Long lost orchid found in Buckingham Palace garden

19 July 2013

An orchid species not seen in London for more than 100 years has been found in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, during a survey by the London Natural History Society, involving scientists from the Natural History Museum.

The attractive white helleborine orchid (Cephalanthera damasonium) has white flowers and grows to half a metre in height.

An unexpected find

Dr Mark Spencer, a botanist at the Museum and vascular plant recorder at the London Natural History Society, says ‘The find was unexpected but very exciting for everyone involved.

‘It is quite unusual to find the white helleborine north of the Thames, let alone in the middle of the city in the Queen’s back garden. It shows just how important green spaces are in built-up areas for giving wildlife a refuge.’

Museum records show the orchid was last seen in London near Harefield in 1900.

Normal range

It grows mainly in woodlands on the chalky soils of the North Downs to the south of London and the Chilterns to the north. Habitat loss has reduced its natural range by 40% in the UK.

So far, the botanical survey has found more than 450 different types of plants in Buckingham Palace’s gardens. The gardens are being explored this year as part of a joint project between the London Natural History Society and the Botanical Society of the British Isles to catalogue the plants of London.

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