Upset as Island Roads cuts down orchids on roadside verge

Left, a bee orchid, and right, a green winged orchid. <i>(Image: Sharon Wilkinson)</i>
Left, a bee orchid, and right, a green winged orchid. (Image: Sharon Wilkinson)

BEAUTIFUL orchids have been cut down due to their proximity to the road.

Islander Stephen Oakes-Monger has been tracking the fate of the flowers, and contacted the County Press with his concerns.

Island Roads, responsible for cutting the orchids, said the work was necessary due to maintaining visibility at the junction, at Apse Heath, but said only a metre was cut and a 'large area' left for wildflowers.

Stephen said: "On May 17, 2020, I found a colony of 50 bee orchid plants on the verge.

"Unfortunately, Island Roads cut the verge as the plants were just coming into flower and have done so every year since.

"The bee orchid is not particularly rare on the Island and often comes up on roadside verges. In 2021 there were over 100 plants, and 25 in 2022.

"The flowers have pink sepals and a brown and yellow furry lip which bears a remarkable resemblance to the body of a bee.

"It is one of those plants that most botanists remember exactly where they first saw it and although not uncommon it is certainly well worth protecting.

"On April 29 this year I counted 30 leaf rosettes with tight buds just emerging and also found a single green winged or green veined orchid in full flower.

"This is one of only two sites on the Island where the species occurs on greensand soil.

"I marked the plant, which was about 7in tall, dark purple in colour and close to the road, with white sticks in the hope members of the cutting team would realise it was an orchid.

"I have been in discussion with Island Roads for the last three years trying to stop them cutting the orchids off before they have set seed, but they say because the verge is on a bend it is a line of sight issue.

"It might be if you were lying on your stomach on a skateboard, paddling along the road with your hands, but when you are sitting in a car, it cannot possibly be a line of sight issue.

"On May 3, my partner and I noticed the verge had been cut.

"It is very disappointing and extremely frustrating."

An Island Roads spokesperson said: "Island Roads is very aware of the need to preserve our natural environment and we work with many local groups and organisations to make sure grass cutting is done sensitively.

"However, this important work must be balanced against the need to keep the road network as safe as possible.

"Part of this responsibility involves cutting back roadside vegetation to ensure there is good visibility at junctions.

"At this junction, with the agreement of the Isle of Wight Council, we only cut back about a metre which is the minimum required to maintain adequate visibility and which leaves a large area in which wild plants can flourish."