Rare orchid discovered growing on roof of Islington Council building

Cllr Claudia Webbe admires the rare orchid on the green roof in Holloway

Cllr Claudia Webbe admires the rare orchid on the green roof in Holloway - Credit: Archant

Botanists were left stunned this week after a rare orchid was discovered growing closer to central London than ever before - on the roof of an Islington Council building.

The rare green-winged orchid - the first to flower on a green roof in the UK

The rare green-winged orchid - the first to flower on a green roof in the UK - Credit: Archant

The purple flowered, green-winged orchid was discovered by council staff on the green roof of the Household Reuse and Recycling Centre in Holloway, and is the first to be found growing on a green roof in the UK.

Green roof’s are a system of roofing that uses plant life for roof covering instead of traditional covering materials.

Distinguishable by green veins on the outer parts of the flower the rare, lone orchid requires highly specific conditions to germinate. Past discoveries in or around London have been rare, with just a few found in outer London in the past.

“This is a very exciting find and its importance should not be underestimated,” Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport, said.

Michael Waller, Cllr Claudia Webbe and Dusty Gedge admire the flowering green-winged orchid

Michael Waller, Cllr Claudia Webbe and Dusty Gedge admire the flowering green-winged orchid - Credit: Archant


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“It just shows that even in inner-city, urban areas you can create the kind of conditions that encourage and nurture the rarest wildlife there is.”

Orchid specialist and London Wildlife Trust conservation ecologist Mike Waller, who verified the finding, said he was “amazed” when he heard of the discovery.

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“There are only really one or two sites in London where it still flowers today,” he said.

“This is an example of the quality and good management of this green roof.”

The green roof was installed on the building in 2004, and Dusty Gedge, president of the European Federation of Green Roof Associations, praised Islington Council’s forward planning after the discovery.

“It’s only a little thing but it’s quite an exciting story. What’s really fascinating for me is that you do something 12 years ago through the planning process and suddenly something special turns up,” he said.

“This would not have happened without good planning.”

Islington Council has approved nearly 54,000 sq metres of green roofs since 2006, and Cllr Webbe said she can’t wait to see what else they have in store.

“I look forward to seeing what else will show up on the green roofs of our buildings in future!”

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