Critically endangered plant flowers for the first time in Suffolk for more than 40 years


Fen Orchid Picture: SUFFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST - Credit: Archant

It is one of the most beautiful sights of nature which many wildlife lovers thought they would never see again.

But after more than 40 years of extinction in Suffolk, the rare fen orchid has finally flowered again.

The species, which is notable for its pale, yellow blooms and is dependent on the unique, open conditions of fenland, disappeared from the county due to habitat loss.

That was a result of wetland being reclaimed for agricultural use or fens being allowed to “scrub over” and slowly revert to woodland.

While birds, dragonflies, damselflies and other mobile species have returned to the fens, the unique plant communities have needed more direct action.

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For the past 30 years Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working to restore a number of fenland sites by improving the amount of water, removing encroaching scrub and re-instating traditional mowing techniques.

However the painstaking work did not lead anywhere until 2017, when the habitat was again deemed suitable for the fen orchid.

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As a result British conservation charity Plantlife began a programme of translocations to sites in the valley fens – the culmination of a 10-year conservation strategy funded by Natural England.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust said the fact they are now flowering for the first time in over 40 years is “hugely significant”.

Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “Seeing a species like the fen orchid return to Suffolk is truly exciting.

“Although, of course, it is early days, the sight of its fragile yellow petals is a sign that both the translocation and the wider restoration of the landscape has been a success.”

Tim Pankhurst, Plantlife’s conservation manager for the East of England, who leads the conservation effort, said: “Bringing fen orchid back to Suffolk has been a goal of the partnership for many years and it is truly satisfying to see it achieved.

“It remains to be seen if the population continues to thrive but results so far are a testament to the decades of work put in by the trust to restore these beautiful places to their former glory.“

The project was the result of work between Plantlife, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and other organisations such as RSPB, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation and the Broads Authority.

The location of the fen orchids has not been revealed due to security reasons.

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