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Mystery orchid identified at last

After baffling both us and experts for three years, the main orchid in our Morning and Evening Meadows has finally been identified. It has been named by the Ceredigion Plant Recorder for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland as the subspecies ericetorum of the heath spotted orchid. Last summer over 1300 flowering heads of the orchid were counted at the site.


Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. ericetorum, to give it its full scientific name, is a variant of the heath spotted orchid confined entirely to wet, acid soils along the western side of Britain, particularly West Wales.


Steve Chambers, Plant Recorder for Ceredigion for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, says: “This orchid is entirely absent from the modern agricultural landscape and is found only in traditional rhos pasture grasslands. These are now a scarce habitat, so it is heartening to hear of places being cared for properly. Interestingly, a case has been made by the orchid taxonomic expert Pierre Delforge for recognising the British subspecies ericetorum as a species in its own right.”     


Orchid Meadows also has smaller population of two other orchids: lesser butterfly orchid and broad-leaved helleborine. Last summer a single specimen of whorled caraway was also found. Although it is the county emblem of Carmarthenshire, it is rarely found outside there.


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