What is a Lesser Butterfly Orchid?
This delicate, beautiful and sweetly-scented plant, with its single spike of pale flowers, grows in a wide range of places, from bogs to grassland, and even into woodland. It’s widespread, but has declined drastically – disappearing from more than half of its former range in just 50 years, especially in the east of England.
Why are they in trouble?
These long-lived plants can tolerate difficult conditions for a while, but they need stable habitat management and seed production over many years for numbers to hold or increase. Many populations have been declining slowly for decades. In some cases, the reasons may be clear – such as drainage. Others are more complex. For example, agricultural chemicals affect a fungus that grows with the orchid seedlings, and without this fungus, they cannot thrive.
How we helped the Lesser Butterfly Orchid
This Back from the Brink project, led by Plantlife, focused on understanding more about this lovely plant. Volunteer surveyors contributed hugely to our knowledge of the orchid, and we established a network of helpers, from the general public to orchid experts, who found out more information about this delicate plant's needs. We undertook careful habitat management and trialled new techniques to help the plant to flourish and spread.
What we achieved
Trial conservation management work was carried out at two nature reserves in Devon and Cornwall, designed to increase the populations of Lesser Butterfly Orchid. This already seems to be having a positive impact at one of the sites, with the Orchid having been found in a new part of the site. Flower walk events have given people a chance to see Lesser Butterfly Orchid and other interesting plant species associated with the habitats in which it grows. Landowners of the sites where conservation management work has taken place will continue to manage the sites in a way that should benefit Lesser Butterfly Orchid.