UK: Rare orchids cut down before seeding


Orchid with white flowers growing in grass

A Narrow-leaved Helleborine in full summer glory © Dominic Price / Plantlife.

A comedy of errors of tragic proportions has been played out on a roadside verge in Hampshire for the past three summers.

Scattered over only a few sites Narrow-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) is one of the UK's rarest orchids but it's been thriving at Mascoombe Bottom in Hampshire for over 50 years.

That was until 2008 when the cutting regime changed and the site was stripped of its orchids before they had flowered. Putting it down to sad experience conservationists worked closely with Hampshire Council to make sure it didn't happen again in 2009... but lo and behold they were once again cut down in their prime.

After seeking assurances it would never happen again Plantlife discovered last week the terrible news that - once again - the massively diminished population had been cut there was outrage. "This is nothing short of a massacre of one of the UK's rarest species," said Dominic Price of Plantlife.

Narrow-leaved Helleborine is protected under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, which requires local authorities to ‘have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in England, when carrying out their normal functions’.

Dominic Price said: “In our view we cannot see how the council have not breached their legal duty in this case, and Plantlife is pursuing this with them to ensure this type of event never happens again.”

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