If you have not mown your lawn recently, you may be fortunate to see little spikes of white flowered plants springing up as if from nowhere.

These could be Autumn Lady’s-tresses, the last of our orchids to come into flower.

Small white sweet-scented flowers open in a tight spiral up the greyish upright stems. If you examine them closely, you will see that they are very beautiful.

The Autumn Lady’s-tresses orchid is described as being a nationally threatened species, because of the decline of this plant over the past 50 years.

However, on the Isle of Wight it appears on many lawns at this time of year.

Its natural habitat is on our chalk downs and we used to think that it only grew on lawns that were originally laid from turves taken from the downs, a not uncommon practice in the past.

However, we find this orchid on so many lawns that this cannot be the only explanation.

Because of our very wet summer, lawns have been mown more frequently this summer so the young flowering stems may be mown off.

This does not harm the plant; it can persist for many years without flowering, and in hot dry summers can flower profusely on uncut lawns.

The plant grows a winter-green basal rosette of leaves in early September close to the ground so they miss the mower blades.

By early June, these leaves will have withered away.

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