Counting orchids in Wales

Helen Bradley

Helen Bradley

Outreach Officer

13th June 2017

The arrival of June in the Plantlife Cymru office can only mean one thing – the approach of our annual orchid counts!

Greater Butterfly Orchid

Plantlife has two wonderful reserves in Wales – one in Gwynedd (Caeau Tan-y-Bwlch) and the other in Carmarthenshire (Cae Blaen Dyffryn). Both are grasslands with meadow grasses and flowers and have areas of boggy ground with damp-loving species.

Another link between these two sites is the presence of an abundance of orchids. Both have greater butterfly-orchids, although Cae Blaen Dyffryn also has the rare lesser butterfly-orchid.

As both species have white flowers with a greenish tinge it can be tricky to distinguish between them. The best way is to get up close and personal with the flowers and look at the pollen sacs.

In lesser butterfly orchid, they are a couple of millimetres long, vertical, parallel and close together forming an ‘II’ shape. Greater butterfly-orchid pollen sacs are 3-4 mm long and converge above while being widely spaced at the base in an inverted ‘V’ shape. See if you can spot the difference in these two photos...


Greater Butterfly Orchid


Lesser Butterfly Orchid

Why not see these wonderful flowers for yourself, and help us check they are still thriving, by coming along to our orchid counts this year?

  • Cae Blaen Dyffryn, Carmarthenshire – 17th June. For more information please click here. If you would like join us please let us know by contacting or calling 02920 376193.
  • Caeau Tan-y-Bwlch, Gwynedd – 1st July. For more information please click here. If you could like to join us, please feel free to come along on the day.