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Wildlife experts express outrage as 2,000 orchids are mown over

PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:05 24 June 2018

One of the rare Bee Orchid's in Carroll Cooper's garden, Holt in 2016. She didn't cut the grass around them, to encourage them to grow.   Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

One of the rare Bee Orchid's in Carroll Cooper's garden, Holt in 2016. She didn't cut the grass around them, to encourage them to grow. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

Wildlife experts have expressed outrage after around 2,000 unusual orchids were mown over.

Bee orchids are a unique-looking species of plant that has evolved to take on the appearance and smell of a bee.

The roundabouts and grass verges on Round House Way in Cringleford have been home to more than 2,345 bee orchids - in comparison a wild flower meadow next to The Big Yellow Storage Centre in Norwich often sees less than 20 of the flower.

However on June 18 a Twitter user named Dave Andrews wrote a post that said the plants had been mown over.

The EDP contacted the county council, Cringleford Parish Council and Round House Park housing developers Bovis Homes, none of which have taken responsibility for the incident.

Verges have been cut along Roundhouse Way.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Verges have been cut along Roundhouse Way. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

An informal group of ecologists and wildlife enthusiasts, including Iain Barr, senior lecturer at the school of biological sciences at University of East Anglia, meet annually around early June to count the bee orchids around Round House Way.

The group contact the county council’s Highways department each year to highlight the issue of mowing the orchids at peak flowering time, which is around late May to late June.

Dr Barr said: “On June 6 I spoke to South Norfolk Council and Highways from the county council and informed them of the bee orchids. We had counted 2,345 bee orchids on three roundabouts and three small verges. There were also more than 1,500 bee orchids on the A11 Round House park way roundabout as well.

“This year the contractors have obviously attempted to save some orchids, as two tiny patches have been left but otherwise 2,000 orchids have been mowed, again at peak flowering time, and so no seeds will set from these flowers. There are around 350 left on one roundabout and 75-80 on another.

“The highways department have designed excellent roundabouts and visibility is good without cutting the orchids. The clearance was way beyond the reasonable.”

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “Our contractor has confirmed that we have not implemented cutting to the area in question. The area is not currently adopted, however once it is we could discuss the cutting regime with Cringleford Parish Council and other interested parties and arrange it accordingly.

“We take a balanced approach with regard to highway safety and the protection of the environment, but ultimately the safety of pedestrians and users has to come first.”

Chris Durdin, owner of Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays, said: “That’s a really big swarm of them so it’s very sad. If the area is managed right they should come back up again next year but not necessarily in the same numbers.”

Verges have been cut along Roundhouse Way.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2018Verges have been cut along Roundhouse Way. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2018

Mark Thomas from the RSPB investigations team in Norfolk said: “Obviously we are saddened and shocked that these orchids have been cut down and we would welcome clarification and reassurance that this will not occur in the future. It’s completely unnecessary.”

Fact file:

The unique-looking bee orchid is found across England, but Norfolk Wildlife Trust have said it is on the decline.

Its bee-looking pink petals and brown centre, as well as female-bee scent are designed to encourage male bees to attempt to mate with it, collecting pollen while they do so.

In England it is thought that bee orchids reproduce asexually, as the species of bee it attracts is not found here.

Bee orchids grow up to 30cm.

The single flower is the culmination of up to eight years growth and, if picked, it is unlikely to flower again and has lost its only chance of producing seeds.

Bee orchids can be unpredictable and may vanish from an area where they have been flowering successfully.

They are usually found in areas such as scrubland, sand dunes, chalk grassland and sometimes unmown lawns.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust have said to encourage the orchids, cutting should be avoided.

https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife-in-norfolk/species-explorer/plants/bee-orchid

Bee Orchids which were growing in the grass surrounding the Big Yellow Storage Company several years ago.  Chris Durdin asked if the grass could not be cut to protect the orchids, but sadly it was.  PHOTO: Chris Durdin.Bee Orchids which were growing in the grass surrounding the Big Yellow Storage Company several years ago. Chris Durdin asked if the grass could not be cut to protect the orchids, but sadly it was. PHOTO: Chris Durdin.

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