Plants are essential to everyone's lives. Welcome to Plantlife.
Endangered orchids cut down by council contractors at Mascoombe Bottom for the third year running
Plantlife and wildlife enthusiasts in Hampshire react with anger after a site for rare orchids was prematurely mown for the third year running, leaving the orchids now under threat of extinction at this site.
June 09 2010
Narrow-leaved Helleborine is one of the rarest orchids in the UK, protected by law and now confined to a scattering of sites across England. The orchid is classed internationally as Vulnerable, meaning it is considered to be facing ‘a high risk of extinction in the wild’.
It is also one of the UK’s most visually striking plants, with a spike of uniform pale-cream flowers, which is easily seen during its peak flowering period between May and July.
What has happened at Mascoombe Bottom?
For more than 50 years a road verge at Mascoombe Bottom in the Meon Valley has supported a population of the rare orchid, as the relatively open conditions and south-facing slope are ideal for it. However a change of cutting regime means that for the last three years the orchids have been cut as soon as they flowered, preventing any seeds from being set and meaning the population here is now facing the possibility of extinction.
Dominic Price, Plantlife’s Species Recovery Officer, said: “When the site was cut by Hampshire County Council contractors in 2008 we were dismayed, but accepted that a lack of knowledge and communication breakdown had led to this happening. We worked with the council to ensure adequate protection was put in place to ensure it did not occur again. However, the orchids were once again cut down in their prime in 2009, at which point more formal complaints were made to the council and assurances given that this would not happen again. When I found out last week that for the third year running, the few remaining orchids had been cut before they could flower, I was absolutely speechless. This is nothing short of a massacre of one of the UK’s rarest species.”
Jayne Chapman, who acts as a Plantlife ‘Flora Guardian’ and keeps a regular check on the site for Plantlife was equally shocked. She said, “I am absolutely heartbroken that this has happened again, particularly after all the work we have put into making sure that those responsible at Hampshire County Council knew the exact location of the plants and how important these measures are to the survival of this population. It is as though they have ignored all the recommendations we have given. The verge does need to be cut but we made it clear this should happen in August after the orchids have set seed. This particular verge is listed on the council’s Road Verges of Ecological Importance project and all relevant information pertaining to that site should automatically be passed on to the Hampshire County Council contractor.”
Narrow-leaved Helleborine is protected under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, which requires local authorities to ‘have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in England, when carrying out their normal functions’.
Dominic Price said: “In our view we cannot see how the council have not breached their legal duty in this case, and Plantlife is pursuing this with them to ensure this type of event never happens again.”
For more information or images contact:
A call to arms to governments, Members of Parliament, conservation ...
The Ghost Orchid Declaration is a new report from Plantlife, which looks at ...