Record Number Of Rare Orchids Found At Kenfig

• Years of pioneering hard work to restore fragile dune habitat are now beginning to reap rewards

• Highest numbers of fen orchid in 20 years recorded at Kenfig Dunes, near Bridgend, this summer.

• Over 1000 of these extremely rare orchids have been counted, more than double the number seen in the last two decades.

Three-quarters of the plants are growing in special ‘scrape’ habitats created by a partnership of Plantlife, Natural Resources Wales and Bridgend County Borough Council to help bring the orchid back from the brink of extinction. Of global significance for its dune habitats, Kenfig Important Plant Area (IPA) is the last place in the UK where the dune form of fen orchid grows. This year’s count provides strong evidence that our joint conservation efforts are reversing declines and providing a brighter future for one of Wales’ rarest wild flowers.

Fen Orchid

Plantlife’s Colin Cheesman says “This special dune form of fen orchid once grew at eight dune sites along the south Wales coast but a lack of active management meant that the dunes became overgrown, the bare sand disappearing under a thick mat of vegetation. Even at Kenfig, one of the most important dune systems in the UK, numbers dropped from 21,000 at the end of the 1980s to just 400 when conservation work began in 2011. This result is not just good news for Kenfig, but for other dune sites like Whiteford and Pembrey where we can now introduce similar management in the hopes of bringing back fen orchid.”

The work at Kenfig involves two different approaches to management. The first is to excavate shallow ‘scrapes’ in low-lying areas called dune slacks between the large dunes. As the vegetation grows back on the sand, these wet areas become home to an amazing variety of rare plants such as variegated horsetail, cavernous crystalwort and fen orchid. The second approach kick-starts natural dune processes by excavating large areas of dune near the sea, which allows the wind to blow bare sand around and form new mobile dunes. These special shifting sandy habitats support wonderful plants like sea stock and sea holly, along with a fantastic array of rare invertebrates including beetles, bees and ants.

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