Marsh Helleborine | Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Marsh Helleborine

Friday, 3rd December 2021

Posted in: Rye Harbour Plants
Marsh Helleborine

In early December the wind was spreading millions of tiny seeds of Marsh Helleborine - an orchid - across the marshes of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

Each seed capsule contains thousands of seeds that are only 1.5mm long - here a capsule is opened up.

Here is a close up of the seeds.

... and a single seed about 1.5mm long

It's amazing to think that these dust like seeds may one day turn into one of these amazing wetland plants.

Marsh Helleborine is a rare plant in Britain, but in Sussex it has been lost from all of its historic sites. However, at Rye Harbour a small colony was found in the early 1980's, but only discovered on the reserve in 1990 by botanist Sue Buckingham. She counted just 15 flowering spikes, which in 10 years had increased to 390 and now numbers more than a thousand. But even better news is that at Castle Water on land that was lowered in 2003, as part of the reedbed creation project, a new colony of more than a thousand plants was found by our warden Dave King during one of the workparties in the reedbed. Below are the machines creating the wetland in 2003.

But this doesn't mean that Marsh Helleborine is secure in Sussex. At both Rye Harbour sites the wetland habitat needs regular cutting back, so that it doesn't become shaded by willow scrub or Bramble. This is an example of how we manage this nature reserve - we maintain a mosaic of habitats, but target our management to benefit the rare species.

This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website

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