in limestone, the plateaux and summits overlooked by the Grand Veymont (2,341 m; 7,680 feet), the sheer cliffs and extensive forests, and the climate subjected to a variety of influences – continental, oceanic, Mediterranean and alpine, all give this area a particularly rich and diverse wildlife and flora.
With a total in excess of 1800 plant species, orchids are well represented with about 63 species existing within the park.
We spent a week here principally looking for orchid species. We looked at different habitats whilst driving around, and walked several well-marked footpaths – there is a good network of ‘sentiers’ to give access to the most promising areas. The park authority produces indispensable footpath maps widely available in the shops. For one rare species we asked a local park ranger, they frequently drive the area in well-marked vans.
The weather was unseasonally awful ! By June it has usually stabilized, apparently, allowing of course for odd blips because of the altitude. The day we left La Chapelle it was 4 degrees centigrade on the final col, the previous day had seen 20 minutes of snow there ! The cold, very wet and prolonged spring meant that butterflies were at a very low density, but the orchids were there if a little later than normal. This proved to be an advantage; I would recommend the first week in June for this trip in a ‘normal’ year.
We made no attempt to see the specialist breeding birds of the region, the birds recorded were those seen whilst looking for orchid species; likewise with butterflies because of the bad weather.
Font D’Urle, altitude 1436m.
Situated a few kms west of Vassieux, the road to the village [D76b] is signposted on the D76 – it is a well-known site for walkers.
Font D’Urle is a small skiing resort of chalets and gites with a couple of restaurants. From here there is a marked circular footpath to Porte D’Urle at 1499m. and back over some limestone karst to the village. A spectacular walk of high pasture and limestone crags and pavements with many plant species.
Herbouilly/Hauts Plateaux, altitude 1300-1600m.
About 3 kms east of St Martin-en-Vercors, along the back-road [D221] to Villard-de-Lans, is the Auberge de Roybon, a hotel/restaurant. From here it is possible to walk the marked paths to the high plateau.
We barely ventured up here, mainly because of the weather, but also because the main interest here is probably avian, i.e. Black Grouse, owls, etc as the plateau is mostly covered with forest. On two brief visits we did however see some interesting plants; a walk to the top would no doubt prove rewarding.
Vallee de Combeau, altitude 1200-1300m.
A beautiful, remote valley north of Menee, on route D120, with interesting flora.
Beaufort-sur-Gervanne area, altitude c350m.
In the extreme south-west of the park, Beaufort is on route D70.
Being lower and more southerly, we looked at fields and a wood near here for ophrys orchids, the climate being almost Mediterranean.
Les Merciers, altitude c1300m.
Les Merciers is a small hamlet near Engins and is sign-posted on route D531 north of Lans-en-Vercors.
Apparently well known to mountain walkers, we walked a short stretch of one of the marked paths above the village, looking in vain for a decent selection of butterflies.
These are just five sites we looked at after gleaning information from the Vercors park website and elsewhere. It seemed that just about anywhere produced orchid species when we toured around and walked the footpath network, it was just a matter of narrowing down habitat requirements. In fact, many species were found roadside.
I have not given specific details on the location of certain species, e.g. Lady’s Slipper, Coral Root and Spitzel’s, and I won’t respond to emails asking for details. We found these either by good fortune, or in the case of one by asking a park ranger – I suggest others do the same, or try emailing them through the website. The park authorities also provide guides to help you find certain species; see their website.
Camping des Myrtilles
26420 La CHAPELLE-EN-VERCORS
Tél & Fax : 04.75.48.20.89.
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Official website of the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors
ORCHIDS - 31 species, not including subspecies, and some hybrids.
Main source of reference FIELD GUIDE TO ORCHIDS OF BRITAIN & EUROPE by Karl Peter Buttler, 1991.
1. MAN ORCHID
Aceras anthropophorum – Common roadside
2. PYRAMIDAL ORCHID
Anacamptis pyramidalis – Fairly common, especially in the southwest
3. WHITE HELLEBORINE
Cephalanthera damasonium – Occasional roadside and elsewhere, often with Narrow-leaved Helleborine
4. NARROW-LEAVED HELLEBORINE
Cephalanthera longifolia – Common roadside and woods
5. RED HELLEBORINE
Cephalanthera rubra – Common roadside and woods near Beaufort sur Gervanne
Red Helleborine near Beaufort sur Gervanne
6. FROG ORCHID
Coeloglossum viride - Font d'Urle only
7. CORAL ROOT
Corallorhiza trifida – Undisclosed site, five plants
8. LADY'S SLIPPER
Cypripedium calceolus – Undisclosed site with 150+ plants
9. COMMON SPOTTED ORCHID
Dactylorhiza fuchsii – Scattered, woods and occasionally roadside
10. HEATH SPOTTED ORCHID
Dactylorhiza maculata – Scarce, a few roadside near Herbouilly
11. ELDER-FLOWERED ORCHID
Dactylorhiza sambucina (red and yellow variants) – very common Font d’Urle and some high cols
12. SMALL-LEAVED HELLEBORINE
Epipactis microphylla – One plant only in woods near Beaufort sur Gervanne
Gymnadenia conopsea – Common in rocky areas
14. LIZARD ORCHID
Himantoglossum hircinum – Very common at lower altitude
15. VIOLET LIMODORE
Limodorum abortivum – Only in woods near Beaufort sur Gervanne
16. COMMON TWAYBLADE
Listera ovata – Common roadside
17. BIRD'S NEST ORCHID
Neottia nidus-avis – Amazingly common in most woods
18. BEE ORCHID
Ophrys apifera – Common roadside on warm southern side, e.g. around Beaufort sur Gervanne
19. LATE SPIDER ORCHID
Ophrys fuciflora – 2-3 plants in field near Beaufort sur Gervanne
20. FLY ORCHID
Ophrys insectifera – Occasional roadside and in woods
21. WOODCOCK ORCHID
Ophrys scolopax – Several plants in field near Beaufort sur Gervanne
22. EARLY PURPLE ORCHID
Orchis mascula – Very common on roadsides. Late-flowering high altitude plants possibly ssp. acutiflora e.g. Font D’Urle
23. MILITARY ORCHID
Orchis militaris – Occasional roadside around La Chapelle and Vassieux
24. PALE-FLOWERED ORCHID
Orchis pallens – 8 plants near Herbouilly
25. LADY ORCHID
Orchis purpurea – Occasional roadside and in woods
26. MONKEY ORCHID
Orchis simia – Common roadside
27. SPITZEL'S ORCHID
Orchis spitzelii – Common at undisclosed site
28. TOOTHED ORCHID
Orchis tridentata ssp. commutata – Five plants near Beaufort sur Gervanne
Toothed Orchid near Beaufort sur Gervanne
29. BURNT ORCHID
Orchis ustulata – Scarce throughout, possibly including ssp. aestivus
30. LESSER BUTTERFLY ORCHID
Platanthera bifolia – Common roadside and woods
31. GREATER BUTTERFLY ORCHID
Platanthera chlorantha – Six plants in woods near Beaufort sur Gervanne
Orchis militaris x O.simia Hybrid Military/Monkey – near Vassieux
Orchis tridentata x O.ustulata Hybrid Toothed/Burnt – near Beaufort sur Gervanne
Bee orchid hybrids, various, e.g. x Late Spider - near Beaufort sur Gervanne
WILDFLOWERS of interest, not an exhaustive list;
Phyteuma nigra - roadside
Silene acaulis - Fonte d’Urle
Gentiana angustifolia - Combeau
Gentiana clusii - high cols
Gentiana verna - Font d’Urle
Pyrola minor - Combeau
Trolleus europaeus - Font d’Urle
Saxifraga paniculata - Les Merciers
Viola tricolor - Font d’Urle
ST. BERNARD'S LILY
Anthericum liliago - Combeau
Convallaria majalis - Herbouilly
Erythronium dens-canis - Font d’Urle
Narcissus poeticus - Font d’Urle
Narcissus pseudonarcissus - Font d’Urle
Paris quadrifolia - Herbouilly
SCENTED SOLOMON'S SEAL
Polygonatum odoratum - Font d'Urle
60 species recorded, including;
Gyps fulvus - 40+ Font D’Urle
Circaetus gallicus - 1-2 southern Vercors
Coturnix coturnix - 1 heard campsite
Strix aluco - 1 campsite
Merops apiaster - 2 Beaufort
Dryocopus martius - 2-3 heard or seen
Phoenicarus phoenicarus - 1+ pairs breeding at campsite
Certhia brachydactyla - 1 Beaufort
Pyrrhocorax graculus - common Font D’Urle
23 species recorded
2. LARGE WHITE
3. BLACK-VEINED WHITE
Aporia crataegi - Beaufort
4. SMALL WHITE
5. ORANGE TIP
6. CLOUDED YELLOW
8. WOOD WHITE
9. ILEX HAIRSTREAK
Nordmannia ilicis - Beaufort
10. LITTLE BLUE
Cupido minimus - Herbouilly
11. SILVER-STUDDED BLUE
Plebejus argus - Combeau
12. ADONIS BLUE
Polyommatus bellargus - Combeau
13. ESCHER'S BLUE
Polyommatus escheri - Beaufort
14. RED ADMIRAL
15. SMALL TORTOISESHELL
Aglais urticae - Les Merciers
16. PAINTED LADY
17. HEATH FRITILLARY
Mellicta athalia - Beaufort
18. MARBLED WHITE
19. MEADOW BROWN
20. SMALL HEATH
21. PEARLY HEATH
Coenonympha arcania - Beaufort
22. WALL BROWN
23. SMALL SKIPPER