Orchids stolen from nature reserve

A "SELFISH" thief has stolen uncommon orchids from one of Suffolk's most important grassland nature reserves.The Suffolk Wildlife Trust said yesterday the theft of the plants was a criminal offence and the offender faced a heavy fine if caught.

A "SELFISH" thief has stolen uncommon orchids from one of Suffolk's most important grassland nature reserves.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust said yesterday the theft of the plants was a criminal offence and the offender faced a heavy fine if caught.

About a dozen turfs believed to have supported green-winged and early purple orchids have been taken from the Martin's Meadow reserve at Otley – probably to be replanted in someone's garden.

Martin's Meadow is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest because it is one of the few flower rich meadows to have survived farm intensification.

In the spring and early summer it has superb displays of orchids, including the pyramidal orchid, as well as cowslips and the rare snakes head fritillary.

In autumn the site blooms once more, this time with meadow saffron – a plant associated with ancient grassland.

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"This is a criminal offence and the offenders face a substantial fine if caught," said Steve Ayleward, trust spokesman.

"Transplantation of orchids is usually unsuccessful due to their very specific requirements – they certainly won't survive in a garden environment.

"Beautiful wild flowers protected in a publicly accessible nature reserves are for the enjoyment of the whole community.

"It's a shame that some people feel the need to deprive others of this pleasure by acting on selfish impulses," he added.

As with other wildlife trust reserves, Martin's Meadow is open to the public.

The trust said the vast majority of visitors respected the need to protect the plants in situ and enjoyed looking at them.

However, a small minority picked flowers and, in the worst cases, dug up roots at the start of mainly failed attempts to get the plants to adapt to garden conditions.

The trust is appealing to people visiting any of its nature reserves to report any suspicious behaviour.

Mr Ayleward can be contacted by telephoning 01473 890089.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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