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Fen Orchid

Liparis loeselii

small yellow orchid flowers on a light green stalk


One of our rarer plants, its pretty pale yellow flowers liven up our dunes.

This wild flower is difficult to spot as it is small (around 8cm tall) and inconspicuous. The leaves wrap around the bottom of the single stem which supports several flowers towards the top of the plant.

The orchid is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, a naturally marshy area. Fen orchid needs wet areas with bare sand, short grasses and a lot of calcium in the soil.

The species has declined due to habitat loss as a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland. Plantlife has worked with Suffolk Wildlife Trust to translocate Fen Orchid to restored habitats.

Threats to Fen Orchid

The majority of the Fen Orchid populations were lost through drainage and in the late 20th Century through peat digging and mowing.  Other threats include climate change, inappropriate water and habitat management.

Did you know?

  • Fen orchid is one of the most threatened wild plants in Europe and is listed on Annex II of the Habitats and Species Directive, one of only nine flowering plants in Britain afforded this level of protection.
  • Fen orchids are different from other plants because they don’t usually grow in soil. Instead, they grow on clumps of moss or on sedge tussocks in wet areas called fens. This way of growing is similar to how tropical orchids grow on trees.
  • Two forms of fen orchid are found in Britain. The dune form is now found only in the dunes at Kenfig, while the other occurs only in the fens of East Anglia.
  • The Norfolk Fen Orchid are different to Wales Fen Orchid, because they have more flowers and pointy, oval-shaped leaves instead of round ones like the Welsh plants.

What is Plantlife doing?

After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites and the total population has risen through proper management.

Read more

a field of grass field with a variety of flowers in pink, purple, yellow and white

How can you help?

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