Orchid Observers

At a glance

Record orchid flowering times.

Type of activity: Outdoor and online

Who can take part? Everyone

When? Outdoor photography: April to September. Online activity: any time.

How long will it take? Outdoors: 15 minutes. Online: 10 minutes per record.

Cost: Free

Photograph wild orchids and extract data from three centuries of Museum specimens to help us examine what impact climate change is having on the UK's orchids.

Why we are doing the project

Fifty-six native species of orchid grow wild in the UK, flowering from April to September.

Recent research indicates that climate change is affecting the flowering time of the early spider orchid, Ophrys sphegodes. We want to find out if this is true for other wild orchids and whether all species are responding in the same way, starting with 29 species.

To gather data from across the UK, we need as many people as possible to photograph orchids this spring and summer, and to send us the images with the date and location.

Alongside this, we have around 15,000 orchid specimens in the Museum's British and Irish herbarium. Collected over three centuries, they can tell us about flowering times in the past. Extracting data from so many specimens is a huge task, so we need your help.

How to take part

Outdoor photography activity

1. Read the photography instructions PDF (141KB) and the identification guide PDF (16MB) to find out which species we are targeting.

2. Take a walk in your local area to look for orchids.

3. Photograph any orchids you see.

4. Upload your photographs at www.orchidobservers.org

5. (Optional) Use the online tools to identify your orchid.

Online activity

1. Visit www.orchidobservers.org (registration is optional).

2. Choose to identify photographs others have uploaded, or extract data from the Museum's historical specimens.

3. Follow the online instructions to identify the orchid in the photograph or record the collection date and flowering stage of the historical specimen.

Project team

  • Dr Mark Spencer, Senior Curator British and Irish Herbarium
  • Dr John Tweddle, Head of the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity
  • Kath Castillo, Orchid Observers Project Officer

In partnership with:

University of Oxford's Zooniverse team


Funded by:

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (Science in Culture theme), as part of the Constructing Scientific Communities project

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