In Pursuit of the Ridiculous - 3. Rare Orchids
Most natural historians look for species, but in this episode, Matthew meets the botanists who are enthusing over some spectacular hybrid orchids with very rare parents.
All naturalists have personal obsessions with particular species or activities which may, to non-naturalists, seem ridiculous. In this five-part series Matthew Oates, naturalist and ecologist with the National Trust, meets the people for whom nothing in the natural world is out of bounds. Nowadays conservationists tend to conserve species and many ignore or dismiss hybrids between species. But at Hartslock near Goring , Matthew meets Chris Raper from the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and Andy Byfield from the wild flower conservation charity Plantlife, to view a "hybrid swarm" of extremely rare orchids.
The reserve is one of only two sites in the UK for the Monkey Orchid and management is carefully tailored to nurturing this beautiful flower. Recently another rare orchid, the Lady Orchid has arrived , and the two plants have cross-bred to produce many hybrids. These have the potential to breed with either of the pure species, so creating a dilemma: are they to be treasured as unique entities, or discouraged as they may undo decades of conservation work? Matthew and his guests discuss the importance of recognising hybrids and of giving plants and other animals room to hybridise naturally, and they conclude by offering a vision of a wider conservation landscape in which this hybridisation can take place.
Presenter: Matthew Oates.