THERE was a totally unexpected buzz for plant and insect expert Dr Mark O’Neill when he called at an electronics store at a major Tyneside shopping complex.
For he spotted a colony of bee orchids on a grass verge adjacent to the MetroCentre in Gateshead.
According to Dr O’Neill, the verge is probably one of the most northerly locations for the orchids ever seen in England.
He said: “I did a double take when I saw them. It is quite amusing that what is probably one of the northernmost limits for this orchid is on a patch of grass adjacent to a shopping centre not normally known for its rich ecology.
“You can find buttercups or daisies on verges but not orchids. It is possible that they arrived in top soil used to make the verge.”
Gateshead Council was informed of the find yesterday so that the orchid colony can be protected.
Coincidentally, the find ties in with Dr O’Neill’s studies into the similarities between the natural and man-made economic worlds.
Dr O’Neill is a visiting member of staff at Newcastle University and lives in Gosforth in the city. He also runs the Tumbling Dice company which designs computer systems with a biological slant.
He said: “The rules governing ecological and economic systems are very similar.
“Flowers are like brands which compete with each other for bees for pollination in the same way as companies compete for customers.”
Dr O’Neill said that an example of the similarities was the McDonald’s golden arches symbol on top of a slender pole – just like the blooms of tall flowers on a stalk.
Visitors can see bee orchids at an open night on Wednesday from 6-9pm at Newcastle University’s Moorbank Botanical Gardens in Claremont Road, Newcastle.