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Rare Plant Discovered on Dorset Roof

Early spider orchid

7:46am 23rd May 2014

A rare and protected plant has been found in the most unusual place in Dorset, a sewage works.

The orchid spider plant was discovered on a grass roof in Swanage after members of the public told Wessex Water ecologists that another rare find was spotted there last year.

Experts reckon the orchid could've been blown up there by the wind.

The plant is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it's illegal to uproot, cut, sell or destroy it.

Ellen McDouall, senior conservation ecologist at Wessex Water, explained that the limestone coastal cliffs around Swanage were one of only three UK strongholds for the species, the others being Kent and Suffolk.

"This roof has only existed for 10 years and the orchids can take that long to flower. We don't know how they got on the roof - whether seed was in the soil or blown in from nearby."

"Thankfully the roof of the sewage treatment works is under no particular operational pressure so we are hopeful we will be able to actively manage the land for the benefit of the plant."

Dorset Wildlife Trust said: "This is a lovely find as the early spider orchid is nationally scarce, with around 75% of the population being found in Purbeck, and the rest along the south coast to Kent and Suffolk.  

They are so special to Dorset, that Dorset Wildlife Trust use it as part of our logo."

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