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PAST DISTRIBUTION OF THE BURNT

ORCHIS

USTULATA

ORCHID,

L. IN SUFFOLK

FRANCIS W . SIMPSON

The Dwarf or Burnt Orchid, Orchis ustulata L., is a decreasing species in Britain, due mainly to the destruction or changes to its habitat. It has always been rare in Suffolk, with only a limited number of records from a few sites. I believe that it has not been observed for almost 30 years, and it is one of the orchids I have not seen in the County. It was not until 1943 that I first found a small colony on a grassy bank at Armathwaite in the River Eden Valley about 10 miles south-south-east of Carlisle, a previously unrecorded site in Cumbria. There may be records of which I am unaware, such as annotated Hind's and other Horas, or specimens in herbaria. There is a specimen collected by G. S. Mason in the herbarium of Bolton Museum, But this specimen may actually have been found on the Bath Hills on the Norfolk side of the River Waveney where other uncommon orchids have been recorded. Several early botanists have made the mistake of including records from the Bath Hills in the Suffolk flora. Hind in his 1889 flora records Ophrys insectifera L., the Fly Orchid, for Bungay from a specimen in the herbarium of H. D. Geldart, a Norfolk botanist. Much earlier in the Suffolk section of 'The Botanist's Guide through England and Wales' (1805) that same species is recorded 'On the Bath Hills, near Bungay, Mr. Woodward.' Hind gives the earliest record for O. ustulata for Ist June, 1773. He does not mention the records of the finds at Bailingdon and Sudbury. These were made by good botanists in the late 17th and early 18th Century. There is a specimen collected by Joseph Andrews in the herbarium of Samuel Dale (1658 or 1659-1739) in the British Museum. Dale was a friend and pupil of the great naturalist John Ray of Black Notley, Essex (1628-1705). Ray found Ophrys sphegodes Mill, the Early Spider Orchid, at Bailingdon c. 1670, in an old gravel pit, and it was found by Andrews in 1745. Dale found Aceras anthropophorum (L.) Ait. f., the Man Orchid, at Ballingdon in 1715, and Andrews in 1744. I consider that the area where the rare orchids occurred was in the north-west of Ballingdon, nearer to Brundon, where there used to be grassy slopes grazed by sheep and a number of gravel pits. It was in one of the larger pits that I helped the late Mr. H. E. P. Spencer excavate a large tusk of a mammoth which was brought back to the Ipswich Museum in 1932. There are a number of records for Risby Heath and Chalk Bank where O. ustulata has been seen since first recorded by Sir John Cullum in 1773. He described the habitat as 'In and near the large plantations of Scotch Firs before you come to Cavenham, chalky and dry.' I believe that this plantation, which still exists, is the one known as Long Plantation, and which adjoins the Cavenham end of the Black Ditches, some linear earthworks of uncertain date. In recent years this section of the Ditches and the chalk bank

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 26 (1990)


PAST DISTRIBUTION O F T H E BURNT O R C H I D , ORCHIS

USTULATA

L.

77

have become overgrown with shrub, which has almost obliterated the former interesting ground flora. The Flora of Henslow and Skepper (1860) gives the site as 'The chalk bank, near the chalk pit on Risby Heath.' This was the area where it persisted up to c. 1950 when Risby Poor's Heath was ploughed up and the chalk pit filled in by the local farmer as it was being used by motor cyclists. Marg Rutterford was one of the last Suffolk botanists to see the orchid at Risby. There are records in Hind's Flora for Dalham and Newmarket Heath. The Dalham site was probably in the Hawson Hills area where I have found much interesting chalk flora. However, the former open areas have become invaded by shrub and several species have been lost. The record for Newmarket by Davy is too vague to be acceptable. The Devil's Ditch, where the orchid has been recorded in more recent times, is in Cambridgeshire. A Single specimen of O. ustulata found at Shelland in 1921 was gathered on a bank; the actual site is unknown. It was reported in the 'Nature Notes' penned by Frank Woolnough, which appeared in the East Anglian Daily Times. Frank Woolnough (1845-1930) was an 'original member' of the Society and contributed to the Society's first Transactions (Vol. 1, Part 1, 1929). He was the Curator of Ipswich Museum from 1893-1920. The Hadleigh site, recorded for 1921, is not known, but could possibly be the old railway bank where other orchids occur. The Burnt Orchid was formerly known as the Dwarf Orchis, and is listed among the 37 species of orchids cultivated in Dr. Coyte's Botanic Garden at Ipswich in 1796. References Coyte, W. B. (1796). Hortus Botanicus Gippovicensis. Ipswich. Gibson, G. S. (1862). Flora of Essex. London. Henslow, Rev. J. S. & Skepper, E. (1860). Flora of Suffolk. London. Hind, W. M. (1889). Flora of Suffolk. London. Jermyn, S. T. (1974). Flora of Essex. Colchester. Morley, C. (1930). Frank Woolnough. Obituary. Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 1 xlix. Simpson, F. W. (1982). Simpsons Flora of Suffolk. Ipswich. Suffolk Naturalists' Society. Turner, D. & Dillwyn, L. W. (1805). The Botanist's Guide through England and Wales. London. Woolnough, F. (1929). An old Ipswich naturalist of 1850. Trans. Suffolk Nat Soc. 1,25. Francis W. Simpson, 40 Ruskin Road, Ipswich, IP4 1PT

Trans. Suffolk Nat. Soc. 26 (1990)


Plate 4: Burnt Orchid, Orchis us tu lata is now almost certainly extinct in Suffolk (p. 76). (Photo: Ian J. Killeen)

Past distribution of the Burnt Orchid, Orchis ustulata L. in Suffolk  

Simpson, F. W.

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