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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Introduction. UK Red List Plants -2 Man Orchid.

In this series we look at the species of plants that are currently on the Biodiversity Action Plan Red list. Orchis anthropophora, formerly known as Aceros anthropophorum, is a European species of orchid belonging to the order Asparagales,it is placed in the sub-family Orchidoideae within the family Orchidaceae.

It takes its name from the flowers which have a superficial resemblance to the human form. The head is formed by the petals and sepals and the suspended torso and limbs by the lobes of the labellum. 

Man orchid

Courtesy of ErwinMeler     CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Description and habitat.

The Man orchid is an herbaceous perennial growing to the height of between 20-40 cm { 8-16 inches}. there is a basal rosette of leaves about two inches {5 cm } long which arise from a tuber of up to two point four inches {6 cm } in diameter. From this basal rosette arises a flower stalk which produces up to 50 small, stemless flowers between April and June. They vary in colour from greenish, with a yellow green labellum to green, streaked and marked with purple.

They occur in calcareous  soils in moderately sunny meadows,that are often well drained. It is native to central Europe, Austria,Belgium,Germany,Holland and Switzerland, and as far north as southern England. It also occurs in southwest Europe, the Balearic islands, Corsica, France, Portugal,Sardinia and Spain. In southeastern Europe,Albania, Greece, Italy,Crete,Sicily and countries of the former Yugoslavia, northern Africa,in Algeria, Morocco ans Tunisia also in western Asia ,Cyprus, east Aegean Island, Lebanon,Syria and Turkey.

In the UK it is placed on the re list of Conservation concern which makes it a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Here it occurs in scattered locations in the southeast of England. It grows in grasslands and scrub particularly on alkaline soils produced by limestone and chalk.

It has been placed on the re list due to a marked decline in the UK through loss of woodland glades eutrophication and over grazing.

Man orchid flowers. Courtesy of Hans Hillewaert. Taken in Sardinia Italy.  CC BY -SA 4.0 License.

Action plan for the Man Orchid.

There as been a species action plan {SAP} formulated to help the species recover from the decline. The plan includes a formula to maintain or restore traditional pasture management for extant pasture sites { No fertilizer, no herbicides and only lightly grazed. Scrub management will be required on most sites but it will need to be undertaken sensitively according to the conservation team.

An external area of traditional managed semi-natural pasture to link existing populations and to provide opportunities for colonization. A surveillance programme, to monitor a sample of known populations and survey periodically for new records.

Considered measures to restore populations to other suitable localities within their former range where appropriate low intensity, low nutrient input, lightly grazed grassland management can be monitored and conserved.

This will be in conjunction with a Priority Habitat Plan for calcareous grassland and Lowland Calcareous grassland.

Time will tell if these measures will reverse the decline of this lovely orchid. 

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Red list UK plants-1 { Adonis annua, Pheasant's Eye}

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