Small-white Orchid

Latin name: Pseudorchis albida

Family: Orchidaceae

Small-white Orchid is a very inconspicuous native wildflower which blooms for as little as two weeks  in June alongside fragrant orchid. The flowers have a sweet scent and carry nectar in their spurs. They are pollinated by twilight-flying snout and plume moths. During the day, pollen can also be transferred by dance flies. This species is thought to be under recorded in the uplands so it is one really worth looking out for.

This species has three main habitats; heathlands, upland hay meadows and acidic mat-grass grasslands where the management maintains open, short and nutrient-poor conditions. It can also occur on recently burnt moorland but doesn't persist when heather regrows. Apparently the species often grows in transitions from heath to grass-dominated communities.

Nationally, Small-white orchids are frequent in central, western and northern Scotland between 0 and 550m altitude. Their distribution is very scattered elsewhere in northern Britain and it is now very rare in England and is extinct in many places. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park there are historic records in Upper Wharfedale, the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve in Ribblesdale, Kingsdale, Dentdale, Arkengarthdale and the Howgills in the Rawthey Valley.

The Botanical Society of the British Isles carried out Threatened Plants Project survey work on this species in 2011-12 with some assistance from Yorkshire Dales National Park staff and other local naturalists.

At risk?

Its status on the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain (2005) is Vulnerable. It is a UKBAP priority species, in the BSBI’s National Threatened Plants Project and is a Local BAP species in Nature in the Dales: 2020 Vision. The main causal factors for population decline in this species are the cessation of traditional agricultural practices, habitat fragmentation and disturbance associated with housing and road construction, and agricultural improvement, including reclamation, fertilization and overgrazing. Conservation of remnant populations primarily depends on the maintenance of a short turf by extensive grazing, controlled burning and shrub cutting to promote flowering of adult plants and seedling recruitment because the tubers to not persist for more than one year.

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There is a freshness and at times a undefineable fragrance to the air at high altitude in the Pennines. Joan E. Duncan & R.W.Robson

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