Meadow Barley and Orchids

Meadow Barley and Orchids
June 6, 2011 Adrian Walters

Although there is a fine drizzle this morning it will do nothing to alleviate the extraordinary three month drought that we have experienced. The soil is extremely dry and plant growth is very limited.

As one walks across the Sudbury Common Lands the pastoral scene still looks enchanting. The summer grasses are now coming to flower and among the most charateristic of these are Crested Dog’s tail (Cynosurus cristatus) and Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum). Meadow Barley provides the grassland manager the assurance that the pasture is in good order. Aggressive species that can dominate are restricted as a result of suitable grazing pressure by cattle. Of course, this year it will not be long before there is no grass for the cattle to eat!

Elsewhere on the riverside the record display of over six hundred Early Marsh orchids has given way to the newly establishing Southern Marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa). The first flowers appeared in 2003 and this year there are over twenty blooms so there is hope that this species will increase, subject to suitable grassland management.

A similar picture applies to the Common Spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) which appeared on the other side of the river from the town following on from scrub clearance. It remains to be seen what effect the drought will have on the later flowering Pyramidal orchid (