Friday, 12 July 2013

Welsh orchids


The British Isles is rich in wild species. Some recent articles from Welsh enthusiasts caught my eye.

First up is a lovely account of volunteers counting orchids in a wildflower meadow at Plas Newydd, Ynys Môn.

The aim was to find out how many common spotted orchids, northern marsh orchids and rarer greater butterfly orchids grow in the field. The volunteers were also helping Rachel Dolan, the Trust’s new nature conservation intern on Anglesey, to find out how best to enable visitors to get closer to nature and help with ecological monitoring.

Read about how this particular meadow has survived, when 95% of the UK’s other meadows have disappeared. As agricultural improvements were happening all around, this particular field was kept for ball games by the nearby Conway outdoor pursuits centre.  Unbeknown to generations of youngsters from Cheshire, the field, which required summer mowing and winter grazing, became a perfect habitat for wildflowers, including three species of orchid.

When the centre gave up the field four years ago and mowing was delayed until late summer, gardeners watched in amazement at it turned into a colourful carpet of pale purple orchids.

The article reports there are over 150,000 orchids in the meadow.

There’s also a piece on sustainability here.

Another article, cheerfully entitled ‘Bracken Bashing and Butterfly Orchids’ is all about work at Coed Simdde Lwyd and Caeau Llety Cybi.

At Caeau Llety Cybi volunteers did the annual Greater Butterfly Orchid count (and pulled some ragwort). It seems to be a good year for them. They counted 624 compared with a maximum of 363 in previous counts. These are nearly all in one field but there were also more in the second field than has been seen before.

Read about the distinctive greater butterfly orchid which can be found in old hay meadows and unimproved grasslands, such as can be found in Caeau Llety Cybi.  The flower spike can carry around 40 of the vanilla scented flowers.

The Latin name for this lovely plant is Platanthera chlorantha the name Platanthera is derived from Greek, meaning 'broad anthers', while the species name, chlorantha, means 'green-flowered'.

Local wildlife experts admit they don’t understand the increase in numbers at Caeau Llety Cybi although a wet winter may account for the numbers nearly doubling this year, from speaking to the Orchid Society of Great Britain this does seem a likely explanation but there is currently no research we have been able to find which does support this.

Finally, Moths, Meadows andOrchids’ describes a delightful walk in Wales. It makes you want to get our wellies.Walkers found the Common Spotted Orchid and plenty of butterfly orchids, despite the cold spring. Beautiful pictures, John.