Monday 20 November 2017

Rare orchid blooms at sewage works

The early spider orchid is a rare sight in Britain (Wildlife Trust/PA)
The early spider orchid is a rare sight in Britain (Wildlife Trust/PA)

A rare orchid has been discovered in a surprising spot - on the green roof of a sewage treatment plant.

The early spider orchid was found growing on the grass roof at Swanage treatment works in Dorset by ecologists, who had been told by members of the public that another rare orchid had been spotted there last summer.

After going to look for the bee orchid, staff at Wessex Water changed the mowing process on the roof, and discovered the early spider orchid - a smaller and rarer species.

The early spider orchid is protected by law, making it a crime to uproot, cut, sell or destroy it.

Ellen McDouall, senior conservation ecologist at Wessex Water, said the limestone coastal cliffs around Swanage, on the Isle of Purbeck, were one of only three UK strongholds for the species, along with Kent and Suffolk.

"The roof has only existed for 10 years and the orchids can take that long to flower. We don't know how this got on the roof - whether seed was in the soil or blown in from nearby.

"Thankfully the roof of the sewage treatment works is under no particular operational pressure so we are hopeful that we will be able to actively manage the land for the benefit of the plant."

A spokesman for Dorset Wildlife Trust said: "This is a lovely find as the early spider orchid is nationally scarce, with around 75% of the population being found in Purbeck, and the rest along the south coast to Kent and Suffolk.

"They are so special to Dorset that Dorset Wildlife Trust use it as part of our logo."

Press Association

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