I have been asked by Focus Ecology in Worcester to help them with an orchid translocation job on a brownfield site in Birmingham. Usually large turfs are lifted using a digger, taking up the orchids and a large amount of the surrounding soil and vegetation. These are then moved immediately to a different location on the same site – easy. This job was going to be different. The developers said that the whole site was going to be decontaminated and re-profiled and the whole job was going to take 3 to 5 years. So the orchids had to be removed from site, looked after for up to 5 years and then replaced. They would also be happy to put back orchids grown from seed of the original ones, and maybe different species as well.
Bee orchids used to be on the site and could go back into the newly created habitat area when the building work is finished.
Graham Davison (Focus Ecology) and I found the site very overgrown, covered in long grass, scrub and bramble and it took us some time to locate about 23 mature pyramidal plants and we didn’t find any bee orchids, I think the site had scrubbed over too much for their liking. We planned to mark the plants and lift them after seed collection, but we decided that we needed to get them out or struggle again to find them after another 8 weeks of bramble growth. So we dug them out with a rootball of about 20cm diameter.
Adult plants don’t need the soil mycchorrhiza for survival and they are likely to get waterlogged over the winter in pots of their own soil. Also the soil contains lots of weed seeds which would be a constant problem in a pot. So, back at the nursery I teased away the soil and weeds and potted them up in my lime mix of John Innes No 2, grit, perlite, lime, oystershell and topsoil. I will collect seed from these plants and use it to grow some extras to be returned to Birmingham. At the site, the developers are looking at the idea of a wildflower area where the soil will be very shallow and nutrient-poor. We have asked them to retain a couple of large bags of the topsoil from where the orchids were growing, this will contain the mycorrhiza for this species. If this is added to the new orchid area, the returning plants will be able to multiply naturally again.