The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

Protected species

Orchids mowed by contractors… again. Are they asking for it?

Matthew Chatfield
Latest posts by Matthew Chatfield (see all)

Somewhere near you, an orchid is popping up its spike, and some passer-by will spot it and be delighted at the strange ability of these unusual plants to apparantly appear from nowhere. They emerge from lawns after decades of absence, they pop up on verges, on remote hillsides and in woodlands, in fact, pretty much anywhere. One strange thing about many orchids is their irregularity. They can stay dormant in the ground for many years, and then emerge in their thousands. Thus it is sometimes very difficult to say whether or not an orchid is rare, common or even extinct. Because these plants are so often unseen, people imagine that all orchids are impossibly rare and highly protected. Not so on both counts. However, plenty of them are, and hunting rare orchids is a past-time for the ever hopeful, because there is always a real chance that a colony may have been overlooked.

Bee Orchid (c) Wolf 359

About this time of year there is always a sad tale like this one from Wales. For the second year in a row contractors mowed a verge bearing a rare orchid, not realising their error. Some poor goon from the council is left to bluster some kind of half-baked apology (No prizes for guessing who the Ranger most sympathises with). Similar issues happen all over the place – the Ranger has dealt with such incidents before. It’s a shame, but an understandable cock-up. If orchids were more organised, they would be nice and big, and always grow in the same place, reliably every year, and always look like a proper flower, not sometimes just a leafy spike, or even nothing. These orchids just don’t help themselves with their delicate, ephemeral existance and years of silent underground lurking. Contractors workplans do not, generally, accommodate the flexibility to conserve a single flower, or even a single area of flowers at certain time of the year. But perhaps they should.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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