Record numbers of Orchids recorded at Essex reserve

This summer has seen a surge in the number of Orchids growing at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Chafford Gorges Nature Park. Numbers continue to grow year on year, with over a thousand more Orchids counted this summer than in 2018.

There are approximately 50 species of wild Orchids in Britain; they can be seen between April and September and are generally found growing in calcareous soils. Wild Orchids are among the most iconic of the wildflower species found in the UK, appearing in many weird and wonderful variations. Among the species counted at the Essex reserve was the Bee Orchid; a fascinating master of mimicry, cleverly fooling pollinators with its colourful velvet-textured flower, the Bird’s-nest Orchid; a parasitic Orchid that steals its nutrients from the roots of trees and the elegant purple-pink Pyramidal Orchid.

Bee Orchid

Photo - Dawn Monrose

Chafford Gorges Nature Park is one of the best places in Essex to see Orchids; designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the site is rich with geological history and home to numerous insects, bats, birds and wildflowers. This year, the annual count carried out at the reserve uncovered a record number of Orchids growing at 5 of the 8 sites within the reserve. A total of 7 species of Orchids were documented and record numbers of Pyramidal Orchids and Common Twayblade were counted.

Staff and volunteers of Essex Wildlife Trust, along with corporate and community groups, carry out habitat management at the reserve during winter, they help to keep conditions suitable for the following spring when the Orchids begin to grow. The volunteers and various workgroups also help out with the Orchid counts during the summer, so they really get to see how their hard work during the winter pays off when the charismatic wildflowers continue to flourish!