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Wet weather last year results in explosion of orchids in Sussex
The orchid population has “exploded” in Sussex – thanks to last year’s wet weather.
Tens of thousands of the wild flowers now litter the county with the population, which is thought to have more than doubled since last year.
A rare species has also re-appeared in Malling Down.
Experts put the rise down to last year’s heavy rainfall along with changes in grazing patterns.
Jess Price, a conservation officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, described the increase as an “explosion”.
She said: “It’s difficult to say, but I would estimate the number or orchids to have doubled.
“We think last year’s weather certainly had an impact. Orchids are very good at storing energy for a long time so we’re seeing the benefits of last year’s rain.”
The other contributing factor, she explained, has been the changes to grazing patterns.
Orchids struggle with grazing in the late spring so livestock have only been allowed on land earlier in the year.
She added: “It’s a little bit trial and error but it appears to have worked.”
Perhaps the biggest success story is the re-appearance of the Musk Orchid.
The species disappeared from Malling Down, near Lewes, six year ago and experts feared it may never come back.
But earlier this summer staff from Sussex Wildlife Trust stumbled across a single tiny Musk Orchid.
The hope is through germination and conservation the species can flourish in the area once more.
Another success story is Mount Caburn, near Glynde, where the once struggling Burnt Tip Orchid now covers the area.
There have also been reports of orchids popping up on grass verges and the sides of railway tracks in urban areas such as Eastbourne and Brighton and Hove.
Ms Price added: “Because orchids are so fussy they are a good indication of whether the local eco-system is doing well.
“However, to ensure their continued success it is important that they are left alone.
“Although many are very beautiful, the must not be picked.”
Shaun Pryor, a trainee ecologist at Sussex Wildlife Trust, stumbled across the first Musk Orchid in six years.
Among the more common orchids to be found in the county include the Bee Orchid, Pyramidal and Common-Spotter Orchid.
For more details visit sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk.
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