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Fen Orchid
Liparis loeselii

Fen Orchid is very rare and localised in Britain and afforded full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Although it grows in two distinct habitat types - in the marshes of East Anglia, and in sand dune slacks in South Wales - these loocations have one major factor in common: they offer calcium-rich ground that is wet or at least damp throughout the year. Despite this apparent flexibility, and the fact that the Fen Orchid is a so-called pioneering plant that can easily colonise newly available ground, the species continues to decline dramatically. For example the population in Wales, which used to exceed 10,000 plants, has now dwindled to such an extent that it is extinct in all but one of its sites, Kenfig National Nature Reserve. Over-stabilisation of the dunes has been the primary cause of the decline in Wales, but there are now various conservation programmes underway to destabilise parts of the dunes in order to expose the bare sand that the Fen Orchid colonises. In East Anglia reed harvesting and scrub removal is enabling new seedlings to become established. Fen Orchid flowers in South Wales from early June to late July, while in Norfolk the orchids flower from early June to early July. In both locations fewer plants produce flowers if the soil conditions are too dry. On mainland Europe Liparis loeselii can be found as far north as Scandinavia and Finland, and its range extends southwards to southern France and northern Spain.

Distribution Map Key Features
distribution map

Records for the Fen Orchid from BSBI are shown on the map with most recent in front. (Hover the mouse over the small map to expand it.)

CLICK HERE to visit the BSBI website page for updated data and maps with separated data for individual record periods.

Plant: 3 to 8cm in height but occasionally up to 30cm; stem green and three-angled, especially towards the tip. The stem base is enlarged and forms a green shiny pseudobulb, which is sheathed by the bases of the leaves.
Leaves: 2 to 3 green, strap-shaped leaves which taper at either end, prominently keeled, opposite and held erect.
Bracts: green, tiny with pointed tips.
Flowers: up to 17 form a lax inflorescence. They are greenish-yellow and face upwards so that the very narrow petals and sepals are horizontal. The lip is tongue-shaped, with a ruffled edge, and slightly broader than the sepals.

Image Gallery for Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii

Pollination Taxonomy & Hybrids

The Fen Orchid is mainly self-pollinated, but vegetative reproduction also takes place.

The specific name loeselii refers to Johann Loesel, a Prussian botanist.

The Fen orchids found in Britain are divided into two subspecies: Liparis loeselii subsp. loeselii grows in Norfolk and has pointed and narrower leaves than those found in South Wales. The plants in Wales, Liparis loeselii subsp. ovata, are shorter, have fewer flowers, and the leaves are egg-shaped and hooded at the tips.

Articles about Fen Orchid in JHOS