Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Field day for burnt orchids

British native orchids offer a fascinating array of specimens.

One particular gem is the mythical burnt orchid. Ten years ago, Reserve Officer Steve Tillman found around ten years ago at Southerham Nature Reserve in Sussex but no-one has seen them since.

But good news! Senior Ecologist Graeme Lyons has been busy mapping and/or counting the rarer plants of the chalk grassland site Southerham. Originally was concentrating on chalk milkwort and white horehound, and noted less of the former compared to what they recalled in previous years.

However, he says wisely: “I believe this is the fault of our memories though and not a decline in the plant and demonstrates the importance of detailed monitoring. Memories change the more you access them, Excel files don’t.”

Good point.

Then, bingo. Together with  Steve Tillman, he found a single burnt orchid, then four more and another seven. Despite a thorough search, that was it. Twelve specimens tallies with what Tindall recorded, demonstrating the importance of taking accurate grid references.

Happily, now they’ll be able to monitor and safeguard these plants.

Visit Graeme’s blog for more.

By Pamela Kelt

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