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 will help the Lesser Butterfly Orchid
This Back from the Brink project, led by Plantlife, will focus on understanding more about this lovely plant. Volunteer surveyors can contribute hugely to our knowledge of the orchid, so we want to establish a network of helpers, from the general public to orchid experts, to find out more about where they are growing, as well as more detailed information about their needs. We’ll undertake careful habitat management and trial new techniques to help the plant to flourish and spread. The Project team will also produce a free booklet with all the information site managers and others need to help the plant.
What we’re aiming for
By the end of the project, we’ll have begun to see a reversal in the fortunes of this orchid. We aim to understand its requirements better, and disseminate the management information. We hope to have generated widespread interest and concern among people who can find and nurture it.
How to get involved
Can you help us with surveys, or with creating the right conditions for Lesser Butterfly Orchids to flourish?
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