Bee orchid on roadside verge creates a buzz

The rare bee orchid that is growing on a unmown Co Antrim verge

A rare native wildflower has been discovered on a Co Antrim roadside verge that is being protected from cutting as part of environmental initiative.

The bee orchid has not been seen in the area for years but is now making a comeback thanks to Causeway Coast and Glens Council's 'Don't Mow Let It Grow' campaign.

Instead of manicured verges that are home to nothing more than vigorous grass, dockens and the occasional dandelion, the council-backed initiative encourages insect-friendly, native flora like orchids, bird's-foot-trefoil, vetches and clover.

And this week council staff and volunteers are celebrating the discovery of Ophrys apifera – the bee orchid – a rare wildflower, protected under the 1985 Wildlife (NI) Order.

The rare plant was discovered by Don't Mow Let It Grow volunteer Donna Rainey, who last year featured in The Irish News.

"It's hard to explain the joy when you see something so totally unexpected and so exquisitely gorgeous," Donna said last night.

"The only other places I have seen them are the Burren in Co Clare and in sand dunes."

Causeway Coast and Glens biodiversity officer Rachel Bain, who leads the 'Don't Mow Let It Grow' initiative, said she was "thrilled" with the discovery. However, its exact location is being kept under wraps.

"It is amazing to see that the project is truly making a difference, that rare wildflowers not seen in this area for quite some time are beginning to come back again," Rachel said.

"It demonstrates the huge positive impact of allowing important biodiversity projects such as 'Don't Mow Let It Grow' to continue to work to protect our native plants and pollinators and the wider environment by the positive management of our grasslands."

She said the discovery highlighted how small changes in management can lead to big benefits to biodiversity and ecosystems.

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