A beautiful and un-common orchid, the Early Purple orchid, has been stolen from an ancient wood in Milton Keynes.
The native wildflower has been dug up from Linford Wood, the largest of the city’s ancient woodlands and well known for its beautiful displays of wildflowers in the spring and summer.
The theft was reported to The Parks Trust, the charity that cares for Milton Keynes’ parks and green spaces, including three ancient woodlands: Linford Wood; Howe Park Wood and Shenley Wood.
The Trust is calling for all visitors to the wood to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police or to its community park rangers.
The early purple orchid is one of the earliest flowering orchids and can often be found at the same time as bluebells. Its pinkish-purple flowers form a dense, cone-shaped cluster on a single spike and its leaves are glossy, dark green in colour with dark spots.
It is one of five orchid species to be found in the city’s ancient woodlands: the common spotted; broad leaved helleborine; greater butterfly and twayblade.
Whilst not an endangered species it is un-common and less abundant than it was due to habitat decline.
Removing plants from land without the owners’ permission is a criminal offence. In this instance the whole plant had been dug up and taken.
Commenting on the theft Martin Kincaid, Biodiversity Officer for The Parks Trust said: “We manage the wood very carefully to encourage an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife so that everyone can visit and enjoy them.
“Taking a plant is a criminal offence and one that threatens the survival of this orchid within the wood. We take this theft very seriously and have informed Thames Valley Police.”
The Parks Trust regularly patrols the wood and is asking all visitors and local dog walkers in the park to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to either the police or The Parks Trust on 01908 233600.