Susan Orlean brought orchidelirium to our attention in 1999, shining a light on how and why these flowers inspire lots of good, and plenty of bad behavior. Orchids have been abundant in our pages over the years for various reasons, most recently due to a show; today due to criminal enterprise:
Spate of orchid thefts in England puts rare species at risk
Experts believe plants in Sussex and Kent were ‘stolen to order’
A spate of thefts of rare orchids from sites in southern England has concerned scientists, who say endangered species may be at risk.
Orchid experts believe that the plants, from locations including in Sussex and Kent, may have been “stolen to order”.
Conservationists at the Sussex Wildlife Trust were dismayed last week to hear of at least 10 burnt-tip orchids missing from a national nature reserve at Mount Caburn, while in Kent the Hardy Orchid Society reported that 30 late spider orchids had been taken from a site in Folkestone.
Neil Evans, of the Hardy Orchid Society, said: “The theft represents a major loss to the population. They are only found in this country in a few sites in Kent.”
Burnt orchids and late spider orchids are threatened in Britain, with the former listed as endangered after substantial declines, and the latter assessed as having an estimated population of only a few hundred plants.
There are fears that these thefts could put pressure on already dwindling orchid populations, already affected by factors including agriculture and development, as well as in some cases being pushed by collectors towards local extinction.
“It is most certainly a risk to the survival of rare species,” Dr Peter Stroh, the scientific officer at the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), told the Guardian. “Collecting orchids was a popular pastime for some in Victorian times, and it actually led to the extinction of one orchid species in Britain – Spiranthes aestivalis (summer lady’s tresses) – and almost resulted in the extinction of another, the lady’s slipper orchid, which is now found at only one native site, though conservation efforts have led to establishing it in a number of former sites, at great expense.
“As well as being an especially selfish act, digging up orchids is also rather mindless vandalism. Orchids have a very strong symbiotic association with specific mycorrhizae (underground fungal ‘roots’), so it’s unlikely that the plants that were stolen would survive…
Read the whole article here.
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