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A rare orchid that vanished from the UK has been found on a London roof

Its origins are a mystery, but conservationists said the discovery shows how ‘even the most unlikely places can become havens for wildlife’

A rare orchid has been discovered missing from the UK on a rooftop in the City of London.

The colony of 15 small-flowered tongue orchids was found growing on the green roof of the Japanese investment bank Nomura.

Serapias parviflora It is generally found in the Mediterranean basin and along the Atlantic coast of France, Spain, and Portugal. However, in 1989, a colony of the plant mysteriously appeared in Cornwall, only to disappear again in 2009.

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The newly discovered orchids in London are the only known wild colony of the species in the UK. How they got there is unknown, but ecologist Mark Patterson, who manages the roof, has some theories.

“Orchid seeds are incredibly small and can travel great distances in the wind,” he said. “The plants could have originated on the mainland and been brought over the Canal with the southerly winds. Once settled on the roof of Nomura, the seeds would have formed a symbiosis with a mycorrhizal fungus that would allow them to germinate and grow, although it is possible, the odds are astronomical. “

Another possible explanation, according to Patterson, is that the seeds could have become embedded in the soil used to create the green roof more than a decade ago. Plants take years to mature when grown in dry soil conditions, which would explain why they are only blooming now.

One thing is for sure: the find is a testament to nature’s ability to thrive when given space.

An orchid stands proud among solar panels on Nomura’s green roof. Image: Nomura

“Finding Britain’s second colony of small-flowered tongue orchids is exciting in itself, but finding them on a green roof in the City of London is extraordinary, on another level, if you’ll excuse me for the pun,” he said. Mike Waller, author of Orchids of Great Britain. “This is clear evidence that with patience and dedication, even the most unlikely places can become havens for some of our rarest animals.”

Wild orchids face many threats to their survival, including overgrazing, trampling by walkers, and theft by illegal pickers. Given its location, the newly discovered colony will be well protected from such threats.

Orchids are not the only rare species that have colonized the roof of the bank; a couple of redstarts have also been seen there. According to the RSPB, there are fewer than 100 nesting pairs of the bird in the UK.

Lead Image: Nomura

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