Frog Orchid Update
Shropshire Flora Group Newsletter 7 - Autumn 1998 - page 16
Ruth & Allan Dawes
At Craig Sychtyn…
Carefully controlled management work was carried out by Shropshire Wildlife Trust volunteers in the quarry (site A) in January 1998, involving cutting down scrub, strimming rank grasses and raking of thick moss to expose bare ground. A return to the previous grazing regime on this site would have been our ideal aim, but as it is tiny and not commercially viable the landowner had fenced it off and has no plans to reintroduce stock. We were delighted to count 12 flowering spikes this summer, the most since our monitoring began in 1990. The dormant plants must have been there all the time. We have to ask the question, did they flower because of our tentative, experimental management work or was it a particularly good year for Frog Orchids? By late summer the vegetation has already become quite substantial again. In the absence of grazing, strimming and raking will need to be performed annually.
Site B in the wood at Craig Sychtyn produced a nil return for the fourth year running. Site C by the footpath in the wood had one flowering spike in the usual place.
Six flowering spikes have appeared in a new colony in a shady area inside the reserve (site D), growing on otherwise bare ground which was cleared of trees and shrubs the previous winter. This bare ground was alongside a regularly walked path and is one of the few sites on the reserve where we have Greater Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera chlorantha. We feel confident that we would have seen the Frog Orchids if they had flowered in previous years and therefore assume that they must have been present in a dormant state and flowered in response to increased light levels. This would be consistent with a small colony (site B) which flourished after coppicing at the north end of the reserve, but faded away as the ground layer (dense Dog's-mercury, Mercurialis perennis) colonised the bare area.
Number of flowering spikes of Coeloglossum viride in various locations at Craig Sychtyn:
… and elsewhere
Conversely, at another privately owned quarry nearby which we have also been monitoring, numbers were down to seven this year. This is a site left to natural succession where no management takes place.
Last year we looked carefully at the growing conditions immediately surrounding all the known Shropshire plants and those in a flourishing colony of over 100 at a disused limestone quarry over the border. Initial observations show that there is usually a small area of bare soil surrounding each plant suggesting that germination occurs best on bare ground.
Two years' search of suitable habitats by various volunteers has produced nil return from Wenlock Edge.
Finally, the really good news. Jackie Pedlow found two plants in a new site on the edge of Llynlcys Common. Also, a request from Ian Trueman to visit an old garden site in Pant to check on records there produced a nil return amongst rank grasses and shading by sycamore, but brought about an introduction to caring owners of two species-rich old hay meadows, where we were delighted to find 30 flowering spikes, making this the biggest known colony in Shropshire. A welcome and timely reminder that however well you think you know your patch, always keep an open eye and an open mind as something good is sure to turn up.