Save Our Native Orchids
Exquisite, elegant and often spectacular it’s no wonder people often assume that orchids are exotic species.
And whilst its true most orchids grow in tropical forests, over fifty are native to the British Isles.
Sadly their beauty has not guaranteed their safety: many orchids in the UK are in decline. No surprise then, that they have benefited from Plantlife's work, including some of the rarest. It costs £80,000 a year to protect and improve our reserves so they can continue to be sanctuaries for orchids. On top of that, your donations fund conservation work that create the right conditions for these fabulous plants to grow, as Trevor Dines explains in the video below:
Orchids present Plantlife with an interesting conservation challenge. They are slow to grow and reproduce: lady orchids (Orchis purpurea) can take 8–10 years to first flower. Grazing by deer or rabbits can harm species such as fly orchid (Ophrys insectifera), and changes in climate have been particularly detrimental to man orchid, with last year’s warm, dry spring scorching off a number at our Ranscombe reserve before they could flower.
Despite these challenges, we have been doing a great deal to help nature along:
From just a handful green-winged orchids to several hundred...
Green winged orchids (Orchis morio - left) have thrived at Plantlife's Joan’s Hill Farm reserve, due to the careful management of our hay meadows over the last 20 years. And in Wales, at our Cae Blaen-dyffryn reserve, where for 20 years Plantlife has been doing an annual orchid count we have seen a 164% increase in lesser butterfly-orchid (Platanthera bifolia) and a phenomenal 1789% increase in greater butterfly-orchid (Platanthera chlorantha).
Plantlife's Ranscombe Farm reserve is home to 10 orchids...
...including bee orchid (Ophrys apifera) and common twayblade (Listera ovata). Our focus has been on improving conditions for the more threatened species - white helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium), man orchid (Orchis anthropophora), lady orchid and fly orchid. We have extended the grassland to help increase populations of man orchid and have encouraged the spread of beech trees because of their mycorrhizal relationship with white helleborine. Richard, our Reserve Manager, hand-pollinated a lone lady orchid plant (see image, left) and each pollinated flower has produced a seed pod - a promising result!
This year, we'll be bringing you some stories from the field and footage of British orchids - including some of our most threatened - as they bloom. Keep an eye on our newsletter or join our Facebook Group to catch these updates as they happen.
However none of this is possible without your help...
Here are some examples of how your money could be spent:
- £20 pays to keep our reciprocating blade mower running and in good repair for one day’s hay-cutting of grasslands, to create the light and space for orchids to grow
- £30 buys a new blade for the heavy duty brush cutter needed to get through the tough growth in woodlands and scrub
- £60 funds our volunteer team spending half-a-day carrying out essential coppicing work with our Ranscombe Warden, Ben.
Please give what you can so we can preserve these orchids for future generations to enjoy.