Rex Graham nature reserve
The Rex Graham nature reserve (Grid ref grid reference TL7374274665) is a 0.27 hectare nature reserve in the Breckland region of Suffolk, England, named after Rex Graham, a Suffolk botanist. The site is a disused chalk pit, surrounded by woodland, and is primarily of interest for its population of Military Orchids, as over 95% of the United Kingdom population of this species occurs at this site.
The site is surrounded by a rabbit- and deer-proof fence in order to protect the orchid populations from damage. A public open day at the site is held every year on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, to coincide with peak flowering of the Military Orchids.
The site was notified as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1984, and has been designated a Special Area of Conservation. It is managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust in conjunction with the Forestry Commission. Management at the site includes the removal of encroaching privet and birch.
The discovery of a population of Military Orchids at this site occurred in 1955. Prior to this the species had never been recorded in East Anglia, having previously been recorded only in Southeast England. The population then was at least 500 plants, with over 100 flowering spikes; by 1958 the population had reached 2,854 plants, with about 10% flowering, a population level and flowering proportion that were maintained throughout the 1960s. By 1971 however, only 252 plants were present, due to scrubbing over, as a result of the erection of the protective fence. Scrub clearance and removal of some surrounding trees allowed the population to recover, and subsequent counts include 1,115 plants in 1990 and "too many to count" (Harrap and Harrap 2005) in 2000, when 748 plants were recorded flowering.
Genetic analysis of the orchids at Rex Graham has shown that they are distinct from those at the other two English sites, and represent an independent colonisation from Europe.
- Harrap, Simon and Annie Harrap (2005) Orchids of Britain and Ireland, a field and site guide ISBN 0-7136-6956-X
- Reserve page at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website
- JNCC page about the site's Special Area of Conservation status
- English Nature citation sheet for the site
- A page at Natural England's website containing photographs of the site