Friday, 10 April 2020

O is for Orchids

Please remember! We ask that people do not visit the Reserve particularly if you have to travel. All car parks on Holy Island are closed to visitors until government restrictions are lifted. Many residents on Holy island fall into the vulnerable category. Please adhere to these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others during this time.

The sand dunes of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve provide a haven for a multitude of rare and important species of plants. The sandy loam and nutrient poor soil provide lucrative ground for plants adapted for harsh conditions and lowland plants that may have been pushed out by intensive agriculture.

Amongst the hundreds of species of plant found of the Reserve 11 of them are Orchids. Orchids enjoy nutrient poor soil with excellent drainage meaning that dune systems such as Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve an ideal place to grow and proliferate. Always striking to see, they can be enjoyed from the paths and desire lines during the spring and summer. Some of the first to flower and some of the showiest of the Reserves Orchids are the Early Marsh (Dactylorhiza Incarnata) and the Purple Northern march Orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella) that in some places provide pink and purple carpets attracting many pollinators from far and wide to feed on the nectar source.
Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza Incarnata)

Another Orchid that flowers on the Reserve in such profusion is the Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis Palustris) with it's white and pink flowers and reddish stems. This Helleborine has a fondness for damp grassland and dune slacks, resulting in areas of the Reserve dotted with thousands of these stunning plants.
Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis Palustris)

The rarer Coralroot Orchid is found in small colonies with annual surveys carried out to assess its number. This Orchid doesn't have roots like most plants but is reliant on nutrients provided by fungi that congregate at the base of its stem. This tends to look like coral hence the name.

Some of the less showier Orchids are in fact the rarest. Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve has it's own endemic Orchid called the Lindisfarne Helleborine (Epipactis Sancta). This Orchid was first discovered on Holy Island in 1958 and was originally thought to be the similar looking Dune Helleborine (Epipactis Dunensis). However, genetic studies in the early 2000's proved that Lindisfarne Helleborine was in fact a separate species and not even very closely related to the Dune Helleborine. The Lindisfarne Helleborine flowers in the dune system on Holy Island from late June to early July with small green flowers opening up to reveal the white lips inside.
Lindisfarne Helleborine (Epipactis sancta)

Annual surveys are carried out to assess population and management. This Orchid is not just one of the rarest plants in Northumberland but is one of the rarest plants in the whole of the UK and a further testament to the importance of managing the dune system of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.

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