10,000 Orchids - Blooming Beautiful!

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Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera sp.)

In the last month, Plantlife Cymru has counted nearly 10,000 orchids at two of its reserves in Wales – a spectacular result for the conservation charity who first started monitoring these meadows 20 years ago -when there were less than 40 orchids in total!

“Taking hay cuts has played a big part in creating such magical meadows” says Head of Plantlife Cymru, Colin Cheesman. “The orchids and all the other wonderful wild flowers now have more space to flower and contribute to the wildlife of the reserves. More flowers mean more opportunities for pollinators such as wild bees, moths, beetles and butterflies which in turn feed the bigger food chain. This is the first time that a haycut was taken in addition to the grazing at Cae Blaen-dyffryn and the results have been spectacular. In just one year of haycuts the number of orchids have increased by a 1000 at this reserve alone.”

  • Cae Blaen Dyffryn reserve near Lampeter was as a riot of colour as Greater and Lesser butterfly orchids put on one of their biggest shows yet. Over 5,200 orchids were counted by Plantlife staff and volunteers. In Caeau Tan y Bwlch in Gwynedd, 4,598 greater butterfly orchids were recorded making it the second highest count ever!
  • Both meadows were given the Royal seal of approval by Plantlife’s patron HRH Prince Charles in 2012 as part of the Coronation Meadows project. Since then have been used to create four new meadows, so it’s fair to say they could be two of the most beautiful but also important fields in Wales!
  • The name Greater Butterfly-orchid is because the spreading sepals and petals of the flowers look a bit like the wings of a butterfly. As well as looking beautiful they give of a delicious scent of vanilla at night.

BUT….We’re still MISSING MOONWORT!

However one species that has eluded Plantlife for ten years is Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria). A short little fern which is known to disappear, but after 10 years it’s now cause for concern. Plantlife will be tweaking their grazing regimes in the hope it will clear the thick vegetation in certain areas and encourage moonwort to make a long awaited appearance!

And whilst orchids thrive in these special places, meadows like this are rare. 97 % of flower rich lowland grasslands have been lost across Wales since the 1930’s and that means orchids are just one of many native wildflowers that are disappearing from our countryside. It’s thanks to donations and our members that Plantlife battle to breathe new life back into our meadows but far more action is needed.

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