A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

Souther Marsh Orchid

The Lizard National Nature Reserve is noted for the diversity and floristic richness of the heathland and coastal grassland that comprises much of this 2000 ha. reserve, with considerable emphasis placed on the notable rarities to be found here.

The Lizard National Nature Reserve is noted for the diversity and floristic richness of the heathland and coastal grassland that comprises much of this 2000 ha. reserve, with considerable emphasis placed on the notable rarities to be found here.

In amongst these major habitats the NNR also manages other smaller areas which are also of value for wildlife such as hazel coppice, willow scrub and dune grassland.

Hay Meadow

One of the rarest, and at this time of year prettiest, of habitats is the flower-rich hay meadow, three of which can be found on the NNR. Such meadows have suffered a severe decline since the 1930's, with as much as 97% having reckoned to have been lost from across the whole of the country. This degree of loss has prompted the Prince of Wales to do something to reverse this trend through the creation of 60 Coronation meadows as part of the 60th anniversary of the Queen coming to the throne.

The hay meadow at Bochym has been managed as such for the last twelve years, but has roots that go back far further as the land has never been ploughed or dressed with artificial fertiliser. The meadow is shut up for much of the year whilst the grasses and flowers grow and set seed, before being cut and baled. For a short period afterwards our herd of Shetland ponies graze the grass that was missed, fertilising the ground with their dung whilst they graze. The ponies then head off to their winter grazing areas and the meadow is shut up once more. The bales produced from the meadow are stowed away for the winter and fed to the Shetlands upon their return to Bochym in the early Spring. This is a filling supplement to their diet at a time when grass growth in their paddock may be slow and sparse.

 

The meadow's sward is comprised of a variety of grasses and vetches, as well as species such as Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) and Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris). Two plants which contribute to the maintenance of an open sward through their partial parasitism of the grasses which grow here are Yellow Hay Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) and Yellow Bartsia (Parentucellia viscosa). If we were looking for this meadow to be more agriculturally productive we could well regard these two plants as a nuisance – fortunately it produces more than enough hay for our needs. Souther Marsh OrchidIn recent years we have been pleased to note increasing numbers of orchids growing in the meadow, namely the Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and its sub-species, the Leopard Orchid, and have been used to seeing a few dozen growing here every year. Orchids, however, can be unpredictable in their habits and this year – and possibly as a consequence of a very wet 2012 – their numbers have soared into the hundreds, adding an even brighter splash of colour to our hay meadow. A short walk from the NNR's work-base this vista provides welcome relief for staff who have spent too long working at their computers, all the more so since it is impossible to predict what numbers may be growing here next year.

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Published: July 2013
Author: Duncan Lyne. Reserve Warden. Lizard National Nature Reserve.
Photographs: Duncan Lyne

 

Click here for information about other plant species found on the Lizard.